I first learned that the Business Partnership was not what I understood it to be in an odd but instructive way.
Unauthorized School Board Newsletter Published
The Timberlane District webpage in March featured a newsletter from the school board. The main feature of this newsletter was an article about the Business Partnership program.
There were two problems:
- The school board did not know about this newsletter nor had thy approved it for release;
- The Business Partnership program described had additional information from what had been presented to the school board; namely, most of the items listed below.
When I asked about the newsletter at a school board meeting, no one owned up to knowing anything about it. Mr. Collins, did indeed know about it. He was the one who worked with the hired PR person, Mrs. Grosky, to write it. Someone authorized its release without bothering to inform the school board of its content or get their approval.
You may recall that Mr. Collins attempted to have me censured for supposedly speaking on behalf of the Timberlane Budget Committee in 2013 when I spoke independently to the Sandown Board of Selectmen even though I said clearly during that talk that I was not speaking on behalf of the budget committee. But Mr. Collins can be associated with the unauthorized release of a publication under the name of the entire school board and no one says a word.
In fact, the board rewarded the behavior. At the April 16th meeting, the board voted to entrust approving subsequent newsletters to a few people on the Community Relations Committee so the board as a whole doesn’t have to trouble itself with knowing what is going out under its own name. The board won’t even see it beforehand. If you think this takes laziness to a new level, join the club.
Business Partnership Program
As for the Business Partnership Program itself, I learned from the newsletter that in return for a partnership, schools may
- Provide music groups for company functions
- Provide space and teachers for corporate training
- Feature your business in school publications
- Assist with community service projects
- Support your public events
- Serve on your Boards or Committees
- Provide complimentary tickets to school events
You can see this at the program’s website: http://wp.timberlane.net/scp/
Here’s my problem with these offerings in exchange for a partnership arrangement:
1) Children should not be used to advance an adult agenda. Kids are busy enough. Children who are accomplished at an instrument may wish to volunteer for a public performance, but their willingness to help should be not made into a program whereby the school is directing their gigs for the schools’ benefit.
2) Public property should not be used by private companies. And certainly teachers being paid by the public should not be doing corporate training unless this is outside of class time (and therefore business hours) and is strictly voluntary. The board has been given no assurance that this is the case.
3) Serve on boards? Who is going to be serving on boards? Teachers/Administrators? During business hours which is when board meetings take place?
What I am seeing in this is public money subsidizing a partnership initiative that also co-opts student service. Sure, this may accrue to the benefit of students, but couldn’t we obtain the same cooperation of public spirited private companies without these inducements? These partnership benefits also accrue to employees of the district who get employee discounts through this partnership arrangement. This is almost certainly a minor consideration, but it nevertheless makes me uncomfortable. Too many lines are being crossed in this program.
Students certainly should be encouraged to assist in community projects and there is nothing wrong with including the community outreach of private business in the opportunities given to students. Why does that have to come as a payback for a “partnership” with the district which may involve a monetary or in-kind donation?
Mr. Strainge, who is a highly paid administrator, spent many weeks working on this program flat out. He and an assistant personally went to hundreds of companies to promote this arrangement. Is this really how we want our education dollars spent?
Our schools are generously funded. We do not need to be asking private companies for monetary donations. Yes, job shadowing, mentorships and occasional sponsorships from private businesses in our community are a great thing for our students, but these things should and can be accomplished without co-opting student labor and teacher time.
I asked for the program to be included on the agenda. I regret that I could not attend the April 16th meeting to put forth my considerations. I provided The Chairman with 48 hours advance notice.