Attorney Lehmann Demands End to Illegal Meetings at TRSD

Attorney Richard J. Lehmann has fired off another letter alleging Right to Know violations at Timberlane.

His letter ends thus:  “I urge you in the strongest terms possible to come into compliance with the Right to Know law and cease holding illegal secret advisory committee meetings.  In particular, I fully expect that before the Transportation Advisory Committee meets again that my client will be advised of the date, time and place of the meeting, and be permitted to attend if she so chooses.”

The letter threatens to seek an injunction against the district should they continue to hold advisory committee meetings out of the public eye. This came to a head because Superintendent Metzler has called for an emergency meeting of the Transportation Advisory Committee to discuss a controversial bus stop issue in Sandown.  The superintendent has refused to allow me to participate in this meeting, a meeting that should clearly be open to me and the public.  These closed advisory meetings have got to end because they are supplanting the authority of the school board and violating the public’s right to know what public bodies are doing.

Here is Mr. Lehmann’s letter in full: rtk-9-22-16

Devoted readers might remember that the suit against Timberlane brought by Sandown and Danville also cited unnoticed and closed meetings of the Sandown Schools Consolidation Committee as being in violation of the Right to Know law.

The superintendent has initiated at least 17 Advisory Committees.  Some do meet in public, such as the Timberlane Parent Advisory Forum.

5 Comments

Filed under Sandown Issues

Reading Program: Buy NOW!

If you watched the Sept. 15th board meeting, you would see high pressure sales tactics in full flight aided and abetted by the SAU.  Thank you to Stefanie Dube for being the sole board member present to push back. Had I been able to attend the meeting, I would have been another vote and voice in favor of responsible deliberation and governance.

“Achieve 3000” is an on-line reading program the SAU was introducing to the board for the first time. The $167,000 program had to be approved for purchase that evening, we were told, or the teachers would not have an opportunity for professional instruction in September when the program needed to be rolled out to the students.

In the course of board discussion, it was revealed that this program had been approved by the Superintendent’s Leadership Team before it was ever breathed to the school board. Not only that but the program had been in trial for the previous year without the knowledge of the school board.  But wait, there’s more.

The program had been budgeted for purchase but was not identified as such to the budget committee or the school board so…… the board had to vote to transfer money from one line to another in the budget to pay for their decision to purchase the program.  Had the program been included in the correct line, there was a chance the differential would have been questioned.  Instead, it was hidden in another line with a built-in surplus. I’d like to know what budget lines were involved but your need-to-know-nothing board didn’t ask.  They’re perfectly fine with the deceit that was built into the budget last year – no questions asked.

Danville’s Ms. Dube was the sole vote against approving this program at this meeting and also transferring the money between unknown accounts.  Finally someone is awake at the switch on our school board! Ms. Dube referred to a policy that requires curriculum changes to be approved in a meeting subsequent to their presentation to the board.  Mr. Bealo said there was no such policy and it was merely a practice of the board.

Well, there is a policy (IGA) and the board violates it all the time, so in fact there is no practice to respect it; Mr. Bealo was wrong on both counts. (Policy IGA is reproduced at the end of this posting.)

Now apart from the objectionable procedural stuff going on about this reading program, do I think it is a good idea?  Well, thanks to being able to do some research after the meeting, which is why the policy is in place, I have these questions:

  • We have invested heavily in a similar program called Reading 180.  Why are we getting a duplicative program?
  • Are we going to be paying for both 180 and 3000?
  • What were the results of the pilot program from last year specifically?
  • What evidence do we have that Achieve 3000 has improved reading in other districts where this is being used?  There was no data presented about this whatsoever by the salesmen at the meeting nor did the board ask.
  • What other programs where looked at and why was this one selected?
  • What is the cost of this program in relation to other programs of this kind?

Here you can read a teacher’s criticisms of Achieve 3000 which I found very enlightening:  A teacher talks about Achieve 3000

All this is too late, of course, because the board succumbed to high pressure sales tactics. Seeing is believing in this case. Watch the board’s discussion.  The reading program is introduced at 00:20:45 but the discussion of interest begins at 00:56:00.

