Superintendent of Amherst-Pelham School District resigns

Michael Morris, the superintendent of the Amherst schools, has resigned. This comes following months of controversy amid allegations that counselors at the middle school discriminated against LGBTQ students.

A joint announcement from Morris and the school committees states Morris's departure from the Amherst-Pelham school district is, "not due to any wrongdoing" on his part. Morris had recently returned from a medical leave, which he started after a teacher union vote of no-confidence.

Benjamin Herrington is chair of the school committee and said while Morris initiated the discussion of parting ways with the district, it was an "amicable" agreement.

"The overall reaction is that people understood it. They understood his reasoning, and for the most part, we all believed this was the right time to part ways," he said.

But Peter Demling, an Amherst School Committee member, released a statement calling Morris' departure a "tremendous loss" for the community and claiming there was a rush to judgement without all the facts. He accused the Amherst-Pelham Education Association of being openly hostile to district leaders.

Morris declined to discuss the terms of the separation, but said he is proud of his more than 20 years with the district.

He started his career as a 23-year-old sixth grade teacher, Morris eventually became a principal, then a curriculum director, an assistant superintendent and then superintendent in 2017.

"It's a wonderful community. And I felt so blessed to work with the diverse student body that we had and the diverse faculty we had," he said.

Looking back, Morris said he appreciates so much of the support he received in all those different roles.

Morris said there are many things he is proud of in his tenure. The Caminantes Dual Language Program featuring teaching instruction in Spanish and English has been a success.

"We have a waitlist every year... We have outstanding staff that do a wonderful job with kids," he said.

He also highlighted the current 'School Building Project,' combining two aging elementary schools.

"I'm really excited that we have a building project that was supported by the state and the local town and that three years from now will finally be out of really outdated 50-year-old buildings and into a state-of-the-art facility," he said.

While Morris did not discuss details of the separation agreement, they are public record.

As part of his agreement with the district Morris will receive 10 months of severance payments at a biweekly rate of $6,868.69. He will also be paid for 54 unused vacation days. The district also agreed to a mutual non-disparagement clause and to issue a joint statement about his resignation.

He has agreed to continue to run the day-to-day operation of the districts through the end of the month to provide the school committees several weeks to select a successor. His resignation takes effect August 31.

As for his future, Morris plans to continue in education.

"I definitely am dedicated to staying in education," he said. "This is my passion and I'll continue with it."

This story is a production of the New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by New England Public Media. 



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