School Board Argues About its Role

The school board has three functions, I’ve been told: hiring the superintendent, setting policy and approving the budget. That, I’ve learned, is where we differ. I see the board’s role as an oversight body for the SAU, curriculum, instruction and everything else.

This article from the Tri-Town Times, April 24th edition, shows just one flareup of this ongoing disagreement. Reprinted by the kind permission of the publisher and with thanks to the author. (Erratum: the article quotes a Mr. Russ Collins. In fact, Russ Collins is safe in Sandown. The school board member is Mr. Rob Collins.)

Tritown School Board Report Apr 24 2014



Filed under School Board Behavior, School Board Issues

10 responses to “School Board Argues About its Role

  1. Cathy Gorman

    Perhaps the SB should read RSA 189
    Section 189:1-a; II

    189:1-a Duty to Provide Education. –
    II. Elected school boards shall be responsible for establishing the structure, accountability, advocacy, and delivery of instruction in each school operated and governed in its district. To accomplish this end, and to support flexibility in implementing diverse educational approaches, school boards shall establish, in each school operated and governed in its district, instructional policies that establish instructional goals based upon available information about the knowledge and skills pupils will need in the future.

    Cathy Gorman

    • Peter,

      Thank you for adding to this discussion. I am not familiar with the citation and will certainly look into it but I must caution my readers that in my opinion the NH School Boards Association is an organization with a mission to empower SAUs and cut off at the legs school board members. I base this on two things: 1: the unconstitutional school board rules were originally sourced from this organization; and 2) one book given to new SB members is written by the National School Boards Association. This book strongly implies that disagreement at the SB level is bad for the district and ultimately bad for the children. I, for one, do not take anything the NHSBA says as credible because I mistrust their ultimate agenda which is to empower the SAUs over elected officials. Nothing could demonstrate that more clearly than the disgraceful School Board Rules which has the superintendent controlling the school board;s agenda. And we take much of our SB policy from that organization!

  2. Cathy Gorman

    My opinion only: both the SB and the BC is losing sight of their very specific and distinct duties.
    Duties, responsibilities and authority is clearly defined for both bodies in the RSA.
    To use “guidelines” from an “association” rather than actual law (RSAs) is quite concerning.
    This is equivalent to City Council or BoS governing via the advice of the RPCs rather than following statute.

    • Cathy Piemonte

      Great Job Cathy Gorman! I feel like I am in the “twighlight zone”. I am a Registered Nurse pursuing my BSN. This past semester I had an assignment to attend my local school board meeting to study the group’s characteristics. I have attended a school board meeting, the School Board Budget Committee meeting and a Selectmen meeting. In my humble opinion, I have deep concerns and would like to share my observations about the School Board and Budget Committees with anyone who is interested. Here it goes…. First, “dysfunctional” comes to mind. The common thread I see in the two groups is that a few new (fresh pair of eyes) members have been appointed and have asked some basic and legitimate questions and have been met with vitriol by certain members. It seems the members that have been on the boards the longest are having the most difficulty handling the newer member’s insights, questions and suggestions (almost in a “how dare you- question what we have always done” tone). I would describe the Madam Chair as “bullying”. An example is when the Madam Chair of the School Board remarked “I will not have this going forward” in regards to a board member verbalizing her concerns about the curriculum. There is so much negativity, domination and aversion to new members that the “real meat and potato” issues don’t get addressed. I hear Dr. Metzler saying “just give me a bottom line number (money)” and then it appears his attitude is- I don’t have to answer to anyone as long as I meet my budget. (I liken this to Jack Nicholson’s line in the movie A few Good Men- “I would rather you just thanked me and went on your way”).
      Second, have all the board members read the Ed 303, Duties of School Boards and Ed 306, Minimum standards for public School Approval (The local school board shall adopt and implement)? It doesn’t seem like the most basic role of the groups (purpose, objectives and goals) are clearly identified. How can that be? These groups have been in place for years! I am glad that the newly appointed members are asking questions and shaking things up!!! Our towns deserve to have committed members that have access to ALL appropriate information so they may perform their duties as they were elected to do.
      Instead of board members being embarrassed or apologizing that information was presented to board members- they should be embarrassed and apologize for their behavior toward their co-members who just want to do their job to the best of their ability.
      Lastly, I am not a business person, (or a writer- I apologize for any grammatical errors) but it is laughable (and sad) that the Budget Committee spends hours going in circles, when even a novice can see that the most basic of information is not available for those members who would like to make informed decisions on behalf of their towns regarding finances. I think it is a shame that board members have to fill out “Right to Know” forms to get information that should be available to them. Board Members, please be open minded to new ideas and questions and please realize that change is “a good thing”. Respectfully,
      Cathy Piemonte

  3. Advocate

    I believe the problem with the situation that came up at the last school board meeting was that DG was looking to attack (may be too strong a word) the pedagogy (the actual delivery method) of the instruction to the World Studies program. She may be right in questioning it, but her methods were incorrect, leading to the backlash from the remaining board.

    If you read both Peter’s link, and the RSA listed above, it is clearly spelled out in both that the board’s job is to implement and execute policy that governs the system. As others have pointed out, the link is a guideline, but the RSA is “law.” so…

    The RSA says the school board is “responsible for the “structure, accountability, advocacy, and delivery of instruction in each school…” The phrase “delivery of instruction” is clearly about pedagogy, which makes them responsible for how content is delivered. However, the RSA goes on to say how the board is to govern those items, and that is “To accomplish this end…school boards shall establish…instructional policies that establish instructional goals based upon available information about the knowledge and skills pupils will need in the future.”

    The bottom line is this: If the board is unhappy about the pedagogy, they must make changes in the policies that govern the actual behavior of the teaching staff. They could implement policies at the board level that would govern the amount or nature of experiential and 21st century learning.

    Currently the board has established the following policies and goals for the delivery of instruction:

    District Mission statement – 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.

    Specifically, the high school’s website lists the following:
    TRHS Mission Statement
    The Timberlane Regional High School community values and nurtures the academic, personal, creative, and social growth of all students. We uphold rigorous academic standards and promote continuous improvement through curriculum and experiences that foster excellence, cooperation, and responsibility.
    Academic Expectations – Timberlane students will:
    Write effectively.
    Use problem-solving strategies effectively.
    Research and gather information effectively.

    This was accepted by the school board on February 1, 2007. These are the policies that the teachers work under as established by the board. I’d say that the activities described in a month-long project were sufficient to meet both the district mission statement and the high school’s academic goals.

    Directly questioning the quality of the work being done in the classroom as it was at the meeting is not setting or suggesting policy, and that is where the meeting took a left-hand turn. .

  4. Dennis

    Going back to Dr. Metsler’s predecessor, it was very obvious the SB answers to the Superintendent, not the other way around. The SB should be calling the shots and questioning and directing the SAU. Not the other way around.

    • Advocate

      They DO direct the SAU, through the policies they set.

      • Len Mullen

        Advocate, who writes the policies the School Board rubber stamps? Who writes the agendas that dictate which policies will be amended? Metzler is more subtle than La Salle, but, make no mistake, he runs the SAU.

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