By way of background, let me establish that I have served on the board of a small non-profit, served four years on the Sandown Planning Board and a number of years as an alternate on the Sandown ZBA, two years on the school budget committee along with my 1+ service on the school board. Only at Timberlane have I felt railroaded into a vote and this has happened repeatedly.
The consolidation vote was a prime example. The study was officially released to the school board 29 hours before we voted on it. During the all too brief discussion of the issue at the May 21 school board meeting, I asked for the vote to be delayed so all the board members could think about the recommendations and discuss it with constituents. Not one member supported this. Ms. Steenson said none of her constituents ever contact her. Mrs. Sherman said the teachers needed an end to the uncertainty. From the paucity of questions about the report, it isn’t clear just how many board members had actually had time to read the report in full.
Despite being fundamentally against the consolidation, all my practical objections were addressed at the meeting. Yes, there are two nagging and outstanding problems with Sandown North — the sprinklers and the traffic — but these issues would be the same with or without consolidation and as far as I could tell would not be made worse. The number of students after the consolidation would be almost exactly the same as presently. As for needing a larger playground for the older children, Rob Collins seemed confident the board would approve funding for that out of this year’s budget. (Let’s ignore that disturbing issue of paying for capital improvements with operational funding surplus because this situation hardly seems a precedent — or the fact that the voters rejected funding that in the forthcoming budget year.)
Ignored completely was the cost of running the independent pre-k’s in each school. We were in such a rush to make a decision – any decision at all – that niggling things like money just never entered the picture. It was a precipitous vote and I regret not insisting that we needed more time instead of being railroaded into that vote by a sense of urgency that was deliberately orchestrated.
I was slightly more successful in resisting the railroaded votes of approval for the two new hires, only because I have a firm policy of not approving any hires because we are simply not given enough information to make an informed decision. (I abstain.)
In a room packed with administrators and spectators, including the press, Dr. Metzler introduced without warning or in agenda order, two prospective new hires – a new assistant principal and a new Director of Data and Accountability, both of whom were present in the room. Dr. Metzler reads one resume. He asks for a vote of the board. Up go the hands. Done. Candidate shakes hands with all board members. Repeat. Done. Candidate shakes hands with all board members.
Naturally, only Mrs. Green asks any questions. In the mad rush; however, I missed the fact, disclosed only on paper not given to the board before that meeting, that the Data Accountability position is $100,000. This was a position that we were previously told required strong math skills and would be difficult to fill. I’m sure Ms. Michaud is a lovely and competent person, but the resume the board was given does not indicate any strength or training in mathematics. Also not disclosed either in writing or in Dr. Metzler’s introduction, was the fact that Ms. Michaud is currently the principal of Manchester’s Hallsville Elementary School. This is the school that hosted an extremely controversial “lesson” on bullying which created such an uproar that parents started a petition in April to have Ms. Michaud reprimanded. See the story here: Hallsville Bullying Lesson
There are always two sides to a story and Ms. Michaud’s position at Timberlane is very different from her position at Hallsville. It is a regrettable beginning for Ms. Michaud to find herself the subject of a blog, but that is the fault of the administration. Whether or not this controversy in Manchester has any bearing on her position at Timberlane, it should certainly have been disclosed to the board. I bring it up to illustrate how the school board is herded into votes by selective disclosure of information and deliberately rushed situations.
An Undertaking Learned the Hard Way
Whenever I feel forced into a vote, I will vote no.
New hires presented in front of an audience of their peers looking to get approved? No.
New hires with a skeleton resume given to us and no knowledge of other candidates? No.
Artificially or deliberately orchestrated urgent situations? No.