Monthly Archives: March 2016

SB Politics Trumps Business, Oh hum.

Sandown’s Mr. Kelly Ward is now the favored child of the school district establishment. He was on the winning side of the withdrawal controversy and as a result has been elected school board vice-chairman, a position whose only responsibility is running a meeting.  Mr. Ward’s experience in this is quite limited and unfortunately his brief tenure as co-chair of the district’s withdrawal committee lacked distinction. He chaired one Withdrawal Committee meeting then resigned as co-chair.

Recently  Mr. Ward was hand-selected by the superintendent to co-chair an Advisory Committee on Sandown North’s outdoor facilities – an advisory committee I was told nothing about, was not invited to join nor notified of their tour of SN school grounds.

Now Mr. Ward has been awarded the chairmanship of no less than THREE school board standing committees.  These assignments were announced yesterday and were made by Chairman Peter Bealo. Take a gander at this list of assignments, then see my comments.

CIP

  • Sue Sherman – Chair
  • Donna Green
  • Jack Sapia
  • Stephane Dube

Check Registers

  • Sue Sherman

Community Relations

  • Kelly Ward – Chair
  • Peter Bealo
  • Greg Spero
  • Stephane Dube

Curriculum and Assessment

  • Sue Sherman – Chair
  • Peter Bealo
  • Rob Collins
  • Greg Spero

Energy

  • Kelly Ward – Chair
  • Dan Guide
  • Jack Sapia
  • Stephane Dube

Facilities

  • Jack Sapia – Chair
  • Sue Sherman
  • Dan Guide
  • Kelly Ward

Finance/Budcom

  • Rob Collins
  • Peter Bealo – alternate

General Assy Delegates

  • Peter Bealo

Legislative Advocate

  • Peter Bealo

Personnel

  • Peter Bealo – Chair
  • Greg Spero
  • Sue Sherman

Policy

  • Peter Bealo – Chair
  • Greg Spero
  • Jack Sapia

Prof. Dev.

  • Sue Sherman

Safety

  • Kelly Ward – Chair
  • Dan Guide
  • Greg Spero
  • Sue Sherman

Seresc

  • Peter Bealo

Strategic Planning

  • Rob Collins
  • Stephane Dube

Transition

  • Sue Sherman

Wellness

  • Sue Sherman

First of all Mrs. Sherman must be congratulated for being the energy powerhouse of the school board.  She is on no fewer than 9 committees.  That is a huge commitment of time and I believe an unreasonable imposition on any volunteer, but it is up to her to push back if she sees fit to do so.

These are the committees I requested of Mr. Bealo:  “Policy, Facilities, Safety, CIP.  I’d also like to be liaison to the budget committee as well as to SERESC.”

Quite honestly I predicted that I would be given no committee assignments whatsoever. Mrs. Steenson had previously threatened to remove me from all committees which elicited a hearty laugh from me since it would free me to do more blogging, but you can see from that remark that everything some school board chairmen do is primarily political. Advancing the actual work of the board is secondary.

Mr. Bealo surprised me with one committee assignment, CIP (Capital Improvement Plan). Mr. Bealo assigned himself to SERESC and as an alternate to the budget committee, along with other positions.  Keep in mind that Sue Sherman and I are the only members of the board who are not employed and are thus available to attend daytime meetings such as Safety and Facilities.

The good news is that I will continue to attend Facilities meetings as a member of the public so when the committee fails to have the required number of school board members present as happened three times in the last cycle, I will be there to allow their work to continue. Oh, but wait!  The board will likely reduce the number of SB members required to conduct committee meetings to just one member. (See April 7th agenda.) So much for how much of the board’s business is actually done in committee, unless you believe that the business of the school board should be done by everyone other than school board members.

Just think what a reduction to one board member per standing committee meeting actually accomplishes.  It allows a perfectly fit, if unpopular, board member to be excluded from all committees (but one in this case) at the decision of the chairman.  That’s in practice what this change, which will be approved by the school broad on April 7, will accomplish.

It is no surprise that I continue to be marginalized by the superintendent and the chairman because the business of the board is primarily political in nature and not substantive, as you can see from our agendas which do not show the gravity of issues that a $70 million operation concerning children should reflect. What is surprising, to me anyway, is the shamelessness of the players at being so obvious.

