There has been a bizarre issue going on between the towns and Timberlane in the last few months.
In early March, the Danville Board of Selectmen wrote the SAU asking for the release of student addresses and grade level for Danville students attending Timberlane. This information is needed by a consultant in order to update the impact fees Danville imposes on developers to offset school capital costs.
The request went to the school board which said “No” to the release of this information.
Now, if you knew how easily the board ignores its own policies you might find this sudden stand on policy surprising. I mean, Mrs. Steenson signed a contract without the vote of the school board so how much more flagrant a breach of policy can you have yet the only board member making a fuss about that is me.
At this decision, the Danville BOS asked for time on the school board’s agenda to explain their need in greater detail.
Again the board said “No.” Use the five minutes of public comment time, they were told.
Ignoring the effrontery of that treatment, Danville BOS Chairman, Mr. O’Neil, put together a very thorough presentation packet for the board at a subsequent meeting and did a fine job in the five minutes allotted to him.
On the basis of that material, I requested the issue be put on our agenda and to my astonishment it was. On May 21, Mr. O’Neil and the consultant with whom Danville has contracted to conduct the impact fee recalculation, Mr. Bruce Mayberry, made their case. Elected officials from Sandown and Atkinson also spoke (at public comment) in support of getting this vital information from the district.
The board still said “No.” We can’t break our policy (even though we normally throw our policies to the floor at the slightest provocation and dance upon them like when the district didn’t do a plan before defunding a school.) Instead, the board voted (6-1-2 Atkinson reps abstained, Green against) to ask Danville parents to agree to release this information, knowing full well that the response will not provide what Danville is looking for: ALL the addresses of the Danville children attending school in the district.
Mr. Mayberry, who has been doing this for towns in NH for 25 years, says he’s never seen anything like this in any town or school district he has dealt with before. He has a very exacting method for calculating school district costs based on the type of new residential development. His methodology, which has been defended in court, requires ALL student addresses, and grade level (not names). Without this information Danville could be forced to stop charging developers impact fees which would result in even higher taxes for Danville residents.
Mr. Bealo, in his zest for policy, went so far as to suggest that Mr. Mayberry be fingerprinted and Cori checked in order to be a recipient of this limited directory information.
Now, thanks to the work of a singularly perceptive parent, I have learned that all Timberlane parents have already given permission for the district to disclose what is known as “directory information” about their children, specifically addresses and grade level and/or dates of birth. This permission is given to the district in the Rights and Responsibilities “contract” which parents are required to sign at the beginning of each year. Additionally, each school has a student handbook that notifies parents that directory information including addresses and birth dates, can be released – which is all that is required by the law. (Pollard is the only school that does not explicitly talk about directory information in their handbook. The Middle School student handbook is not available online and couldn’t be checked.)
What this Means
This means that our policy is out of step with our disclosure to and permission from parents and is unreasonably restrictive. It also means that the board could easily waive the policy because the legally required notification has already been given to parents and agreed to by parents.
So what is really at play here? A paranoia about student privacy to the detriment of our town taxpayers… or something else?
Allow my imagination to run riot
Each town pays the district based on the number of students (ADM) who attend from each town. Only the school district itself tells us how many students each town is sending to them. As it happens, the information Danville is asking for and which Sandown and Atkinson are also interested in, is the ONLY way each town would possibly have of independently verifying the exact number of students being sent to Timberlane.
Oddly, this is exactly the information that the school board decides to die on a hill refusing to provide. A partial response from opt-in forms returned from parents will not suffice for a town curious about its actual enrollment. And that is the option your school board sees fit to impose even though it means a tremendous administrative burden. It is too much to ask the SAU to put contracts out to bid on a regular basis, but it is perfectly OK to ask the administration keep track of parent responses from every student from Danville, Sandown and Atkinson.
The logical absurdities keep multiplying. Something is not making sense.
I requested this issue once again make its way onto the agenda in light of this new information. My request was ignored. When does bizarre turn into something more?
See my earlier post on this issue: https://timberlaneandsandown.wordpress.com/2015/04/20/school-board-stonewalls-danville-board-of-selectmen/