Amherst’s interim superintendent defends HR consultant after union calls for resignation

Douglas Slaughter, interim superintendent of the Amherst, Pelham and Amherst-Pelham Regional schools, is defending  the work of human resources department consultant Kathryn Mazuur, whom the school union has called on to resign.

Douglas Slaughter, interim superintendent of the Amherst, Pelham and Amherst-Pelham Regional schools, is defending the work of human resources department consultant Kathryn Mazuur, whom the school union has called on to resign. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 12-08-2023 12:37 PM

AMHERST — The regional school district’s interim superintendent is defending the work of a human resources department consultant as critical for the district during a tumultous time, responding to a demand from the school union that she resign.

On Thursday, several days after the union representing teachers, paraprofessionals and clerical staff called for the resignation of Kathryn Mazuur, Interim Superintendent Douglas Slaughter issued a statement that Mazur, since her retirement in 2018 after 14 years as human resources director and 30 years as a district employee, is providing critical services to the Amherst, Pelham and Amherst-Pelham Regional schools.

Slaughter said Mazur played a key role in implementing a new contract with the teachers union, bringing compliance to background checks and ensuring more than 45 new employees were ready to begin the new school year.

“It is not possible to overstate how essential Ms. Mazur’s work has been for our district over the last six months, while the Title IX and other investigations were ongoing,” Slaughter said. “She stepped in at an extremely unsettled time for our district as a whole, and for our human resources department in particular, and provided support, stability and an incredible level of expertise.”

Slaughter added that Mazur has had a stellar record of service and, when overseeing the department, had a strong and long-standing relationship with both the Amherst Pelham Education Association and Massachusetts Teachers Association.

It was APEA, though, that late on Dec. 1 demanded Mazur’s resignation, basing its appeal on the contents of the non-Title IX report that was completed for the school district by Edward Mitnick of Just Training Solutions in Springfield. The union cited a section of the report where Mitnick determined Mazur was often hired by then Superintendent Michael Morris to conduct investigations into employee complaints or grievances, including some related to alleged mistreatment of LGBTQ+ students by staff at the middle school.

Mitnick’s report describes those investigations into anti-trans activity as being “highly inadequate and lacking in thoroughness.”

Slaughter defends Mazur, noting that she willingly offered input to Mitnick, was never the subject of his investigation and had no expectation that he might be evaluating her actions.

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“Accordingly, she did not share information with Attorney Mitnick that she certainly would have if she believed she was being accused of wrongdoing,” Slaughter said. “For example, in my conversations with Ms. Mazur after the public release of Attorney Mitnick’s (report), she shared that the complainant in one of the investigations declined to move forward with the complaint. Had Ms. Mazur believed Attorney Mitnick might reach conclusions about her investigations, I believe Mr. Mitnick would have reached a similar conclusion to mine regarding Ms. Mazur’s investigatory work.”

“I believe strongly that Ms. Mazur conducted the investigations for which she was hired as thoroughly as possible within the investigatory scope she was given and with great fidelity to the parameters defined within the APEA contract for investigations of complaints.”

Slaughter goes on to elaborate on the work Mazur has been doing, including being brought to assist the human resources department in the spring, summer and fall when former Assistant Superintendent Doreen Cunningham was placed on paid leave. Cunningham had previously overseen human resources.

During that time, Mazur reviewed and enhanced the department’s procedures, assisted with the return to full-time, in-person staffing of the department, and identified issues with the with the Criminal Offender Record Information and fingerprint background checks over the previous 20 months that led to bringing the district into compliance.

“Without Ms. Mazur’s support, the district simply would not have been able to complete the hiring and onboarding of 45 new faculty and staff members that was necessary in order to successfully open school in August,” Slaughter said.

In addition to the call for Mazur’s resignation, the teachers union asked for more responsiveness and accountability from human resources.

Slaughter said that is already happening, largely due to Mazur’s efforts.

“We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with APEA and our other employee unions — APAA, AFSCME, and UFCW — to support the incredibly valuable work of every ARPS employee, and, always first and foremost, the well-being and educational experience of every ARPS student.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.