Don’t Write to the School Board!

Last night’s School Board meeting resulted in some decisions you may not like. I don’t like them one bit.

No-Bid Contracts Here to Stay

Close on the sensible heels of the school board’s no-bid contract for Mrs. Metzler’s consulting services, the board seems set to approve a policy allowing no-bids in perpetuity.

Timberlane’s Policy Committee is suggesting this language be included in policy DJE, “Bidding Requirements:”

Specialized educational and related services are exempt from this policy when the interests of children so dictate (i.e. textbook purchases, psychological services, etc.) Existing services that continue to meet the needs of the district shall be subject to an annual review and may not need to go out to bid. [Words in bold are changes to the existing policy.]

I moved to amend it as follows: “Existing services that continue to meet the needs of the district shall be subject to an annual review by the School Board and may not need to go out to bid for a maximum of three years.”

This reasonable amendment was resoundingly rejected by the board. If the policy goes thorough as currently written, and there is a very good chance it will, you will have many more no-bid contracts…. just so long as the “needs of the district” are continuing to be meet. The needs of the taxpayers need not trouble us.

Dr. Metzler Stays in the Know but the School Board Doesn’t

The board also voted to direct all emails addressed to to the School Board Chair and the Chair only- oh, and Dr. Metzler. The Chair will reply and will not copy other board members. Board members will see the correspondence at the next board meeting and only then. Dr. Metzler will receive correspondence in real time, but the board will have to wait as long as two weeks to see what is on the mind of their constituents.

This disagreeable arrangement arose as a result of seeking legal advice on Rule #5 of the infamous School Board Rules. Previously, directed your emails to every member of the board. If a constituent answered a reply from the board by replying to the entire board, an unintended online “meeting” could have transpired in contravention of the Right to Know Law.

The district’s counsel gave three suggestions for dealing with the danger of group emails, none of which included leaving the group email arrangement as it was. The Board adopted the first option. The second option was to save all correspondence addressed to TRSB to discuss at the next board meeting. The third option eliminated TRSB altogether in favor of individual board member emails.

The board did not have an attractive choice in any of the three. My own preference was to leave things as they were and to caution correspondents not to “reply all” or reply back to TRSB. Instead, your representatives are now being left in the dark about your concerns until the next board meeting. Even then it will be challenging to keep up with the correspondence folder in the middle of business. Board members asked the SAU to keep a folder of recent correspondence on hand for board members to view at the SAU as they wished. Dr. Metzler refused which to my mind adds the element of hiding to the insult of forced ignorance.

Every board member is of equal authority and every member has a right and a duty to see what concerns the public enough to write to the board. I am not comfortable with delegating to the School Board Chair replies to my constituents and I certainly expect to be told about concerns from Sandown in real time – not 14 days later and after a reply has gone out from the Chair.

The long and the short: Please don’t write to the TRSB if you wish all board members to be aware of your issue. Send your email to each member individually.

21st Century “Learning”

Anyone watching the April 17th meeting who did not also watch the previous board meeting would not know that Mr. Strainge was responding to comments I made at the April 3rd meeting where I questioned Dr. Metzler about a front page story in the Eagle Tribune, replete with pictures, of 163 students from 11th Grade participating in Depression Era Days. For an entire day these students enjoyed experiential learning by building cardboard shelters, standing in a simulated soup line and watching a feature film, Cinderella Man. “Was this a good use of our few 180 instructional days?” I asked.

This triggered a massive response at the last meeting. All board members were greeted with an approximately 200 page photocopied document with the Depression Day instructional material including assignments and 39 sample student feedback responses. To the shock and disapproval of my fellow members, I said that the student responses were not 11th grade level. The responses were five sentences long, hand printed, and unremarkable. This is not a criticism of the students because I know our students can rise to excellence or I wouldn’t be on the School Board. My criticism is of our expectations of the students.

Dr. Metzler said I didn’t get modern instructional philosophy and Mr. Collins apologized to the teachers for my insulting behavior in criticizing their pedagogy. To that I say we have the absolute minimum number of instructional days required by the state. Our students are below both state and national averages in SATs. Half of our most academically ambitious students do not get credit for their AP courses. How’s 21st Century Learning working for you?

If the emperor is wearing clothes, please send me a fabric sample.


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Filed under Sandown Issues, School Board Functioning

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