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'Sustained stress, misinformation, smears': More members quit Amherst and Pelham school committees

Amherst Regional High School students march to the middle school in support of LGBTQIA+ students on May 12, 2023, in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Dan Little
Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com
Amherst Regional High School students march to the middle school in support of LGBTQIA+ students on May 12, 2023, in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Another member of the school committees in Amherst and Pelham, Massachusetts, has resigned.

The regional school district is awaiting a report on allegations that middle school counselors mistreated LGBTQ students.

Some community members were already calling for the superintendent to be put on leave or be fired. Michael Morris resigned last week and will leave the job next week.

This week, four members of the school committees quit. Peter Demling is the latest. He said he's had enough of the personal attacks lobbed at committee members over the 6 1/2 years he served.

"If we don't put the superintendent on leave or we don't fire the superintendent, it means we don't care about LGBTQ rights," he said in an interview Friday. "If we don't give the teachers everything they want in their contract, it means we don't care about income inequality. If we want teachers to to return in person, it means we don't care about teacher safety, and if we disagree with some people about how to combat racism, then we're racist."

Demling said at least one new school committee member will need to be appointed before the district can choose someone to serve as superintendent.

Sarah Hall, who chaired the Pelham School Committee, also resigned. Hall said the environment had become too toxic and draining.

"I support all students at the school and their safety. And I also support full process and getting full information and making sure we are thoughtful and deliberate in the way that we do things," she said. "And I don't think there was any room to have both of those views any more."

Allison McDonald, who chaired the Amherst School Committee, said she resigned for her own well-being.

"That's related to just the level of sustained stress, misinformation, smears, questions about my character and my reputation and values," McDonald said.

School in the district is scheduled to start next week.

Before joining New England Public Media, Alden was a producer for the CBS NEWS program 60 Minutes. In that role, he covered topics ranging from art, music and medicine to business, education and politics.

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