Last night, the Sandown Board of Selectmen voted to show strong support for the town’s representatives to the school district. I thank them for their willingness to listen to our concerns, their understanding of the importance of the issues, and their courage to take a stand in support of us and ultimately for the benefit of Sandown taxpayers.
In a 3-2 vote, the Board of Selectmen approved a sternly worded letter to the Timberlane School Board Chairman and the SAU Superintendent, reproduced below. Steve Brown spoke against the motion, suggesting the issues with financial transparency at the district about which three of the four school district representatives complained were simply those of personality. Hans Nicolaisen expressed the thought that the selectmen should attend the special school board meeting on July 16 to see what is going on before sending the letter. Cynthia Buco, Terry Treanor, and Jim Devine carried the motion.
Sandown has four representatives to the Timberlane School District — two on school board and two on budget committee:
- Kelly Ward SB
- Donna Green SB
- Cathy Gorman BC
- Arthur Green BC
Mr. and Mrs. Green and Ms. Gorman petitioned the selectmen to sign the letter which was drafted by Mrs. Green (your faithful blogger). Kelly Ward was invited to attend the meeting but was not present. (Because he did not respond to my email invitation, he did not know of the letter.) After I read my prepared remarks to the selectmen, Arthur Green and Cathy Gorman spoke in support with some elaboration.
Here is an abbreviated version of the text that I read at the meeting. The letter is at the end.
[…] On another matter, you should know I have not been permitted to read a lawyer’s letter on an issue I raised about receiving more than $1.2 million dollars of insurance premium refunds, all the while other board members have seen this letter and know the contents. This is outright discrimination against a dissenting board member and as representatives of the people of Sandown I’m asking you to stand up to this outrageous behavior. It is just one of many attempts to hide information from me and the public.
Let me give you another recent example. The school district pays dues to an organization called NESDEC, New England School Development Council. This organization produces extremely accurate 10-year enrollment forecasts. The district received Timberlane’s forecast in Feb. 2014. I learned about this service by chance and requested this information be given to the school board in JUNE. The report was then placed on the school board’s private webpage even though it is absolutely public information paid for by the public and critical for public decisions. I’ve asked for the report to be moved to the public pages of Timberlane.net but I don’t think it will be. Why not? Because it forecasts enrollment declining by 27% in the next 9 years – that’s 1000 fewer students in 9 years. The district doesn’t want the budget committee or the public knowing this information so they are hiding it.
Sandown voted down nearly every school and town warrant article that cost money last year. We denied ourselves $346,000 in needed repairs because we are being strangled by unnecessarily high school taxes. Your three elected school district representatives are fighting for fiscal responsibility but we can’t get there without more financial transparency from the district.
Arthur Green on the school budget committee is having to submit Right to Know requests to get monthly expenditure reports from the district. That is beyond outrageous. Some school districts actually post their monthly expenditure reports on their webpage, but at Timberlane it is a big secret that your elected representatives have to pay money out of their own pockets to receive after delays and frustration.
As leaders of this community the people of Sandown expect you to look out for their interests. That means helping us control the district’s out of control budget. And it is out of control. We have already lost 19% of our students while staffing levels stayed practically unchanged. There has been no indication from the Superintendent that hiring will be adjusted to this decline in enrollment. The school board hasn’t even asked him to do this because the superintendent is driving the car while the school board sits in a backseat booster chair turning a toy steering wheel.
A special meeting of the school board has been called for Wednesday. The items on the agenda are precisely the issues I’m talking about here and on my blog, all of which Mr. Green, Ms. Gorman and I have brought to the attention of the district and the public. I want to go into this meeting with the support of this board, because if I don’t, the taxpayers of Sandown will eventually suffer. I’m asking you tonight to approve and sign the following letter to the school board chairman and the superintendent.
Dear Mrs. Steenson and Dr. Metzler:
It has come to our attention that our school board representative, Donna Green, has not been given the opportunity to review a letter of legal opinion that was sought by the district concerning an issue that Mrs. Green raised at the last school board meeting; namely, the requirement of a public hearing upon receipt of refund of premiums from LGC HealthTrust. We understand that this issue may be subject to debate, but we wish to state in the strongest terms that Mrs. Green, as our representative, is to be given the same access to information and documentation as all other members of the school board and in accordance with the law, without delay or obstruction.
The people of Sandown expect our representatives to the district to be treated with respect and even handedness. We also wish to express our dismay that our representatives on the budget committee have to resort to Right to Know requests to obtain publicly available information they feel they need to discharge their elected duties. This has to stop and we call upon you to change your practice immediately.
Sandown Board of Selectmen
If you don’t approve this letter tonight, it will be telling Dr. Metzler and Mrs. Steenson that they can isolate, marginalize and ignore Sandown’s elected representatives without consequence. It will be telling Sandown taxpayers that their roads, bridges and government buildings will always come second to a school district with no effective elected oversight.
Mr. Brown and Mr. Nicolaisen did not sign the letter.
You can watch the sometimes heated discussion on Cable Channel 17 or when it is released on Vimeo in a few days via Sandown.us, BOS, and then “meetings on Vimeo.”