At last night’s school board meeting, (March 6, 2014) Chairman Rob Collins replied to my objections to the board’s intention of hiring Dr. Metzler’s wife as a consultant to the Spanish program for full-time kindergarten. In a statement to the board last night, I repeated three objections to this plan. (For more details see my previous blog.)
- All contracts should go out to open bid.
- Money for a consultant was not included in the costing of the full-time kindergarten program given to the budget committee, thereby proving it is not a necessary expense.
- The district has a policy against conflicts of interest and nepotism
Here is my understanding of Mr. Collins’ remarks to me last night in italics. (The Vimeo is not yet available so I can’t offer verbatim quotes.) After his comments he refused to let me respond so I will do so here.
- Since the district is a member of SERESC and Mrs. Metzler works for SERESC, we are assured of getting the best rate possible on hard-to-find expertise. SERESC has in the past always provided the best rate. Once a winner, always a winner! Why put anything at all out to bid if someone has previously won a bid? Common sense says that SERESC should be one of a number of potential bidders and if they are truly the lowest and/or best, then you have proven that to the taxpayers. This disregard for open bids is disrespectful of taxpayer money. It also conveniently supports SERESC, an institution that offers cushy jobs to former administrators such as our previous superintendent who now heads that organization.
- Mr. Collins also stated that the reason the consultant cost was not included in the costing of the kindergarten program presented to the budget committee is because this expense will be paid out of this fiscal year (2013-2014), and not out of the next fiscal year’s budget. The budget committee asked for a full accounting of the anticipated costs of rolling out a full-time kindergarten program. A consultant was not included in this. Either the administration always planned to put this cost against this current year’s budget, or the consultant was an afterthought. If the plan always was to pay for it out of this year’s surplus, then not disclosing this to the budget committee would he highly dishonest. I think it is much more likely that a consultant was an afterthought.
- As for the district’s policy against nepotism, Mr. Collins said that Dr. Metzler has been completely open and transparent about this contemplated hire, which is entirely true but completely irrelevant. In Mr. Collin’s logic this means that it is OK to do something against the rules so long as you are open about it. Remember that the next time you hear these words in broad daylight: “This is a stickup! Hand over your money!”
Mr. Collins also said that because I am not an educational professional, I am not qualified to judge whether the full-time kindergarten program needs a consultant. After listening last night to a presentation about how “learning targets” should be composed, I thank my lucky stars I grew out of wanting to become a nun or a teacher. So, if one needs to be an educational professional to decide how the district spends its money, why do we have a school board ? A budget committee? This singularly revealing statement by Mr. Collins explains why the school board is so acquiescent: they think themselves unqualified to challenge the SAU! But the board is the boss of the SAU. Taxpayers and parents expect oversight and considered common sense judgments on all issues including pedagogy, curriculum, facilities and the wasteful hiring of unnecessary consultants who just happen to be the superintendent’s wife. Hiding the expense in a different fiscal year doesn’t make it better.
I predict many more unbudgeted sudden needs coming before the board before this fiscal year ends because there is about $750,000 from the LGC HealthTrust insurance premium refund that was something of a windfall for the district. Mr. Stokinger tells me this money is already part of the projected surplus. If so, then it displaced $750,000 that was already in there. For the last few years, we have regularly had a $2 million surplus. Right now, $1.9 million is being projected for the next fiscal year. To my rough figuring, it should be $1.9 plus $750,000.
UPDATE: Later into this meeting the SB PASSED the contract to hire a Spanish consultant for FT kindergarten – without a single word of public discussion of the contract. Watch your school board impersonating work: http://vimeo.com/88915836 See 1:25:00