Monthly Archives: March 2015

Whitsons Contract Released

After my request to the chairman of the school board to obtain a copy of Whitsons contract, it was posted to the confidential school board page of Timberlane.net.  Since this is a public document, I link it here:Whitsons FSMC Contract 2014-15 – GREEN

The loss guarantee  is found in section 6.1E where is says that loses will be reimbursed to the extent of the management fee which is $35,000 a year.  The “Administrative Fee,” which is not reimbursable, is $65,000 a year.

The contract is up for renewal on June 30, 2015.

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Further to Food Service “Profit”

In a private email to me after my last posting, Dr. Metzler obliquely referred to a fee that Whitsons will pay to the district if we do indeed lose money on our food service operations.  With that penalty fee taken into account, it is possible the program could run a profit.

Parts of the Timberlane.net website concerning school board documents and SAU documents will not load on my computer tonight so I cannot confirm my memory of the Whitsons contract which I recall will pay us $25,000 if we suffer a loss. Once I have regained access to the documentation online, I will confirm this figure and the specifics of the contract

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Food Service Not “Operating at a Profit”

Our food service program with Whitsons Culinary Group has been a money loser since our contract began.  At the March 5th school board meeting, Dr. Metzler announced that after two years of loses, as of January 2015 the district is now “operating at a profit.”  That would be good news if correct, but my reading of the spreadsheet handed out that night tells a different story. One of us is certainly mistaken. I had to leave the meeting before this topic came up, but here is what was said:

From my reading of the spreadsheet provided, Timberlane has actually lost $1,525 to January 2015 year-to-date. That is a modest sum, especially compared to last year at this time when we had already lost almost $23,000. The difference between the two year-to-date figures is the “variance” that I believe Dr. Metzler mistook as a profit.  (The spreadsheet is reproduced at the end of this posting. Please ignore my scribbles.)

Although our district loss to date is not serious, the rapid decrease in the number of meals we are serving is worrisome. Compared to January last year, we served 7,800 fewer meals this January alone.  Because of this rapid decline in number of meals served, it looks to me like our losses will be escalating through the remainder of the year. We lost a lot more money in January 2015 than we did in January 2014.  These two facts – serving fewer meals and losing more money than the same month last year – suggest to me that we are not at all on track to break even or squeak through with a modest loss come June 30.

Why is this important?  Well, last year the board tasked the SAU with devising a business plan to take our food service in-house. With this supposed good news, there is no incentive to explore this at all and another year of Whitsons is inevitable given the reluctance of our district to put service contracts out to competitive bid.

Renewing a money-losing food service that students seem to be rejecting in droves should not be a foregone conclusion.

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The Vote to Exit Sandown Central

Here is the historic vote taken on March 19, 2015 to move students out of Sandown Central:

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School Board Drops “School Board Rules” and Other Good News

In a most positive development, the Timberlane School Board voted unanimously to dispense with the controversial and troublesome “School Board Rules.”

Plaistow’s Peter Bealo motioned to not renew the School Board Rules.  I seconded.  Discussion then ensued around the most problematic of the rules; namely, that only the chairman can receive and reply to email directed to the board via a group email, TRSB@timberlane.net.  This rule also entails having a correspondence folder with these emails available ONLY during or after meetings – never before. In general discussion, the board agreed that the correspondence folder should be available to board members at any time when they wish to see it at the SAU office. This is a huge step forward for all concerned.

In other positive news, the board agreed to have the minutes of the February 26th Public Hearing expanded to better capture the substance of the discussion.  With these minutes and going forward, the board agreed that all presentations and documents presented to the board would be attached to the electronic copy of the minutes and posted online.  Previously, paper handouts and correspondence were attached only to the minutes filed in the SAU office.  Now the paper minutes will have electronic presentations printed out and attached, and the electronic minutes posted online will include all the attachments of the paper minutes filed at the SAU.  This involves more work for the SAU staff but will greatly enhance the completeness and accessibility of the public record of our business and deliberations.