 

UPDATE 3/31/16:  I have removed a Facebook post from Kelly Ward that I was told came from Speak Out Sandown. It seems it may have come from a personal Facebook page.

20 Comments

Filed under Sandown Issues

Legislative Update: Withdrawal Law Reaches the Senate

Guest Contribution by Arthur Green

This morning, the Education Committee of the state Senate held a public hearing on HB1303, a proposal for a legislative commission to review and recommend changes to the RSAs covering withdrawal from a cooperative school district.

Donna Green made the following presentation to the committee:

Good morning. I’m Donna Green, a Sandown representative on the Timberlane Regional School Board. I am here on my own behalf as a supporter of HB1303. My husband, Arthur Green, who can’t be here today because of work responsibilities, and I were very much involved in an attempt to have Sandown withdraw from the Timberlane Regional School District. As a result of the issues we encountered, Arthur Green wrote the original HB1303, which asked the legislature to clarify three parts of the legislation relating to the withdrawal of a town from a regional school district. The House Education Committee found the issues so significant that they decided a study commission was a better way of approaching things.

We welcome that development and ask for your support to make it happen. Our goal is not to make withdrawal necessarily easier, but to make it more orderly, predictable and explicit for all the cooperative districts in the state, and for towns which might consider forming a cooperative in the future.

The framework for withdrawal from a cooperative district is given in RSA 195:25 through 195:29. Briefly, a vote of the town considering withdrawal obliges the school district to conduct a study on the feasibility and suitability of withdrawal. The recommendation of that study, possibly including a withdrawal plan, is then to be submitted to the state Board of Education. The Board of Education evaluates the recommendation, and if they deem the withdrawal plan complete they send it to district-wide vote, at which a majority vote of the cooperative decides the final result.

It’s no surprise that the cooperative school district can be expected to oppose withdrawal of a member town, so provision is made in 195:25 for a Minority report to be submitted to the Board of Education.

In March 2015, the town of Sandown voted to study withdrawal from Timberlane Regional School District under RSA 195:25. Our experience of this process surfaced important gaps and ambiguities in this legal framework.

Key officials of the cooperative school district raised the threat that the official study committee could create a “hostile” withdrawal plan which, if approved by the Board of Education, could be imposed on the town by majority vote of the overall district, even over the opposition of the town. The key element of this “hostile” withdrawal plan was to be an onerous facility buyout fee of over $6 million, claimed under a self-serving interpretation of RSA 195:28 governing the facility buyout obligations. Contrary opinion by the “Minority” was to be silenced because, under the district’s interpretation of RSA 195:25, a Minority withdrawal plan could be submitted only if the official committee were to find that withdrawal is not feasible and suitable.

We brought the original HB1303 changes forward to the House in the belief that the legislature never anticipated that a cooperative district would use its control of the official withdrawal study committee to create a “hostile” withdrawal plan, and, exploiting existing statutory wording, use that “hostile” plan to block the town from submitting a “Minority” withdrawal plan to the Board of Education.

Of course, the true intent of a “hostile” withdrawal plan is not to actually expel the town which voted for a withdrawal study – rather, it is to create an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty amongst the residents, particularly parents, and thus encourage a backlash against the possibility of withdrawal. This worked quite effectively in our town and the Sandown Board of Selectmen disbanded the Minority Committee before they were able to finish their recommendations.

The Timberlane template, if copied by other cooperative districts in the state wishing to prevent withdrawal of a town, will undermine the entire framework for withdrawal.

We support a study commission, and hope to contribute to its work.

We urge you, however, to reconsider the makeup and membership of the commission as now drafted. As it stands now, those most solicitous of cooperative districts keeping every possible tool to thwart possible withdrawing towns outnumber those who would like to allow greater educational choice to individual towns.

Our view is not “pro-withdrawal” – rather it is “pro” local control, and “pro” maintaining a meaningful and orderly local option in the framework established by the existing RSAs.

Please ensure that both points of view are equally represented.

