Here are two very telling clips from the Nov. 6 Timberlane School Board meeting. Watch it if you want to understand why your School Board is so impotent.
Better to Ask Forgiveness Than Permission
In this first clip you will first see me make a motion to review a publicly announced educational goal of offering online courses for credit. (This was announced during the department heads’ presentations of their budgets at the PAC in October.) Developing online courses has never been discussed at the board level or anywhere else it seems. When Superintendent Metzler was asked directly if he had instructed a staff member to pursue this goal, he would not give a straightforward answer. See my motion go down in flames.
Refuse to Put Contracts Out to Bid
Then (at 6 minutes, 36 seconds) I make a motion to have the rubbish removal contract go out to bid because at the same public session in the PAC, the Facilities Director said the contract had gone up $12,000. I asked about the length of the existing contract and when it was last put out to bid. I could not get an answer out of Mr. Stokinger, who despite being asked, refuses to bring his computer to a meeting. Some districts post this information on their websites. In our district school board members can’t even get an answer. Watch the school board tie itself into ridiculous knots worming its way out of not putting this contract to bid.
For the record, the Facilities Committee does not deal with contracts. That was a complete canard. It hardly needs to be said that this is your tax money being gobbled up by an inexplicable refusal to put contracts out to bid. (At the beginning of the meeting not captured on these clips, the board voted against getting competitive quotes for our liability insurance.) You should also watch Ms. Steenson make a virtue of ignorance by protesting that contract review is not the job of the board. Subsequent to this board meeting, Mr. Hughes announced to the Budget Committee on Nov. 13 that he had made a mistake and the rubbish removal service is going up only $6,000 and not $12,000.
Have Serious Errors in Financial Projections
Next there is Mr. Stokinger publicly admitting that he was in error when he projected hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra Adequacy Aid for the district with the expansion of full-time Kindergarten. Thank you to Arthur Green for catching an error so material that it changes the whole financial complexion of the program. (One of the sheets Mr. Stokinger “regenerated” and distributed at the subsequent Nov. 20th school board meeting still included the erroneous Adequacy Aid. Sigh…)
Use Illegal Non-public Sessions to Hide Discussion of Issues
And finally, in the second clip, you will see the board going into yet another illegal non-public session. Why am I claiming it was illegal? The topic concerned facilities and this is not a permitted exclusion under the Right to Know law. The board deliberately misstates the Right to Know law provision under which non-public sessions can be called to make it seem this topic is permitted. They call it safety and security, but the RSA is exclusively for terrorism. When Mr. Collins called for a non-public under 91-A, subsection (i), I read the SAU’s version of the so-called RSA out loud. A day later I checked the actual RSA and found, as I had thought, that what was purported to be the RSA wasn’t the RSA at all!
This is what the SAU self-servingly misconstrues as the provision in the RSA allowing non-public discussion. It is this which I read aloud at the meeting:
i) Consideration of matters relating to preparation for and the carrying out of such emergency preparations to prevent widespread injury or loss of life [security].
Here is the actual RSA:
(i) Consideration of matters relating to the preparation for and the carrying out of emergency functions, including training to carry out such functions, developed by local or state safety officials that are directly intended to thwart a deliberate act that is intended to result in widespread or severe damage to property or widespread injury or loss of life.
Even without the benefit of the actual RSA, the moment I learned what the non-public was about, I motioned to exit non-public because the public, I said, had a right to know the information we were discussing. My motion didn’t get a second and the non-public session lasted 20 minutes.
2 responses to “Your Board at Work Doing All the Wrong Things”
A gem of a title. Your board at work. More like your bored bored of work.
The arrogance from your board chair is written upon every line of her face. If I were on the receiving end of this, I’d be certain to note it for the record as in, “The public may wish to note the body language emanating from the chair. Although she often advocates for what she terms “respect”, a simple reading of her expressions at this moment would suggest either indigestion, or vitriol that seems difficult to contain. If the chair wishes to express her true feeling, now would be a good time to let it all hang out”.
Then pause and let her steep in that one.
I do feel for you… As unpleasant as is, what goes beyond comprehension is her insistence in avoiding the discussion of contracts, something irresponsibly contradictory to the fiduciary duty that every public board which is ultimately responsible for the expenditure of public money is elected to hold. Normally, that is, for she leans back to instruct “we don’t micro-manage”, to which I would quickly retort, “Surely you meant to leave the micro part out”.
So who is approving no bid contracts? Who is receiving these? Seems like a good deal. Any more available? Seems like a sweet deal for those in the know.
So, what is the limit (or is there one??) above which spending MUST go out to bid? You know, we learned something here in Massachusetts a long time ago, and there are laws specifically crafted to keep the crooks somewhat at bay. Of course, a way around these was created in the form of the “public authority”. Plea: don’t let it happen to your state.
Holding such an irresponsible position as your chair, and parading it with ignorance and pride (these twins tend to stick together) should be chiseled upon her political tombstone. I recommend that this, alone, would bring any smart, principled, and non-corrupted citizen into a good position to whoop her behind come the next election. Anyone game? Surely the public would rise up when it is revealed that your board and chair have handed off the spending of countless 10’s of thousands to a do-nothing committee with no oversight. No wonder costs are literally going through the roof! We don’t micro-manage! Gag me with a spoon.
Wish I lived in your community. It would be satisfying to run against that ship before it does any more damage. But if I were you, I’d let it run aground and then hand off a nice anchor to finish the job.
There is no amount that requires a contract to out to bid. In fact, the board recently passed a policy such that if the needs of the district are being meet, a contract need not go out to bid at all. The needs of the taxpayer are not mentioned because it is always about the children. Once awarded, never lost, could be the district’s motto going forward.