TRSB Meeting Sept. 15, 2016   (Start watching at 56:00)

Policy IGA      CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT AND ADOPTION
It is the policy of the Timberlane Regional School Board to provide a curriculum that is aligned with statewide and national standards, that is coordinated throughout all buildings and grade levels, and that fulfills the mission and goals of the Timberlane Regional School District.
It will be the responsibility of the Superintendent and the professional staff to make recommendations to the School Board that will ensure curriculum and instructional practices that are up-to-date and consistent with the responsibilities of contemporary education and standards established by the New Hampshire Department of Education.
The Superintendent will establish curriculum committees for the on-going study of curriculum improvement, including the selection of new instructional materials, as found necessary and desirable to implement this policy.
The Board believes it is important to empower our professional staff to recommend and support the implementation of instructional change. All teachers have professional obligations to the school beyond regular classroom duties, and these obligations include work on curriculum committees. It is expected that all teachers will make contribution to curriculum development.
The School Board will support efforts to investigate new curricular ideas, develop and improve programs, and evaluate results through appropriation of funds for specific curriculum development proposals approved by the School Board. The Superintendent will make recommendations to the Board regarding the specific level of funding for approved proposals.
The School Board will review all curricula developed and written by the professional staff in the schools. No basic course of study shall be eliminated or new courses added without approval of the Board, nor shall any significant alteration or reduction of a course of study be made without Board approval. No action will be taken on proposed changes by the Board until the meeting following the presentation by the administration so that Board members may have the opportunity to review the proposed program. Additionally, no course in the Program of Studies will be cancelled in the academic year without approval of the Superintendent or designee.
The Board in reviewing and evaluating curriculum recommendations may solicit community opinion.
Legal Reference:
NH Code of Administrative Rules, Section Ed. 302.02(f), Substantive Duties of Superintendents
NH Code of Administrative Rules, Section Ed. 303.01(g), Substantive Duties of School Boards

2 Comments

Filed under Sandown Issues

Not in the correspondence folder

The letter immediately below was not included in the school board’s correspondence folder at the Sept. 15th meeting. Devoted readers might recall that my disagreement with Ms. Belcher back in 2014 concerned my correspondence to the board being excluded from the correspondence folder.  A thank you to my fellow board member, Ms. Dube, for writing this letter.


Dear Chairman Bealo, Chairman Cipriano and respective Boardmembers:

Since the last SB meeting, on Sept.1st, I have thought alot about what took place during the agenda topic of “Hampstead Schools Issue.”   I have heard from many people regarding their reaction to what they witnessed and the overwhelming majority has not been positive, regarding the comments directed at Mrs. Green by Chairman Bealo.  Further, it was also brought to my attention that while the Chair chose to read aloud the whole letter from Chair Jason Cipriano, there are numerous letters/ emails that get relegated to the yellow correspondence folder and not afforded the same attention.  The correspondence folder and the contents therein need to be given the same gravity.  I certainly hope my fellow board members would be in agreement with me and would want to rectify this. 

I have also listened to the audio of that portion of the meeting, under “Hampstead Schools Issue” several times and have the following observations/ concerns:

1)  This was not necessary to address at all, let alone in a public session, as the Chair of the SAU, Jason Cipriano indicated in his email this topic would be discussed at the next SAU meeting in October.

2)  The term “investigate” was used at least 3 times to describe Mrs. Green’s comment.  Her exact words are as follows: I would very much appreciate hearing what issues you encountered if you care to share them with me. We can arrange to talk through my email donnagre@gmail.com. Thank you and best going forward.”  This was not an investigation –  This was a response to a Mother’s public FB post about her child in OUR community.  This was a supportive response to this parent as there were many other supportive and reassurig comments directed at her.

3)  I have been unable to find any mention or reference by Mrs. Green regarding the “actions of employees” as was the charge by Mr. Cipriano.   Can you please let me know where/ when this took place?

4)  The legal advice:  I would like to know if the Chair sought legal advice on this issue.  If so, at whose direction?   What, if any legal advise was given?

5)  Mr. Cipriano further mentioned that he didn’t believe Mrs. Green was “speaking on behalf or at the direction of the Timberlane Board…”

This is an interesting comment especially since it directly relates to another School Board Member, Rob Collins, who, with “permission” gave details about the Superintendants evaluation and did, in fact speak on behalf of the Board.  His comments were also cited in the recent lawsuit by David Taylor against the SAU (screen shot of Mr. Collins’s comments on facebook attached.)

 6)  Mr. Bealo mentioned that he was “shocked and appalled” and “deeply saddened, ashamed and disgusted.” by Mrs. Green’s actions.

The parent, after learning about Mrs. Green’s public chastising had this to say:

“.. was just made aware of all this conflict over Donna reaching out to me.  Donna thank you for reaching out to me. I am truly sorry that you were spoken to that way by other ‘educational professionals’.
How unfortunate that the HMS is more interested in making a case about this communication rather than seeing a red flag that a student left the school district because of a lack of competent and caring leadership. After hearing the communication read to TRSB from the HMS Board Member, my decision to withdraw from HMS is confirmed even further.  As a mom I feel terrible because obviously my daughters experience is not a concern, as an educator, what were the words he threw out there to Donna…disgusted, appalled….those are a few words I can relate to right now. Watching that was truly enlightening.”

