Have a Sausage in Sandown!


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October 21, 2016 · 6:44 pm

School Board Standing Committees that Aren’t, & Block Scheduling is Here

Last night the school board approved block scheduling for the middle school and high school. This issue had never before come in front of the board, but we whipped out our giant rubber stamp and jumped up and down on it.  Not content with one major underconsidered decision, a 5- year technology plan was approved after the very first time we saw the presentation.  Poof!  A device for every child k-12!  White boards and projectors in every classroom!

These decisions affect every single child in our district and have monetary consequences  – yet the board is herded into sham votes on the very same night we’re given a presentation.

How does this happen?  Let me tell you the story of school board standing committees.

The Timberlane Regional School Board has nine standing committees. These are committees that meet in public and conduct critical school board business such as writing policy, curriculum considerations and determining facility improvements. Unlike other districts with better governance, each standing committee is co-chaired by an administrator.  Not only that, but our standing committees are composed of a majority of paid staff and administrators with full voting rights.  This fact becomes important soon.

The CIP Standing Committee

School Board chairman, Peter Bealo, assigned me to one and only one* standing committee, the Capital Improvement Committee, which has had some very heavy lifting to do because the district was without a functioning CIP since the new high school was shot down by voters about 9 years ago.

In order to do intelligent capital improvement planning, one must have a strategic plan.  Where do we want to be in ten years and how are we going to get there?  Will we need new science facilities? Should our athletic facilities be given priority? What is our enrollment going to be and can we project what our future students will need by way of vocational instruction and technology support?  The questions are numerous and imperative.  The answers serve as the foundation for a capital improvement plan.

Right now we have formulated a capital improvement plan without any reference to a strategic plan because a strategic plan doesn’t exist for our district. How was the CIP Committee able to do anything at all, you wonder?

We invited everyone with budgeting responsibilities in the district to send us their wish list for now and 7 years in the future.  This, we hoped, would give us a baseline to understand the needs (and wants) of the district.  We got requests for a multi-million dollar athletic field house all the way down to automated basketball hoops.  ($10,000 was our threshold to be considered a capital improvement rather than a Facilities Committee issue.)

Unfortunately the system is easily gamed and has been gamed already.  Simply describe projects for Facilities Committee consideration as two projects under $10,000 rather than one project over $10,000.  Poof!  No longer a CIP project. This was actually done at the last Facilities meeting.  Once that bit of dishonesty was accomplished,  the committee then voted to recommend to the school board that the $10,000 threshold be changed to $25,000. This will of course allow the same game to be played with bigger numbers.  If the school board agrees to do this – and they will -the entire CIP process is undermined. (Not today, not tomorrow, but some day I’ll explain the political incentives at play.)

In any event, all of this is a long way to explaining why my involvement with the CIP has given me an active interest in the Strategic Planning Committee.

Yesterday’s Strategic Planning Committee Meeting

The newly resurrected Strategic Planning Committee held a public meeting at 5:30 pm.  in the small meeting room adjacent to the SAU boardroom.  Assistant Superintendent Wilson was chairing the meeting.  She told me in a stern teacher inside voice that I was permitted to attend but not participate. I said, “Thank you for telling me.  That is very gracious of you.”

Perhaps I don’t need to remind my readers that I am Dr. Wilson’s boss and that the meeting was a school board committee meeting. I am a member of the school board and she is not. I am not, however, a member of the Strategic Planning Committee and she is.

I sat silently throughout the meeting while other administrators in that small room worked hard to avoid giving me eye contact.  The two assigned school board members to this committee (yes, only two!), Rob Collins and Greg Spero, were both absent. Two other members of the school board, who are also not members of the strategic planning committee, chatted freely – Sue Sherman and Peter Bealo. They were presumably invited.

The point of this story is not to complain but rather to demonstrate that the duty of working on a school board standing committee has been perverted into a privilege and those board members not assigned (or invited by administration) please stay away. **

If you don’t think this is pernicious, let me share another experience with you about a standing committee of the school board.

Safety Committee Meets in Secret

Since Kelly Ward has been co-chair of the Safety Committee, he has called a number of non-public meetings. I attempted to attend one of these meetings – again a standing committee of the school board- and was denied attendance in person.  What this means is that a small clutch of insider board members are conducting business to the exclusion of other board members. Although I don’t dispute that the subject of the meeting justified a non-public session, I do dispute that other board members should be excluded from attending even though they may not be named to the committee.  Excluding other board members from non-public sessions is wrong and in other hands could lead to very serious problems on the board and in the district.

Don’t even get me started on the 17, yes SEVENTEEN, Superintendent Advisory Committees that meet in non-public and do not report to the board at all.

