Bait and Switch at Sandown Central: Consolidation Report Recommendations

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.

22 Comments

Filed under 2015 Warrant ARticles, Closing Sandown Central, Sandown Issues

22 responses to “Bait and Switch at Sandown Central: Consolidation Report Recommendations

  1. “So what was it about except retribution to Sandown?”
    That’s exactly what it’s about.
    Metzler’s – “. . . my way or the highway, Massachusetts method. ”
    The district doesn’t want Sandown, it wants its tax dollars, to pay for their “good time.”
    We’ll go where we are wanted.

  2. Cathy

    There is not a budget for the SC building; and based on the WA vote – No means no. What was not zeroed with the deduction of the ~$744,000.00 was necessarily transferred to SN to accommodate the 2 additional grades. Stokinger stated specifically the only funding left in the SC budget was some funding for bare minimum heat and electricity. You cannot transfer funds to a zeroed out line item with the falure of the WA.
    So are they now saying SC is in fact funded in teh budget? Then what was the WA funding?
    And SC needs to house our Pre-School and Kindergarten? Wouldn’t that tell you that all the Sandown elementary students do not fit at SN? Kindergarten is a part of elementary school per NH law and therefore cannot be housed at SC no matter how you slice it. The SB (whose responsibility it was to ensure there was a plan PRIOR to cutting SC from the budget and generating tthe WA) and SAU never had a plan: not from the budgeting aspect to the accommodations aspect. And now they find they cannot fit the elementary students (K-5) at SN.
    I would say they did in fact mislead the public, the BudCom and perhaps the SAU mislead the SB however we know the SB would not be concerned with such minor details.
    If SC remains open then it should remain open for the 4th and 5th graders.
    Such a corrupt move by Metzler and those that supported this deception.

    • Only pre-school is proposed to be consolidated at SC. Kindergarten for the other towns is staying in their own towns…. in the proposal. (SC will house only Sandown’s kindergarten programs in the proposal.)

      • Cathy

        Kindergarten is “elementary school”. #1 SCES budget is not funded to school any of these children; the following was zeroed out per the SAU draft 2 budget in order to have the ~$744,000.00 faux savings:
        Guidance
        Nursing
        Custodial
        Office of the principal (except they retained the principal)
        All other funds remaining in SC needed to be transferred to SN in order to school the 4th and 5th graders. No?
        and #2 the voters stated by not passing the WA they did not want to raise and “appropriate” the funds needed to operate Sandown Central Elementary School (the building). The building cannot be funded as a school in 2015-16.
        Sandown can thank the BudCom and the SB for not fulfilling their roles and responsibilities to the District.

  3. jd62500

    Tuitioned preK students will be supporting necessary funding for preK at SC or any other building they’re located in. I’m not really seeing how this impacts the budget. And the expanded playground I though was a no vote from the 2015-16 budget. But if they do it from this year budget then it’s permissible (although I personally still question the use of operation expense money for capital projects).

  4. WDR

    Simply amazing. Sounds as though once the “committee” worked out the logistics on paper they realized that consolidation wouldn’t work as certain people told us it was going to. Funny how that all works out. Just think if they had actually simply agreed to perform a study to research it all first….hmmm. Would probably have eliminated a lot of aggravation and heartache. And with this, another question has arisen, correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t pre-K funding turned down last election? If so, how could that be program possibly be included as being added to the operations at Central?

    • “… but wasn’t pre-K funding turned down last election?”

      No, pre-k is a requirement for identified children. What was turned down was free full-time kindergarten.

  5. WDR

    Ok, thanks for clarifying that. So that being said, what we are looking at is Central being a “tuition” based school for the pre-K and Kindergarten students for the entire district? Would this become a full time “daycare” facility? Would the district bus the students in from the surrounding towns? It’s hard enough for some of the middle school and high school students that have to be on a bus for over an hour each way to and from school (my son included), just think of these poor little ones that would be coming from the far reaches of the district. Oh, wow, look at that – I actually have sympathy and compassion for those outside of Sandown! Would be amazing if so many others out there within the district took off their horse blinders and actually thought of the district as a whole community…we may have been in a different situation. Anyhow, I suppose we should wait until the “official” report is released tomorrow and carry on then.