So,  given all of the above, it certainly appears that the Chair grossly over-reached and owes Mrs. Green a public apology.

In closing, when are the SB and SAU 55 Chairmen going to address Rob Collins’ commenting on behalf of the Board?  And since Mrs. Greens comment on Facebook was addressed in public session, so should this also be done for Rob Collins.

Sincerely,

Stefanie Dube

2016-09-01-19-21-38

 

7 Comments

Filed under Sandown Issues

SAU 55 Reality TV: “Real School Board Members”

This was read during public comment at the Hampstead School Board Meeting on Sept. 13, 2016:

On August 31 Mr. Cipriano made up a story about me out of whole cloth, sent it to you and kindly copied it to Timberlane School Board chairman, Peter Bealo. Mr. Bealo, dug right in and dished out his “shame and disgust” at my alleged behavior at the last Timberlane School Board meeting.

The pretext for this gleeful mud fest was a single reply to a Hampstead parent’s post on Speakout Timberlane Facebook page saying that she had withdrawn her child from HMS due to “issues… with the leadership.”

The following three sentence Facebook reply was the totality of my behavior: “I would very much appreciate hearing what issues you encountered if you care to share them with me. We can arrange to talk through my email donnagre@gmail.com. Thank you and best going forward.”

Just so I can be clear, is it the position of this board that I am not permitted to contact in any way a parent who at any time past or present had a child in the HSD?

If so I need to change my dentist, my hairdresser, my spa, and my favorite pizza place.

Obviously, Mr. Cipriano’s position is absurd, but also obviously, it springs from bad faith. If Mr. Cipriano were truly concerned about the consequences for his district by my communication with a member of the public, why did he not reach out to me or the parent privately?

Under Mr. Cipriano’s leadership, the Hampstead School Board has grasped for pretexts to malign political opponents. Reaffirming a No Trespass order against Jorge Mesa-Tejada is another example.

Is this the record you wish to be remembered for? It is certainly not one you will be thanked for – at least not by those you represent.


The response was, of course, stone silence by every member of the board.  Apologies make good reality TV, too.  Mr. Cipriano should try it for Season Two of “Real School Board Members of SAU 55.”

2 Comments

Filed under Sandown Issues

Arthur Green Thanks Sandown BOS for School Tax Hike

This is what Arthur Green said to the Sandown Selectmen tonight.


The Timberlane School Board has disclosed that the estimated school tax increase on Sandown’s November tax bills will be about 9%, or about $500 on the typical home.

The seeds of this bitter fruit were planted in this room 1 year ago, at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting following Old Home Days, when 3 of the Selectmen still on this board voted to disband the committee which had been unanimously voted on behalf of the town to study the option of withdrawing from the Timberlane school district.

School taxes are skyrocketing for a single reason – the school district is grossly overspending and grossly overstaffed.

Mr. Tombarello, Mr. Goldman, and Mr. Trainor can claim credit for stifling the examination of alternatives which could have saved town taxpayers $1 million per year.

At school deliberative in 2014, Mrs. Green and I argued that Timberlane could operate perfectly well on $64 million, which was $3 million less than the district was proposing. We were met with threats of draconian cuts and draconian fees. What happened instead? Timberlane actually operated 2014/15 for $64 million, and the threatened apocalypse failed to arrive.

At school deliberative in 2015, we argued for a “responsible budget “ of $65 million, again about $3 million less than proposed. Again, apocalypse was threatened. Again, the district actually operated on $65 million in 2015/16, with none of the threatened horrors.

We were right in 2014, right in 2015, and again right this past winter that Sandown could operate an exceptional district on our own at a million dollar annual saving to taxpayers compared to Timberlane.

But the possibility of saving taxpayer dollars was not taken seriously by Mr. Tombarello, Mr. Goldman and Mr. Trainor.

By squashing the withdrawal study, you sent a clear signal to the school district that Sandown is willing to pay whatever the district demands. We are seeing the result.

Driving around town, I see a great many signs for Mr. Tombarello’s County Commissioner election. Every resident with one of those signs on their property is saying “thank you for raising my school tax $500 this year”.

