A Letter from Principal Mark Jackson

Dear ARHS Parents and Guardians:

With the Presidential election now a few weeks behind us, I want to revisit some of the larger issues that, like the rest of the nation, we are working our way through.

To begin, here are two observations:

  1. Shortly before Election Day, our government class held a school-wide, mock Presidential election. For students, the results were: Clinton: 71% and Trump 13%; for adults, Clinton, 68% and Trump 14%. The remainder of the votes were distributed somewhat evenly between Stein, Johnson and ‘other’’.
  1. The results of the election were deeply upsetting to a great number of ARHS students and faculty.

The upshot: we are a politically diverse school. The political affiliations held by the 1200 or so citizens – both students and adults – that spend seven hours a day together under this roof mirror that of our nation.  

Like with any other challenge, our work is to find opportunity in the moment. With considerable urgency, preparing kids for the hard work of democracy is what the moment asks of us.

In my judgment, the questions below are central to our nation’s future. They also double as immediately relevant to our school:

– How do we  challenge ourselves to live in the current tensions and not succumb to easy generalizations? Where there is strong emotion and deep conviction, the temptation to demonize and point fingers becomes almost irresistible. But, in my judgment, the larger priority is to manage whatever slashing judgments we might hold in the interest of not dehumanizing those with whom we disagree. These days, adults across the nation don’t do this particularly well. I’m interested in finding ways to help students learn this skill.

– This skill is a balancing act. On one hand, convictions are meant to be expressed. And, expressing a conviction that is critical of another’s perspective can’t be construed as an act of hostility. The real issues that divide us aren’t easily wallpapered over. On the other, conviction isn’t a license to stop listening and working to understand. However difficult, we need to do both well.

These tensions have surfaced in ARHS classrooms and, no doubt, will continue to do so. Our work is to manage them so that teaching and learning can continue, but, more importantly, so that students learn how to navigate them on their own. I’d like to think we can graduate students who contribute productively to  the nation’s political discussion and not just add to the noise.

Specifically, the day after the election, we refreshed the faculty on what we have referred to over the last few years as ‘managing difficult moments’. The framework for how to do this well is described in this article, which we’ve relied on for the last several years.


The intent here is to help adults frame conversations for young people, when emotions are running high, that provide them with space to express what’s on their minds, but in a way that keeps an ethic of respect running through the discussion. Regardless of the topic, this is important. Given the charge that is currently running through the nation, our community and school, it is especially so.

Please let me know if you have thoughts or concerns.

Thank you,
Mark Jackson
ARHS Principal

Posted in Parent News

Hour of Code

codeHour of Code:  Next week many science classes at Amherst Regional High School will conduct an Hour of Code.  These classes will expose students to the wonderful world of coding and hopefully spark or develop student interest in computer science.  For more information please visit the Hour of Code website at https://code.org/learn.

Posted in Parent News

Stop & Shop Rewards Funds ARHS Programs

pgothingThank you to those who have signed up for the Stop & Shop A+ Rewards Program. The funds raised through this program make it possible to support many initiatives and have made a difference to teachers and students. Among last year’s recipients was Kathleen Olson, ARHS SE teacher:

“…The grant money was used to fund interview workshops with private consultant Mark Efinger. Mark’s workshops were a wonderful supplement to the communication and transition skills we target within the program…It was a joy to watch my students stretch themselves in this way and experience the confidence-building positive results…”

If you have not done so, please take a moment to register your Stop & Shop cards for the A+ Rewards Program and help support exciting projects proposed by our students and teachers. Purchases made at all Stop & Shop stores will benefit ARHS, including purchases at stores in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island!

