Thursday night’s school board meeting convinced me that the board allows the SAU to behave as a power unto itself.
Within the first fifteen minutes of the meeting, Superintendent Metzler handed out a verbatim transcript – only partially complete – of the Feb. 28 public hearing on amending the Articles of Agreement (Petitioned Warrant Article #10 on the March ballot). At the March 19 school board meeting, the board, dissatisfied with the skeleton minutes offered for approval, had instructed the recording secretary to go back to make the minutes more reflective of what actually transpired at that historic meeting.
Superintendent Metzler took it upon himself to send the Vimeo out to a transcription service charging $1.20 a minute, an expenditure not approved by the board. Perhaps the Superintendent would like to pay for this indulgence himself? The recording secretary was tasked with the job. That is why we have a recording secretary. At the board meeting I called it malicious compliance: You challenge the minutes? You must pay!
After 45 minutes concerning athletic and booster programs, the board turned discussion to the troubling issue of the district’s use of the Turnitin software. The issue of student privacy in blogs and in work submitted to Turnitin became of concern to the board and the administration following hair-raising public comment by two parents at the March 5th school board meeting, According to the parents, two years of work submitted to the global database of Turnitin had been submitted in violation of federal privacy laws (FERPA) because parents had not given permission for their children’s work to be placed in this databank and personally identifiable information had in many cases been included in these submissions. The administration has since sent out parental permission forms and has changed practices in the schools so that student privacy is protected. The administration came to the board on Thursday night to explain corrective steps taken which included plans to delete all the work previously submitted to Turnitin without parental consent. After much discussion, the board decided that this work should not be deleted. The vote was not unanimous and was, in my opinion, a bad decision which could expose the district to legal risk.
Sometime later Superintendent Metzler called for a non-public meeting under “reputation.” Once the non-public session was underway and I learned of the topic, I objected that it did not fall under the legal criteria for a non-public session. Superintendent Metzler invited me to leave. I did not leave. Instead I stayed to hear a discussion of important administration action that should have been discussed in public and was of great public interest. I suggest those of you who are concerned about these things write to your board representatives and to Superintendent Metzler to insist that this matter be raised in public session as it should have been during this meeting.
I am currently researching whether my duty of confidentiality applies to matters in non-public session which are not properly non-public. While I look into this, I cannot individually disclose this matter.
The board then took about three minutes to approve teacher renominations for the forthcoming academic year – explaining for the new member what a “continuing contract” was. Then a science curriculum on “second reading” was approved with no discussion. This was followed by brief discussion about starting a strategic plan and also a district-wide Wellness Committee. The board also briefly discussed their own self-evaluation and the administration’s evaluation of the board.
After this there was a vote on the Sandown withdrawal study, but not what you might think. It was merely a vote to support Mr. Ward as a member of the study, without taking any responsibility themselves for this study. The school board consistently denies its legal responsibility to conduct a withdrawal study as per the explicit requirements of RSA 194:25.Procedure for Withdrawal.
Finally, around midnight, there was disrespectful discussion about the requirement voted by the school budget committee for a preliminary end-of-year-financial report in late July or August. Superintendent Metzler was adamant that the budget committee is not going to get this because it is earlier than the SAU’s normal timeframe for producing such a report. SAU personnel also made unsupportive comments about the budget committee’s apparent willingness to hold a meeting in the summer in order to help direct the budget process that starts in September. This, it seems, is an unreasonable imposition on the SAU’s resources.
What we have is not an overweening budget committee, but rather an SAU that doesn’t understand that its job and purpose is to support the elected officials who protect the interests of taxpayers and parents.
Mr. Collins said that if the budget committee doesn’t back down on its requests, the SAU will need more staff. I wonder what would happen to the timeframe for budget committee requests if, instead, the SAU staff were reduced?
The meeting is here:
Gentle readers, a happy Easter and Passover greeting to all.