The New Hampshire branch of the American Civil Liberties Union has issued a letter to the Timberlane Regional School Board challenging the unconstitutional nature of their recently adopted “Board Rules.” This is very good news. Read this article about it in the Union Leader: Unconstitutional Board Rules
Monthly Archives: March 2014
Today, March 28, the Eagle Tribune has an excoriating editorial on Timberlane’s “censorship” which mentions both the current controversial cancellation of a planned future production of Sweeney Todd, and the School Board Rules, subject of my previous blog. Razor of Censorship
March 25, the Union Leader ran an article about my refusal to sign the “School Board Member Ethics/Expectation” form presented at the meeting on March 20th. I am just the second member of the board to refuse to sign. [Note: The reporter mistakenly used the word “intent” when I had used the word “interests.”]
Here is the article: Timberlane School Board Member, a blogger, balks at ethics policy
The third last provision of the code is the one to which I voiced objection and which prevented me from signing:“Take no private action that will compromise the Board’s actions or decisions, and respect and support such actions and decisions as made by the majority vote or consensus of the Board.” This, I feel, would stop me from blogging.
I have my differences with the school board and occasionally with Dr. Metzler; nevertheless, it pains me to see our district in such a bad light. Clearly, however, there are very substantive issues at stake here such as the freedom of elected officials to speak freely and openly, and how much direction school leadership should have in artistic ventures and student social media. Obviously, members of the school board should not be restricted in what they say or to whom. I am most grateful to the media for their interest and outspoken objection to the school board rules and the “ethics” policy.
The other issue is different to my mind.
When the district hired Dr. Metzler, I wrote this about him: “…knowledge, character and service are fine values for all citizens and refreshing talk from an academic leader who does not seem uncomfortable with moral leadership as well.” Given the violence around us, Dr. Metzler should be supported for taking a stand against a musical about serial murder, cannibalism, and other depraved behavior. We need to encourage positive values in school. Sweeney Todd is musically sophisticated so I can see the attraction for our ambitious music department, but in school, artistic examples of people behaving well should be the diet. This is not censorship, this is sound moral leadership, something so old fashioned it sounds odd to even read, but when we lose sight of it, we will regret it.
My comments are, of course, my own and not a reflection of the school board or Dr. Metzler’s.
At my first meeting as a school board member, I argued against and voted against brand new school board rules written by Mr. Collins. Here is an article in today’s Eagle Tribune concerning one of the eight rules. The rules themselves are posted below. They were adopted 7-2. Mr. Peter Bealo voted against them as well.
SCHOOL BOARD RULES
The MISSION of the Timberlane Regional School District is to engage all students in challenging and relevant learning opportunities, emphasizing high aspirations and personal growth.
1. Board members are expected to treat each other with respect and professionalism.
2. All discussion will be germane to a specific agenda item.
3. A Board member, once recognized by the Chair, may not hold the floor for longer than 3 minutes. That Board member may retain the floor for an additional 3 minutes if approved by the Board.
4. A Board member wanting to add items to an agenda will contact the Chair. The Chair and Superintendent will decide whether or not to add those items to the agenda for the next meeting. If they decide not to then any Board member may ask the Board to approve an agenda item for the next scheduled meeting, during “New Business” of the current meeting.
5. All email addressed to the TRSB@timberlane.net will only be addressed by the Chair.
6. All communication to anyone within Timberlane (excluding subject matter related to your child’s education at Timberlane) must move through Chair. If the subject matter is related to a specific committee then it may move through the committee chair. Committee chairs may utilize their co-chair (SLT member) to relay or obtain information.
7. All decisions made by the Board will be supported by all board members regardless of how a member voted. Efforts to undermine a decision will not be tolerated.
8. All communication to the press will be provided by the Chair. Board members contacted by the press will not comment and direct the press to contact the Chair.
Nancy Steenson, Chair
Kate Delfino, Vice Chair
Timberlane Regional School Board
Adopted March 20, 2014
TIMBERLANE REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
Although the recount resulted in an identical four vote margin in favor of the collective agreement, they were not the same four votes because the overall number of total votes changed in the recount.
The March 22 recount took place at the Middle School cafeteria. Coffee, water and muffins were served. Each town had a table behind which was seated four ballot counters, two were school board members, two were paid individuals. Either in front or behind each table were two observers who volunteered their time in the service of the petitioners of the recount. (Thank you, observers!) There was also a police officer from each town present presumably to protect the ballots.
First the sealed boxes were opened. Then the yellow school ballots were separated from the white town ballots. After this the ballots were sorted into piles of 25 and counted. Then the ballots were separated into “Yes”, “No,” “Blanks,” and “Questionable” piles. Observers could challenge a ballot if they felt it was placed in the wrong pile.