Posted in Parent News

Senior Tidbits | Things To Do After Thanksgiving

The following Tidbits for Seniors come from Myra Ross, ARHS College Advisor:

  1. If you applied early decision, please be sure to have your back-up plan in Naviance by Monday, December 5.  (Remember that a back-up plan must include mostly colleges that are less selective than the one you applied to already; you will not need the back-up plan if you are admitted!)  For now, list the colleges but do not request the transcript.  If you are deferred or denied, you will only need to go into Naviance and request the transcript.  It is important for you to know what you will do if your first choice doesn’t work out in December.  Many of your other deadlines will be in early or mid-January.  Experience has shown me that it is better for you to take time to develop the plan now when you are thinking clearly than to try to do it when you are upset after having been deferred or denied.  It’s not fun to think about that, but if it happens to you, you will likely be glad you developed the plan fully.
  2. If you have not met with me this year, please make an appointment ASAP.  It is not too late.  You do not need to complete the senior questionnaire in Naviance to make the appointment.
  3. If you have not yet met with your counselor regarding your recommendation, make an appointment to do that ASAP.  We have a lot of recommendations to write and cannot do all of them at the last minute.  Recommendations may not be written on time if you don’t give us at least two weeks.
  4. If you have not already done so, see the teachers who have agreed to write recommendations for you to be sure they have what they need from you.  If your earliest deadline is January 1, their deadline for uploading your recommendations is Monday, December 5.  Please remind them of this deadline.
  5. Don’t forget to match your Common Application to your Naviance account.  There’s a blue box in “Colleges I’m Applying to” that requires your Common Application e-mail address and confirmation of your date of birth.  You must do the match if you are using the Common Application.  Remember, it will not work until you have put at least one college into the Common Application and completed the FERPA waiver.
  6. If you have not already done so, turn in your signed lime green release form ASAP or we won’t be able to send anything to colleges on your behalf.  It’s the easiest thing to do, and it’s of critical importance.
  7. WHEN YOU PUT YOUR COLLEGES INTO NAVIANCE, DON’T FORGET TO REQUEST A TRANSCRIPT SEPARATELY.  BE SURE THAT THE DEADLINE SHOWS.  IF IT DOESN’T, YOU PROBABLY DID SOMETHING WRONG.  Check the college website for the name of the application type.  If you can’t figure out why no date shows, see Mrs. Cappelli in 101 or Mrs. Tracy in 309.
  8. Do you have any colleges with January 1 deadlines that you have not entered into Naviance “Colleges I’m Applying to?”  If so, it’s time to put them in.  The deadline for this is Friday, December 2.  The deadline for listing colleges with January 15 deadlines is December 15.  Please don’t miss these deadlines.  If you need to add a college after these dates, please tell a Guidance secretary.
  9. The UMass regular decision deadline is Friday, January 15.  Deadline for all credentials (including official test scores) is Wednesday, February 1.  Most of you should apply.
  10. BE SURE TO SEND YOUR TEST SCORES OFFICIALLY FROM THE TESTING COMPANY!  You do not want to be the first kid on your block to be denied because a college never got your test scores.  Believe me, it happens.  If you are taking a December test, you should send the scores (four free) before you see them.  If you are on free/reduced lunch and took the test with a fee waiver, you get eight colleges free.
  11. Remember to list all of your colleges in the Common Application as well as in Naviance.  Both steps are required in order for electronic transfers of school materials to work.
  12. Once you have submitted an application to a college, check its status frequently to see that all materials have been received.  The best way to do that is to log onto the application tracker on their website.  If two weeks have passed since you submitted, you can call the Admissions Office to have them check your file.  If they say they are still missing an item, come into the Guidance Office and we will fax whatever they have not located.  Colleges lose materials all the time.  Don’t worry about this!
  13. It’s not too early to take action regarding financial aid.  The FAFSA and CSS Profile (required by many private colleges) are already available online.  Talk to your parents about completing the required forms by your first financial aid deadline.  Remember, it is not necessarily the same date as a college’s application deadline.  Some FAFSA deadlines are in January.  Many are on February 1.  UMass’s deadline isMarch 1.  All financial aid forms must be completed by the colleges’ deadlines.  Late filings often mean less or even no financial aid.
  14. We will be hosting a FAFSA-completion event on Thursday, January 19 at 7:00 p.m. in the cafeteria.  Financial aid counselors from several area colleges will be here to assist you with the FAFSA.  It’s a great opportunity for you to get help if you are a first-time completer.  More details to follow.
Posted in Parent News

