Amherst school union calls on HR staffer to resign

Amherst Regional High School students march to the middle school in support of LGBTQIA+ students last spring in Amherst.

Amherst Regional High School students march to the middle school in support of LGBTQIA+ students last spring in Amherst. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO


Staff Writer

Published: 12-04-2023 5:36 PM

AMHERST — The school district’s largest union is calling on a part-time member of the district’s human resources department to resign, alleging that her investigations into offensive conduct at Amherst Regional Middle School were “highly inadequate.”

The Amherst Pelham Education Association, which represents teachers, paraprofessionals and clerical workers, demands the resignation of Kathryn Mazur, who earlier served as the district’s human resources director until her retirement in 2018. A statement released late Friday by Claire Cocco, who handles communications for the union, based its demand on information included in the recently released Title IX and related investigation reports into alleged mistreatment of LGBTQ+ students by staff at the middle school.

Mazur has been a consultant who was called upon by former Superintendent Michael Morris to handle investigations into staff. She also returned over the summer to help stabilize the human resources department when Assistant Superintendent Doreen Cunningham, who has since left the district’s employment, was placed on paid leave by interim Superintendent Douglas Slaughter.

The APEA used the published reports, completed by Edward Mitnick of Just Training Solutions in Springfield, as the basis of its appeal that Mazur resign. Those reports revealed that offensive conduct by at least one employee continued, despite multiple complaints.

“The APEA finds it extremely problematic that the administrative district employee cited here, Kathy Mazur, remains actively employed in Human Resources to this day. With these concerns over student safety and lack of responsiveness to ‘legitimate’ APEA member concerns, the APEA therefore calls for Mazur’s immediate resignation,” a statement from the union reads.

An email sent to Mazur on Monday morning was returned, stating she was “unavailable,” and referred questions to the Human Resources Department. There was also no immediate responses from the district’s central office, including Slaughter.

“The APEA looks forward to detailed plans from the district on how Human Resources will become more responsive to member concerns and how Interim Superintendent Doug Slaughter will ensure Human Resources is accountable to the community which it serves,” the executive board wrote.

The investigatory reports reveal that Mazur, succeeded by Cunningham, continued to play an active role in the central office.

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Morris asked Mazur to look into allegations that counselor Delinda Dykes had allegedly engaged in anti-trans activity. She concluded that they were “not substantiated,” according to Mitnick’s reports. Two other counselors were also accused of similar anti-trans actions.

Mitnick criticized that investigation, showing that Mazur spoke to only the unidentified complainant, Dykes and then-Middle School Principal Diego Sharon. Mazur told Mitnick that she never submitted a report regarding this matter because she did not want to file a “formal complaint.”

The report states that, “Although Mazur acknowledged that (redacted’s) references to Dykes’ conduct were hearsay, Mazur never spoke to the students who allegedly had first-hand information regarding Dykes’ alleged anti-LGBTQ behavior. In fact, Mazur’s notes indicate she never asked for the names of students who complained about the unsafe environment. When asked by this investigator why she did not speak to the students, Mazur again responded because it was not a formal complaint.

Mitnick’s report continued, “I find ARPS’s handling of (redacted’s) complaint highly inadequate and lacking in thoroughness. Although (redacted) reported serious allegations of harassment and discrimination toward students based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, the investigator never spoke to the individuals who may have had first-hand knowledge of these allegations, namely, the students.”

On a related matter, where Dykes is alleged to have said, during a before school prayer meeting, “In the name of Jesus we pray that the LGBTQ gay demon that wants to attach and confuse these kids to leave this school now,” Mazur also didn’t find any wrongdoing.

“Although Mazur made findings and conclusions regarding allegations of retaliation and workplace hostility, the report’s conclusion does not reference the allegation about Dykes making the homophobic comment,” Mitnick wrote.

In March 2022, the district received a complaint that Dykes refused to counsel non-binary and LGBTQ students. Similarly, Mazur made no finding during that probe.

In calling for Mazur’s resignation, the union states that it “reaffirms its strong commitment to ensuring a safe learning environment for all students, particularly LGBTQ+ and gender non-binary students.”

“The board felt that the reports made a clear case that the investigations she conducted were incomplete and did not interview all stakeholders,” said Union President Chris Herland.

Union: Remove reports from school website

A related demand from the union’s executive board is for the published Title IX reports to be removed from the school website because they are personnel records. Both Dykes and Santos remain on leave but still employed by the district.

“The union maintains the release of these reports, in the form in which they were released, violated members’ statutorily protected rights regardless of the reported unchallenged opinion of the Public Records Division. The union believes the continued posting of these reports, in their current form, on the districts’ website only serves to exacerbate the violations and cause unnecessary additional harm to its APEA leaders and members.”

The district posted the redacted reports after the Gazette won an appeal from the state’s Supervisor of Records after initially being denied access to them.

The union’s executive board said it wants transparency and for the reports to be available, but that private personnel information, including APEA member names, positions, and other identifiers should be redacted before being republished. The union is also asking that the APEA and the Massachusetts Teachers Association receive any correspondence with the secretary of state and other state offices regarding the release of the reports.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at