Sandown has been in turmoil since December 4, 2014 when the school board voted to support Dr. Metzler’s removal of operational funding for Sandown Central in the 2015-2016 budget.
First: The Bait
We were given the following arguments for closing Sandown Central:
1) the building had the highest cost per pupil of the entire district
2) all Sandown students could be accommodated in Sandown North
3) closing SC would save $744,000 every year to infinity after consolidation costs.
Now: The Switch
This morning, the Sandown Schools Consolidation report was leaked to me. It is due to be presented to the school board tomorrow night. If what I’ve been given is genuine, and I have reason to believe it is, the study recommends:
1) District-wide consolidation of pre-school programs at Sandown Central
2) all Sandown kindergarten programs at Sandown Central
In order to accomplish this the report says Sandown North should have:
- a bus-only additional access road to relieve traffic issues
- A new one acre fenced off playground
- building-wide sprinklers
If ever a project was sold under false pretenses, this is it.
There was never an educational argument in this consolidation. There is no educational advantage to Sandown students or any others who will have to spend more time on buses to get to programs. The argument was always a financial one and that turned out to be a promise more false than the hope of spring in March. There will be no money whatsoever saved in this re-organization, and certainly nothing saved that couldn’t have been done without the consolidation. Furthermore, this has the potential to be a big waste of money. How can the district be proposing a major program reorganization to a Sandown location when Sandown is exploring leaving the district potentially as early as July 2017?
Is This Even Legal?
Now let’s look at the legality of all of this. The voters denied operational funding of Sandown Central when they defeated two warrant articles to keep the school open with funding. The district is keeping the school open anyway. “No” means “No” except in the Timberlane School District where the school board chair signed a five-year contract without school board vote and budget laws are mere leaves of paper in a dusty book. The district also voted against a new playground at Sandown North but, with the large influx of older students, Sandown North very much needs a new playground. Let’s watch the magical logic and twisted legal opinions coming soon that rationalize a new playing field despite a failed warrant article.
For the record, I am relieved Sandown Central is staying open as a school because I believe this consolidation was precipitous, and we clearly still need two facilities. In my opinion, the Sandown schools should stay as they currently are configured for at least one more year until the voters approve necessary changes to Sandown North and permit whatever reasonable operational and capital improvement funding is needed for both schools’ new use – and we see the results of the withdrawal feasibility studies.
If the district is going to break the law by violating the will of the voters in keeping Sandown Central open without district approved operational funding, why not leave things as they are for another year and finally do it right?
Transition to Public/Private Model without School Board Approval?
The idea of a dedicated special education facility for pre-school is an interesting one that could have benefits to the district if it does indeed make space for more tuitioned pre-K and full-time K students. But this should be a deliberate decision and not one forced on us by “closing” a school. We now have tuitioned full-time kindergarten. We may now be encouraging an expanded tuitioned pre-school program. Are we turning into a public/private model something akin to Pinkerton without an explicit plan by the school board?
It Was Never Truthfully About Money
Interestingly, the consolidation committee was instructed not to concern themselves with the financial consequences of their recommendations. This tells me right from the start that the Superintendent never had any intention of making good on the statement that “closing” Sandown Central would save the district money. It was never truthfully about saving money. It was never about education. So what was it about except retribution to Sandown?
The school board meets tomorrow at 7:30 pm. The report is to be presented to the school board at that time. I will post the report to this blog on Friday. Thank you to the Sandown patriot who leaked it to me. Thank you, also, to the dedicated Sandown residents who volunteered their effort to the study. The study gives no indication as to how many members of the committee endorsed the recommendations.