What we have in Timberlane is the breakdown of elected official governance, and an SAU administration that has taken over every proper function and responsibility of the board right down to our standing committees.  Your school board is merely a cover for decisions already made by the administration. Your elected officials allowed this to happen through laziness, irresponsibility, and a cult of superintendent worship.

Why should you care?  Well, because this leads to sham school board meetings like last night, with proforma votes on giant issues that are seriously underconsidered by the board.  Apart from the obvious effects on education which we can only hope are positive (because we’re given no data to prove it), these hasty decisions push expenditures out of control.  I predict you’ll pop your eye sockets when you see the proposed budget for 17/18.

This is the government you have.  It becomes the government you deserve when you do nothing about it.

*Mrs. Sherman subsequently motioned to have me added to the Wellness Standing Committee that she co-chairs.  I now sit on 2 standing committees.  Mrs. Sherman is on 7.

**Also, Mr. Sapia is very gracious in chairing the Facilities Standing Committee and invites my participation . His predecessor, Nancy Steenson, on the other hand, turned gangrenous when I entered a Facilities meeting and did her utmost to discourage my participation.



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Who Knew and When?

For those who may have been watching tonight’s school board meeting on LiveStream or TV, here is what I was attempting to read when Mr. Bealo instructed the microphone and TV cameras to be shut off and an immediate recess called.  In case you are curious, not one fellow board member in attendance was in the least concerned about this.  While the cameras were off, Dr. Metzler said he would see me in court if I mentioned his wife one more time so I did not read this in its entirety.

Dear Mr. Bealo and Superintendent Metzler:

This is a formal Right to Know request under RSA 91-A for the following information:

1) All records of invoices and payments concerning Achieve3000;

2) All communications from August 2015 to the present, and all accompanying documentation, between any member of the administration, faculty, or staff of TRSD and/or SAU#55 concerning Achieve3000;

3) All TRSD. Hampstead School District and SAU#55 records of invoices and payments made for services rendered, or any other consideration,  for Mrs. Beth Metzler from August 2015 to the present along with all accompanying documentation.  This is to include payments to third parties who have Mrs. Metzler under contract or employment and is not limited to SERESC or Achieve3000;

4) All records of contracts and supporting documentation between Achieve 3000 and TRSD and/or SAU#55 relating to the purchase of and training for Achieve 3000;

5) All records of any disclosure provided to the TRSD board concerning Mrs. Metzler’s employment with Achieve 3000; and

6) All records of any disclosure provided to the Curriculum and Assessment Committee concerning Mrs. Metzler’s employment with Achieve 3000.

Thank you.  I will be inspecting these at your office and expect them to be made available to me within 5 business days from Oct. 17. You are welcome to call me if any part of my request is onerous and you think there could be an more convenient way for you to address my request.

Donna Green


Oct 16, 2016

Here is Radio host Rich Girard’s take on the microphone and camera being silenced 45 seconds into my public comment: Girard-at-Large Oct 21, 2016


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Watch Yourself Getting Sold Out

Here’s last night’s SAU meeting.  The budget discussion starts at 13 minutes into the meeting.

As for Mr. Cipriano’s claims that the state and/or Federal laws require us to have comp time, that is not true.  I checked RSA 275:43 and also 29 of US Code 207, which he referenced. These laws apply only when comp time is provided.

The next morning radio host Rich Girard graciously invited me to blow off steam about this meeting.  You can hear the interview here:  Girard Talks to Green about SAU budget

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Further to SAU Budget: 3% raises

Not only did the SAU chairman stop motions to remove money from the budget last night, but by permitting a completely inappropriate motion to cut off debate, he prevented the SAU board from discussing the annual raise for SAU employees.

A few years ago, Dr. Metzler created a “merit pool” wherein he can dip and award employees however much or little he cares to award – without the knowledge of the SAU board. The SAU board doesn’t even know what SAU employees make, except for the superintendent himself.

Every year since this “merit pool” was created, the annual increase in the merit pool has been about 3%*.  In all previous years this was subject to debate – fruitless, true, but debate nonetheless. This year the facade was dropped.  The merit pool wasn’t even mentioned.

Who cares after all?  The Hampstead board showed up in force. They pay only 24% of the SAU budget so they have very little motivation to save taxpayer money and evidently no shame in showing they couldn’t care less. Of course, the Timberlane board could barely muster 3 members to be present.

Sandown’s town operating budget is $3.5 million.  $2 million is a serious amount of money for us even when it is split among four towns.

Taxpayers in SAU 55, you have no idea how sold out you are by your school boards.

For an interesting historical perspective, see the SAU budget discussion from Oct. 2014: SAU budget up 6%

This is the government you have.  It becomes the government you deserve when you do nothing about it.

*Originally this post said increases were from 3-5.6%.

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SAU Board is Contemptuous of YOU

Tonight, the SAU Board displayed shameless contempt for taxpayers and staggering incompetence. Examining a $2 million budget is just so very beneath their dignity.

