For those interested in keeping public education affordable, for those who want to encourage the well-being of young families so they can have children and stay in the state, for those who want to help retired people stay in their homes, last night was a rout. One hundred people showed up out of approximately 800 to support lowering the school district’s budget. The teachers’ union was out in force in a well coordinated campaign.
In a brilliant stroke of pre-reheared gamesmanship, a woman motioned to limit all presentations to three minutes. This was staggeringly undemocratic and the very opposite of what a “deliberative session” is all about. I called for a secret ballot on the motion which was met with anger at the inconvenience. I offered to withdraw my request for a secret ballot if the motion to limit presentations and addresses was withdrawn. It was not. Then I tried to get the moderator’s attention to call for a show of cards but my microphone was turned off and the moderator did not recognize me. Getting the moderator to recognize me, Arthur Green and Tony Cantone continued to be an issue throughout the evening. The motion passed by a wide margin. As a result, Arthur commented that he wondered what people were afraid of in hearing his information. He made the best he could of 3 minutes when he had diligently prepared a 15 minutes presentation then cut to ten minutes with just 24 hours notice by the moderator the day before. I, too, could not get through my prepared remarks which the moderator improperly interrupted and attempted to stop. You can read why here:
DELIBERATIVE ADDRESS 2015
Timberlane has many fine teachers, students who make us proud and a passionate school community. We’re not here to tell you Timberlane is bad. We’re here to give you an honest assessment so we can improve together. The first step is getting control of the budget.
My husband and I have been made out to be dangerous enemies to public education. That is patently ridiculous, but we ARE enemies of something else –waste and indefensible practices.
In the past 14 months the school board has
hired the superintendent’s wife as a consultant to introduce Spanish in Kindergarten at $50,000 a year. The board will almost certainly be renewing her contract for four subsequent years.
Hired the wife of an SAU board member as a teacher
Hired the wife of the chairman of the budget committee as a PR consultant –an unbudgeted position, and entirely needless.
I honestly cannot say I believe this is the extent of crony hiring.
In 2014 the school board dropped the requirement for competitive bids if the “existing services continue to meet the needs of the district.” This couldn’t be more wasteful and irresponsible. Our Athletic Trainer contract, for instance, did not go out to bid for 28 years until we were hounded by a parent to do so. The result was an excellent new company that provides more services – such as doctors at football games – for significantly less money.
I don’t know how many other contracts we have like this. I tried to amend this new policy to say that all contracts had to go out to bid at a minimum of every three years. This was defeated 1 to 8 by the board sitting in front of you.
The district also has a practice of withholding financial and staffing information and making elected officials pay for it. In the past 14 months, Arthur and I had to resort to 13 Right to Know requests– all for public information mostly at fifty cents a page.
monthly revenue and expenditure reports
a year end financial report
basic staffing numbers
Mrs. Metzler’s contract
Last year, the district’s financial audit was issued 9 months late with an adverse opinion. Nothing has been done to address those issues. Now the audit is once again no where in sight… 2 months late to no one’s concern.
I could go on but I’m allowed only 3 minutes. The current practices are self-serving and profoundly disrespectful of the sacrifice your family makes to pay taxes.
How can it be responsible to cut millions from the budget?
It is positively irresponsible not to.
The Responsible Budget gives more per student than currently. The proposed budget adds a staggering $900 more per student.
Taxpayers can no longer prop up a system that will not control itself.
We must demand excellence in both education and management and stand up to the politics of fear.
In a surprising turn of events, Mr. Bealo, member from Plaistow, motioned to add $250,000 to the budget to put in a sprinkler system in Danville Elementary. The amended and increased budget passed by large majority. Arthur Green’s subsequent motion to lower the budget by what was then $3 million lost dramatically: 100 for, 517 against.
It’s been a great year for the facilities manager. Lots of major projects are getting funded that weren’t even on the facilities 5-yr plan. One wonders what role budgeting and planning have in our district. Next May, when the school board is staring at an irresistible surplus, you can look forward to learning about and paying for other emergency projects not even a twinkle in the facilites’ plan.
Deliberative Session ended at 12:10 a.m. after which the school board held a meeting. The agenda included a “first reading” of a new math curriculum. The materials for this math curriculum were sent to us at 3 pm, three hours before we were to arrive at the Deliberative. This is how seriously your board takes decisions of this magnitude. A new math program is the most important decision the school board will make – even more important than closing a school – because this will affect our students’ future in the modern world to a person.
I asked the chairman to reschedule that agenda item. She did not respond. I did not attend the meeting as I do not believe any member of the board could possibly have had time to read the voluminous material concerning the curriculum and no intelligent discussion could be expected.