    • Kindergarten is staying in each town…. the plan is only for pre-school to be consolidated at SC. Only Sandown’s own kindergarten program will be moved to SC.

      I am interested to see what Dr. Metzler says about this report.

    • The little kids are already being bused from all over the district. Any preK age student that the district is required to provide preK schooling for under sped laws is bused. The district has to provide this – but it can do so at any school. This program was initially in sandown, then it was moved to Danville, and now it’s in Pollard. So no matter where it is, these kids are bused bc the district also by law has to provide transportation. We already have tuition preK in each school. It is not required by law and the whole concept can be dumped at any time. I’ve heard enrollment is down so maybe consolidating them makes sense, but not this year – when parents have already paid deposits for preK at each town and it’s now too late to secure a spot elsewhere. These parents provide their own transportation and logistically it may not be possible for parents to add another 20 minute drive to their mornings.

  6. Concerned Parent

    It was never going to be $744k, because those savings were comprised of the salaries of several teachers, principal, lunch staff, guidance counselor, secretary, etc. Metzler said that he was keeping the principal on staff, which is why Shawn Freligh’s CP was for funding Central with $600k+. Are these positions still going away? Transferring staff and students from one building to another doesn’t really increase the cost at all. Perhaps electricity and oil goes up? There may be some savings. Even if the savings are $250k, is that worth it?

    • I would say that most of the staff will be placed in district through normal attrition via retirements, resignations, etc. Meaning the “positions” will be eliminated, but the “people” might stay. So unless new positions are created other places, then yes, the saving should be realized through elimination of positions. I think only time will tell.

  7. Sheila Lowes

    Donna I have to ask a question to one of yours. Why didn’t the “patriot” answer your questions on the consensus of the committee?? That person seems to have all the information.

    • If things weren’t done in secret, there would be no need for your question. You should be asking the committee your question.

      • Sheila Lowes

        Ahhh But I am asking you Donna, if your source, had been able to give you a copy, I am sure your source could answer your questions. Because your “patriot” would have been involved in the discussion. Again these are recommendations…only. They can be used or ignored, plain and simple. So to speculate any of it being used, is putting the horse before the cart. The whole report could be ignored! However you chose this forum to have the public upset on a report that may have NO impact at all. I find that irresponsible. The SB and the public will know something whether any of it is used, so to upset people over a recommendation is ridiculous.

      • My position is always the same: don’t conduct public business in secret then no one gets surprised or upset. It is in the public interest to inform people before an action is voted on by the board, which is what is scheduled tonight. Each elected official has to conduct themselves as their conscience guides and I always err on informing the public. The discussion that has fallen out of this has been instructive.

  8. Sheila Lowes

    sorry the cart before the horse….

    • Sheila Lowes

      So if you have a source or a “patriot” and that is kept secret. That’s ok?? Kind of a double standard I think. You You can’t have it both ways Donna. Do you think that maybe just maybe this is why it was done that way. Because now there are a lot of upset people that maybe are wasting their energy on something that may not happen. So I’m sorry but I think you are calling the kettle black on this you are acting no better. No secrets remember Donna. Transparency right??

      • I don’t actually know the identity of the person who gave me the report but I would respect someone’s request for confidentiality if they requested it. Over and out.

      • CC

        Lots of upset people wasting energy that could’ve been avoided, perhaps even the withdrawal study, had this plan and or other options been presented last fall when Dr Metzler and the SAU removed funding for Central.

        It’s may 21, school starts the end of August. There is no time to formulate another plan.

        Maybe this will work out great, I hope it does. But I wonder why we had to go through the last 6 months or so to get here? I’d expect a much different process from a superintendent that got such a glowing review.

      • jd62500

        CC- as I recall the SB unanymously supported Dr Metzler bringing the budget to budcom (in fact was asked if they needed a vote and they all said no, they supported the budget). The superintendent doesn’t decide to consolidate schools, the SB should have voted on this long before it even got to deliberative session. Had the SB not dragged their feet and actually took a vote to consolidate then this process could have started back in January ir February. This voter is of the opinion that the SB didn’t want to make the tough decision, dragged their feet, and lef us down the path we are now on.

      • There was a vote to “support” the budget without operational funding for SC but it was not unanimous. I voted against it.

        In my opinion, the mess we are in now results from a failure at all levels – SAU, SB, and Budcom.

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