While I was trying to make motions to cut budget lines one by one, the unelected Hampstead member, Cathleen Abruzzese, abruptly and inappropriately motioned to move the budget to public hearing. This was quickly seconded.

Hampstead’s Wayne Dinsmore tried to amend this to lower the bottom line by $15,000. The chairman would not accept the motion but invited Mr. Dinsmore to make a motion to table the motion on the floor.  Mr. Dinsmore made a motion to table.  Only he and I voted affirmatively.

Then, before you had time to blink, the vote was taken to move the budget to public hearing. The Vimeo isn’t out yet but when it is I bet the whole discussion was under 20 minutes. Town budgets of this magnitude take months of work and many hours of discussion, but that’s because Selectmen have a healthy respect for their taxpayers while your elected school district officials are too arrogant and lazy to be bothered.

It’s all for the children, after all…. and a few spouses….. but in the case of the SAU budget, not much goes for the children.

At no time did any of the board members say just what the bottom line of the budget was ($2,002,066).  This is where the staggering incompetence comes in.

We were notified earlier today that the insurance line of the SAU budget would have to go up 5.5% because the Guaranteed Maximum Rate had been published only today by HealthTrust.  It just so happens that our agenda packets at the meeting contained an unmodified budget not reflecting the 5.5% insurance increase.  This means, the budget we voted to move to public hearing is shy a 5.5% increase in the health insurance line which I previously calculated to add one percentage point increase to the budget which would be a 4% overall increase from the 16/17 year.

Ms. Abruzzese, who should never see public office again, didn’t notice this – nor did any other board members apparently.

Oh well, you can be sure the SAU will come to public hearing, announce that they need an insurance line increase, and of course you will have to suck it up because there is not a darn thing you can do about the SAU budget.

Given that the voters have no say whatsoever about the SAU budget, you would think your elected officials would be more serious about it. Instead tonight’s meeting was a display of incompetence, indifference, irresponsibility and arrogance.

Present at tonight’s meeting were: the entire Hampstead Board and from Timberlane: myself, Peter Bealo and Dan Guide.

This is the government you have.  It becomes the government you deserve when you do nothing about it.





Filed under Sandown Issues

Comp Time Policy: Is This a Joke?

Sometimes the irresponsibility of your elected officials goes so beyond even a cynic’s expectations that one must wonder if the clown rampage has hit SAU55. In this case, as in most, the staggering irresponsibility affects your taxes and for a long, long time.

The SAU auditors wrote this extremely telling paragraph in their long overdue audit for 2014-2015:

Compensatory Time

We noted that employees of the School Administrative Unit can earn compensatory time for working weekends and holidays and this time can be used as paid leave at a later date, or is paid out upon an employee leaving the School Administrative Unit.  However, there is no formal policy adopted by the School Administrative Unit Board that addresses the earning, use, and pay out of this time. We recommend the Board adopt such a policy in order to ensure the accrual and use of this time is treated identically, and to protect  the School Administrative Unit from any unforeseen liabilities that might arise from the payment of compensation for which there is no documented procedures.

Think what this is saying. Money is being given to people when they leave the SAU for which there is no documented procedure!

At the last SAU meeting, the board voted to assemble a team of at least 6 people to carve out a policy on this issue.  Here is what they came up with…. in total:

The School Administration Unit can earn compensatory time for working weekends and holidays. The Superintendent or designee will develop and implement a procedure of internal controls for earning, use, and payout of compensatory time.

Really?  No stipulation as to what the compensation will be, how much can be accrued, under what conditions it will be awarded and to whom? It isn’t even clear if this is allowing money in lieu of time taken. What does “payout of compensatory time” mean? Does this apply to professional staff as well as hourly staff?

Why not just tear up our whole policy manual and stick a white flag up at the SAU office saying “Whatever the superintendent decides is fine with us!” (All the better if we don’t have to think about it and even better if we don’t know about it, too.)

Here’s what a district with some brain function came up with and it’s far from perfect:

Northwood School District
Northwood, NH
For hourly employees, the District will pay time and a half for all hours worked over 40 hours per week.
There is no provision for compensatory time. The District does not allow compensatory time.
Under no circumstances shall an employee receive compensation for work completed at home.
May 21, 2001

By paying out comp time as money on leaving service, this pushes up the pension of the person departing and our pension liability as a result…. just about forever.  This is damaging to taxpayers, self-serving to SAU employees and a very poor reflection on the management of SAU55 who seem to have no shame as to how far they wish to shove their hands down the taxpayers’ pocket.  Their budget can’t be touched by voters.  Only your SAU board can rein it in but the cult of superintendent worship runs unchecked.. and so does the SAU budget.

The SAU board will be approving the SAU budget tonight.  Watch not a single change be made to the budget.  White flags forever!

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