Mr. Collins was absent from these votes, as was Mr. Sapia and Mr. Blair.

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Sandown Schools Consolidation Committee

At last night’s school board meeting, Superintendent Metzler provided the board with the membership of the Sandown Schools Consolidation Committee.  Dr. Metzler said he “hand-picked” the members and I would say he did a good job of it.

The hardworking and effective Ms. Armfield co-chairs the committee with Sandown resident and Citizen Petition promulgator, Shawn Freligh.  Also from Sandown are Erich Beyrent, Lee Dube, Jon Goldman, Deb Lytle and Kelly Ward. The entire membership list is here:Consolidation Advisory Committee Membership

As this is a superintendent’s advisory committee, Dr. Metzler has said repeatedly that this body will not be subject to New Hampshire’s Right to Know law.  The claim that an advisory committee is not subject to the open meeting laws and other RTK provisions was emphatically contradicted by two lawyers at a Right to Know training session held in Plaistow last week from the New Hampshire Municipal Association. At last night’s board meeting, I asked if the Consolidation Committee meetings would be open to the public. I was told the committee has not yet decided on this issue. I expect, especially given the respected people populating the committee, that they will see their responsibility as encompassing full transparency.

In a related development, Dr. Metzler said that exploring the possibility of leasing Sandown Central to a charter school, which had approached the district, has been given to a sub-committee of the Consolidation Committee. They are to report back to Dr. Metzler in time for the charter’s school’s deadline of April vacation.

Although I have no issue with the committee’s purpose or its composition, I do worry about a few things:

1) Is it wise or even permissible for the superintendent to strike a committee independent of the board concerning the consolidation of schools?   Timberlane’s Policy CE, “ADMINISTRATIVE COUNCILS, CABINETS, AND COMMITTEES,” states: “The Board authorizes the Superintendent to establish such permanent or temporary councils, cabinets, and committees, as he/she deems necessary for proper administration of Board policies and for the improvement of the total educational program.”  I would argue that consolidating schools is not an educational program and it is clearly not an administration of board policy.

2) In what way should the consolidation committee be exploring – completely independent of the school board – the possibility of leasing a building to another organization?  I am going to answer my own question with a surprising discovery: RSA 194-C which governs School Administrative Units seems to empower the superintendent to “hold and dispose of real and personal property for the establishment of facilities for administration and any instructional purposes…” (194-C:I. 1) and “[a]ssignment, usage, and maintenance of administrative and school facilities (194-C:4, II (k).  By my reading this seems to indicate that the superintendent could lease or sell a building without school board approval barring a district policy to the contrary.HOWEVER, a kind and knowledgeable reader, Jorge Mesa-Tejada, pointed out that the SAU does not own any real property —  only the individual districts do; therefore only the school board can sell or lease any facility.

3) When the Consolidation Committee’s report is finished, will it be presented to the public as a document replete with the benefit of public consultation for all its parent members?  For that to be convincing, the meetings are going to have to be open to the public and allow generous public input received with an open mind.

In separate news, the board as a whole last night reached  consensus on going ahead with a Capital Improvement Plan Committee.  Oddly enough, here is policy  (FB) :  FACILITIES PLANNING

“It is the policy of the School Board that the administration prepare a six-year Capital Improvement Plan and update and extend it every two years.”

So it looks like we have a school board committee for work the SAU should be doing, and an SAU advisory committee for work the school board should be doing.

The Sandown Schools Consolidation Committee will meet every Tuesday at 4 pm for 6 weeks.

And finally, the Timberlane School Board voted to consolidate the Sandown schools last night.

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My Request for Reconsideration

This is my Request for Reconsideration filed today at Rockingham Superior Court.  It is a petition asking Judge Anderson to reconsider his decision.   Reconsideration FINAL

The Honorable Court could either deny the request or agree to the request and either change its ruling or hold another hearing on the matter.

Meanwhile, on March 13, salary information without names was posted on the Budget Committee’s website. I learned of this only yesterday.

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