The school board listened to Rob Collin’s presentation last night on changing the district’s funding formula. Yes, it was his idea, Mrs. Steenson told us. The administration took no credit for the suggestion. Atkinson and Plaistow members were strongly opposed and the issue was dropped without a vote. I was roundly chastised for releasing the information before the meeting which apparently resulted in a flurry of calls to school board members.
A default budget was also approved last night with about as much reflection as a frog has on a cloudy day. The default budget is higher than the currently proposed “third draft” budget by $81,688. Included in the default is an extra $200,000 for anticipated higher energy costs – something not allowed by law concerning default budgets– a fact I pointed out and ignored by the board.
Interestingly, Sue Sherman said that the school board did not vote to close Sandown Central at the board’s previous meeting. Not sure Superintendent Metzler read the same memo. I urged the board to take a vote on the closure and not leave it to the budget committee as that was not the way something so important should be done. Had it come to vote, I would have again pointed out how they are violating their own policy about the procedure to close a school which I did anyway for good measure.
From the discussion around the table last night, it is clear the board is set on closing Sandown Central though they lack the political courage to put it on the agenda and take a public vote. Members argued last night that it is simply a matter of fiscal responsibility. If that were the case, I said, the numbers have not been forthcoming. We have been given a rough list of cost savings and an even rougher list of consolidation costs. These have not been scrutinized or even discussed by the board and I’m far from convinced that what we have been given is thorough. What we have been given in great abundance, however, is general reassurances that the consolidation could be done with precious few specifics. Ms. Armfield explained how 6 extra classroom could be squeezed out from the current configuration of Sandown North, but Ms. Rincon, the Special Education Director, could not give any specifics whatsoever about how the special education programs would be moved and otherwise accommodated because she did not want to upset student and parents about something that is still in the planning stage and could change. This, of course, means that the board is set to do something based on nothing but assurances by the administration with no plan on paper subject to study and public examination.
The board also waived some policies to allow employees and board members to gain discounts at some commercial enterprises. I voted against this as it didn’t seem urgent. I would always rather revise policy if it is necessary than waive it when it is convenient. Policies exist for a reason,.
There were many other issues addressed at last night’s meeting which stretched to nearly 12:30 am. I made a motion to end the police detail saying it made the board look afraid of its constituents and/or wanting to intimidate them. (Did I happen to mention that Lt. Baldwin is the detail officer? Readers might recognize this officer as the one who “investigated” me for harassment.)
I also vociferously objected to being refused access to Sandown’s elementary schools during the day so I could see how practical a consolidation is given the current school population and use of facilities. Jack Sapia, the recent appointee from Atkinson, had a tour of Sandown North with the principal on Friday during the school day. Mr. Sapia apologized for not observing protocol. Ms. Steenson did not apologize for lying to me in her email of Dec. 16:
I have indeed responded to your request. Building tours are given by Mr. Hughes, they are arranged by the superintendent, and these tours only happen after hours on days that school is in session so as not to disrupt the students or staff. The principals neither schedule nor lead tours of their buildings, except during the annual facilities tours in September. Perhaps you’re not aware of how full their days are already. I have copied Dr. Metzler on this response; I, personally, am not aware of how a request by you to the Sandown Board of Selectmen would change the availability of tours.
Of course school principals give school board members tours during the day- especially under circumstances such as the closure of a school. Why only a few meetings ago, two school board members raved about their tour of the full-time kindergarten program in their towns’ elementary schools. It is only your Sandown representative who cannot obtain a tour because of the personal intervention of the school board chair, the same person who has steadfastly refused to include my agenda items requests. This is your school board at work. There are many who think a less confrontational approach would garner different results. In fact, whenever there is an imbalance of power, it will be abused no matter how sweetly sings the weaker party.