The questionable ballots were voted on by the recount board which consisted of all the school board members (minus myself), the school district moderator, and the school district clerk. Their job was to determine if the ballot clearly showed the voter’s intention. There were a small number of questionable ballots at three tables that I saw, possibly at all of them.
After the ballots were all sorted, they were again separated into piles of 25 by “yes” and “no” and then counted again. The moderator announced the results by overall number. The SAU posted the results by town shortly thereafter. http://wp.timberlane.net/blog/2014/03/results-of-ballot-recount/
For those who feel the recount was a waste of tax dollars let me say that every town had a change in final vote.
Plaistow plus 11 YES, plus 12 NO
Atkinson plus 1 YES, minus 2 NO
Danville 0 change YES, plus 2 NO
Sandown plus 1 YES, plus 1 NO
In total there were 26 more votes counted in the recount but the overall split between the yes and no was even leaving the original four vote split the same.
Though I would have wished for a clearer explanation of the rules and the procedure at the start of the morning, the moderator conducted himself with great integrity throughout the morning and the recount gave no one reason to doubt the final result. The voters have spoken and been heard.
By four votes more to the yes, the Support Staff Union prevails.
Congratulations to the victors.
Presentation to the Timberlane District School Board
March 20, 2014
My name is Arthur Green, of Sandown. I am scheduled to be sworn in to the Timberlane Budget Committee in a few days, but I appear today as a private citizen.
This being the first meeting since election day, this is the Board’s first opportunity to deliberate the rejection of the proposed budget, and the resulting changes needed to operate on default budget for 2014/15.
I was surprised and concerned to learn from coverage in the Eagle Tribune March 14 that Dr. Metzler plans to carry on with the Full-Day Kindergarten which was the principal new feature of the proposed budget.
I don’t wish to debate the merits of this program, on which there are differences of opinion. I wish to focus exclusively on the implications of the default budget. The default budget does not include the new Full-time Kindergarten positions, benefits and furniture purchases, which means that the program is not funded.
As a voter, my expectation is that Full-time Kindergarten has been eliminated from the budget. I believe that my expectation is widely shared, particularly amongst those who voted against, and defeated, the proposed budget.
I am fully aware that the district operates on a bottom-line budget, and that funding can be redirected from the approved budget lines. However, budget training material published by the LGC in 2012 entitled “The Municipal Budget Process” states that a default budget means a budget freeze, and no new purposes.
No Full-Time Kindergarten.
It may well be that the Timberlane District has legal advice that there is no prohibition to proceeding with the program if the money can be reallocated within the voted default budget. But I do not see how the district can take that course yet still claim to have heard the message sent by the voters.
No Full-Time Kindergarten.
The program is claimed to be funded by fees, so the board may hope that there is no net expenditure. But the voted default budget restricts expenditure regardless of the claimed offsetting revenue.
No Full-Time Kindergarten.
On March 14, Dr. Metzler released a video with the very alarming suggestion that the coming (2014/15) year would not be passing on a “significant” surplus to the 2015/16 year. Every dollar of surplus spent in the coming year is an additional dollar to be raised in taxes the year after.
Timberlane has deliberately carried forward a significant surplus from year to year – for the past five years it has been consistently about $2 million. I have repeatedly heard this surplus defended in budget committee as a prudent buffer against unexpected emergencies, and I agree with the need for a contingency. The 2015 default budget fully funds all non-discretionary increases from the 2014 baseline, so adhering to the default budget is no justification to draw down the surplus. If the Full-time Kindergarten program is truly self-funding as claimed, it gives no reason to draw down the surplus.
If the surplus is spent, the consequences for the December 2015 tax bill will be severe. For example, in Sandown the December 2014 school tax bill will go up an average of 7.6% based on the default budget alone. If we did not have the $2 million surplus this year, that increase would double to 15%. We don’t know yet, of course, what the school tax rate will be for 2016, but without the surplus to offset it, it will be a catastrophe to many taxpayers of this district.
I have two requests to make of the School Board. I call upon you to vote up or down on the Full-Time Kindergarten program. This program is contrary to the clear intent of the voters in holding the district to a default budget. If it proceeds despite that let it be because this board takes a vote.
Second, I call upon you to give direction to the administration that the surplus must be conserved. If the district proceeds to spend all the funds allocated through the default budget, let it be because this board takes a vote.
I look forward to taking my place next week on the budget committee to help the district deliver an excellent, effective, affordable education program for the students of our towns.