“Advisory Committees” Subverting District Governance and Accountability

The governance structure of the school district is being seriously undermined by a proliferation of superintendent “advisory committees.”   What is developing is a shadow government, “hand-picked” by Superintendent Metzler.

First there was the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on the Sandown Schools Consolidation.  Many conscientious citizens were tapped to serve on this committee almost certainly not initially knowing that their meetings would not be open to the public and that their deliberations would not be recorded in minutes.  They also weren’t told that the extensive staff “hand-picked” by the superintendent to provide their expertise would be paid.

District residents should know that this committee was formed without the knowledge or consultation of the school board – and that its rules of engagement were also not discussed with the school board. I have publicly objected to the secrecy with which this committee is working and I profoundly dislike the whole notion of a  committee that does not report to the school board.

Unfortunately, I did not object as vociferously as I should have because it is happening again.  Today the SAU made the following announcement:

Hello Board members, 
The Superintendent is in the process of establishing an advisory Campus Development Committee to be comprised district administrators, teachers, parents, budget committee members, school board members and possibly selectmen.  He will be announcing his selections shortly as well as defining the scope of their work. 
Please note this is an advisory committee to the Superintendent as opposed to a school board established committee; thus the committee meetings will not subject to the Right-to-Know meeting requirements.  
He looks forward to providing an update to the board at an upcoming board meeting. 
Have a good afternoon,
Cathy

This disturbing announcement came with District Policy CE attached, which supposedly justifies the existence of “advisory committees” independent of the school board. The policy does not at all permit what is going on. The entire policy is copied below, but here is the first and most instructive sentence:

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.

Neither the consolidation of schools nor “campus development” have anything to do with board policies or the improvement of an educational program.  What is really going is is three-fold.

1) The SAU is by-passing the authority and responsibility of the school board and in doing so is conducting public business behind closed doors.

2) “Campus development” is rightly the purview of the Capital Improvement Plan Committee and the Strategic Planning Committee – both subcommittees of the school board and both subject to the full view of the public.

3) Private committees create insiders and outsiders and extend the superintendent’s influence where it doesn’t belong.

Publicly minded citizens and elected officials who are tapped to participate in “advisory committees” should refuse unless they become sub-committees of the school board and  also fully comply with New Hampshire’s open meeting laws.

All the Boards of Selectmen in all our four towns should refuse to participate in this and should repudiate any cooperation with these closed-door committees among their own members.

ADMINISTRATIVE COUNCILS, CABINETS, AND COMMITTEES

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.

All councils, cabinets, and committees created by the Superintendent will be for the

purpose of obtaining to a maximum degree the advice and counsel of district staff, students,

and district residents and to aid in district communication. Functioning in an advisory

capacity, such groups may make recommendations for submission to the Board through

the Superintendent. However, such groups will exercise no inherent authority. Authority

for establishing policy remains with the Board and authority for implementing policy

remains with the Superintendent.

The membership, composition, and responsibilities of administrative councils, cabinets,

and committees will be defined by the Superintendent and may be changed at his/her

discretion.

Expenses incurred by such groups for consultative services, materials, and any travel will

be paid from the general operating funds of the district, but only when within budgetary

allotments and as approved by the Superintendent in advance.

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