Mark Your Calendars

Dec. 1st- 3rd: Theater: Immersive Play  7:30pm – 9:00pm

Dec 2nd: Merry Maple Lighting 4:30-5:30pm on Amherst Town Green

Dec. 8th- 10th: Theater: Briefs Plays 7:30pm – 9:00pm

Dec. 14th: Early Release Day; Students Dismissed at 12pm

Dec. 21st: Combined Concert (Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Orchestra, Chorale, Hurricane Singers, Concert Choir) 7:30pm – 9:00pm

Dec. 23rd-: Early Release

Dec. 26 – Jan 2nd: Holiday Break No School

Posted in Parent News

Jones Library Announces Book Selection for On the Same Page – Amherst 2017

scientificamerican0214-76a-i1The Jones Library is holding its fifth On the Same Page community reading program, this year featuring the book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, a Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Elizabeth Kolbert.  A series of programs will be held in February 2017, based on topics and themes from the book.  On the Same Page – Amherst will culminate in an author appearance to be held on Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at the Amherst Regional Middle School Auditorium.

The Sixth Extinction was the winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction, a finalist for the PEN Literary Award and the L.A. Times Book Prize, and a New York Times bestseller that was included on many “Best Books” lists in 2014 and 2015.  This book explores five mass extinctions that have occurred over the past half-billion years, when the diversity of life on earth has been severely reduced.  Scientists are now tracking the next mass extinction, of which human beings and their actions may be the direct cause.  Kolbert explains how humans have altered life on the planet and how these actions may become our legacy.

Elizabeth Kolbert has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1999. Previously, she worked at the New York Times, and was also a contributor to the Times Magazine.  She received a Lannan Literary Fellowship in 2006 and a Heinz Award in 2010, and won the 2010 National Magazine Award for Reviews and Criticism. She is the editor of “The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2009” and the author of The Prophet of Love: And Other Tales of Power and Deceit; Field Notes from a Catastrophe, and The Sixth Extinction.

On The Same Page – Amherst is designed to bring the local community together by encouraging residents to read the same book and by offering programming and opportunities for discussion about the book and the themes it contains.   Now an annual event, On the Same Page – Amherst explores a different book each year to include a variety of themes, topics, genres, and writing styles.

For further information about the On the Same Page – Amherst, please contact Janet Ryan at 413/259-3223.

Posted in Parent News

Nominations Accepted for Civil Rights Award

Nominations are being accepted until January 6, 2017 for the Dr. Norma Jean Anderson Civil Rights and Academic Award.

The award applauds the contributions of a current, teacher, administrator or staff member in the Amherst and/or Amherst/Pelham regional school districts who promote the ideals of a just and respectful community built on compassionate relationships.

To nominate a candidate, provide a statement of at least one page explaining why this candidate should be selected.  The focus should be removing systematic privilege based on race and class in our schools.  Email the statement to Pat Ononibaku at patbaku@aol.com. You can also share your reasons for nominating a candidate by calling Pat at 413-627-0043.

A recipient will be selected by the RaDAR Committee at the Martin Luther King Jr Breakfast on January 14, 2017.  The RaDAR (Race and Discipline, Action, Rights) Committee grew out of the ARHS Parent Center’s Study Circle Project on Race and Class in the Amherst Schools.  RaDAR was formed to address concerns raised by ALANA (African, African-American, Latino, Asian, Native American) parents regarding issues of discipline, social justice and equity at ARHS.

The award honors the memory of Dr. Norma Jean Anderson (1936-2006) who lived and worked in our community and left a legacy of courage. determination and foresight.

Posted in Parent News