 


 

6 Comments

Filed under Sandown Issues

TriTown Letter: Setting the Record Straight

Dear Editor:

Readers of your headline “Timberlane Chairman Scolds Board Member Over Actions in Hampstead” (Sept.8) might have been misled.   I was the Timberlane Board member “scolded,” but it was not over “actions in Hampstead.”  There were no actions of any sort in Hampstead or anywhere else.
On August 30 a Hampstead parent announced on SpeakoutTimberlane Facebook page that she had withdrawn her daughter from Hampstead Middle School because of “issues….with the leadership…”
I replied one hour later with this and only this:  “I would very much appreciate hearing what issues you encountered if you care to share them with me.  We can arrange to talk through my email donnagre@gmail.com. Thank you and best going forward.”
The next day, Hampstead School Board Chairman, Jason Cipriano, issued a very carefully worded but insinuating email to the Hampstead School Board and copied to Timberlane School Board Chairman, Peter Bealo. In his email Cipriano complained, among many unfounded, bad faith insinuations, that my response to this parent “…has the potential to create great confusion among our staff members, parents, and students as to the chain of command and accountability within the Hampstead School District.”  Really?
Timberlane Chairman, Bealo, picked this up and ran a marathon with it, announcing his shame and disgust at my “actions” to the Hampstead School Board and reading the email exchange at a Timberlane board meeting.
Firstly, there are very few legal prohibitions in this country limiting one person, elected or otherwise, from speaking to another person.
Secondly, even if I had communicated with that parent, in what way would this confuse Mr. Cipriano’s district?  Am I now not permitted to get my haircut in Hampstead lest I speak to a hairdresser with children in HSD?
Subsequent to this completely fabricated inter-district non-incident, the parent noted on Facebook that the Hampstead School Board had not reached out to her at all.
Readers should be reminded that the Hampstead School Board re-affirmed a politically motivated and malicious No Trespass order against a Hampstead Citizen of long-standing with a stellar record of public service, Jorge Mesa-Tejada. He fell out with the Hampstead School Board because he opposed their bond initiative.
When you make political enemies in SAU 55, you have to watch your back.
This is the government you have now.  If you do nothing about it, it will be the government you deserve because no person of character and conscientiousness will run for elected office. When you decry the quality of local and national politicians, remember your part in being silent about these seemingly minor abuses of power.

Donna Green


My readers should know that Mr. Bealo sandbagged me at the TRSB meeting.  I had no prior knowledge of either of the chairmen’s emails or the drummed up controversy.  If good faith had been at play, the chairmen would have reached out to me privately.  As should be apparent to all, this was nothing more than a contemptible display of political bullying.   Cipriano/Bealo Email Exchange

Leave a comment

Filed under Sandown Issues

Deliberative 2015: The 3 Minute Rule

Deliberative Session is the one time a year when citizens gather together to speak their minds about public issues.  If you took a few moments to review the clips from Deliberative of 2010 which I posted on Sept. 7 on this blog, you will see a striking difference in how the people’s meeting was conducted then and now.

In the first clip below of the 2015 Timberlane Deliberative you will see an Atkinson resident motion to limit all future comments and presentations to 3 minutes.  This is after the administration and numerous school board members bored the audience nearly to death with overlong speeches – at the people’s meeting.  More relevantly, however, this is also before Arthur Green was to give a 10 minute presentation on his proposed cut to the district budget.

Here you can see Arthur Green trying to condense a 10 minute slide show into 3 minutes.

And me trying to make a point about waste and indefensible practices at TRSD:

Please don’t miss Lt. Baldwin hovering near my side during my precious time ready to whisk me away from the microphone for overstaying my three minutes.

In response to Ms. Bloomquist’s motion, I called for a secret ballet vote.  I offered to retract my request for a secret ballot if she rescinded her motion.  She refused, then the moderator refused to recognize me when I tried to withdraw my request. A most unpopular secret ballot resulted with a resounding vote to limit presentations to 3 minutes. It was not my finest hour, but nor was it Mr. Bealo’s.  Later he motioned to add $250,000 to the budget to test the sentiment in the room (as he admitted) on the pretext of getting a sprinkler system at Danville Elementary.  (He represents Plaistow.)  That motioned passed, as would have any motion put forward by the “in” crowd. It’s amazing we don’t have Jack Sapia’s football stadium. Danville doesn’t have a sprinkler system today because $250,000 was a wild underestimation of the project cost which we now know is closer to $650,000; furthermore, not all officials in Danville are in favor of the project.

Why am I dwelling on past Deliberatives now?  Well, there’s been a lot of talk on Timberlane-related  Facebook pages about who should be allowed to post comments, what comments are acceptable and what rules should be imposed by moderators of those pages. I also stated in a heated moment at the Sept. 1 school board meeting that the district was becoming a Communist dictatorship because Chairman Bealo publicly shamed me (or tried to) for a simple post on a Facebook page as a private citizen.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Sandown Issues