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.