Lastly I’d like to say that the issues that foment a desire for withdrawal from cooperative districts are not necessarily related to the way the state funds education as was suggested in testimony at the House level. In Sandown’s case, we believed we could educate our children better for less money and more accountability. Ultimately we couldn’t convince the voting parents of this especially with the contention around the buyout financials. Superficially the issue was about high school taxes but fundamentally it was about educational self-determination – something all towns should have even if they are within a cooperative school district.

Thank you.

Background on how the legislative proposal evolved is here.  And here’s our presentation to the House Education Committee on Jan. 28 covering the original scope of the proposed changes.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sandown Issues

Political Payback Advisory Committee

The superintendent’s “Advisory Committees” are now so numerous they defy enumeration.  An advisory committee exists for everything you can imagine and more. They are a tremendous burden on paid staff, are highly political and yet another way to undermine the authority and responsibility of the school board. In short, they should be eliminated immediately and completely. Instead, Superintendent Metzler is taking them to a new level. Now there is a political payback advisory committee. (See press release below.)

This new advisory committee is tasked with studying a new playing field for Sandown North, yet there already exists an Athletic Facilities Advisory Committee. They are also tasked with an “Outdoor classroom.”  The school currently has a new and beautiful outdoor classroom thanks to the skill and hardwork of a Sandown Eagle Scout and many generous volunteers. Every person on this needless “advisory committee” was a public advocate for staying in TRSD – except for the paid district personnel on the committee. Do we have a superintendent who wants to heal the district – or to poke his finger in the eyes of all those who offered Sandown a choice in its educational future?

Press Release:  SUPERINTENDENT’S SANDOWN PLAYFIELD AND OUTSIDE

CLASSROOM SITE ADVISORY COMMITTEE

Dr. Metzler is pleased to report on the creation of the Superintendent’s Sandown

Playing Field and Outside Classroom Site Advisory Committee. The committee

will be co-chaired by School Board Vice Chair Kelly Ward and Business

Administrator George Stokinger who will report recommendations directly to the

Superintendent. Committee membership will be comprised of Sandown residents

Michelle Livingston and Mark Sherwood, Sandown resident and Budget

Committee member Lee Dube, Sandown Selectmen Chair Tom Tombarello, and

Sandown North Principal Jo-Ann Georgian.

The mission and purpose of the Advisory Committee will be to study and make

recommendations relative to the location of a playing field at Sandown North, an

outside classroom, additional parking, and improvements to the school’s curb

appeal.

March 23, 2016


Getting community feedback about facilities is not inherently a bad thing but it should be done by mandate of the school board, answerable to the school board, in full public view, and not be composed solely of those the superintendent wishes to reward and promote politically. Do we need to be reminded of the Sandown schools consolidation committee that did all of its work in secret and did not even announce their meeting times or place?

No elected official should be participating in any committees that report directly to the superintendent. Your representatives should be reporting to you within the framework of our legally accountable governance – not some invented superstructure that the superintendent has devised for his own political agenda that is only succeeding in setting the district against itself further.

1 Comment

Filed under Sandown Issues

Your School Board at Work

Reorganizational Meeting 2016

Thursday night, March 17, 2016 was the re-organizational meeting of the Timberlane Regional School Board.  It should be watched.(Video below.) It had everything from political payback, to an open checkbook for lawyers, to self-serving self-deception, to administrator disrespectfulness, and a sly move to further suppress board member rights.  (Vimeo time noted as hours:minutes:seconds)

  • Political payback = Kelly Ward being elected vice chairman (10:00)
  • Open checkbook for lawyers = 7-2 vote to allow the superintendent to seek legal counsel whenever and wherever he wishes without knowledge or approval of the board.  (0:25:56)
  • Self-serving self-deception =  the board ties itself up into a comical knot to ignore acknowledging our failure to follow our own Investment Policy provisions – specifically not requiring our auditor to do a periodic review of our internal controls.(0:46:17)
  • Administrator disrespectfulness = SAU Business Administrator speaking off topic to berate me for allegedly being critical of SAU employees. (0:49:48)

March 17 TRSB meeting

Danville’s new member, Stefanie Dube, (0:50:44) made it clear that asking questions and expecting answers is not “putting someone down.”

Then there was the surprise re-introduction of the odious School Board Rules limiting the rights of school board members that were unanimously defeated last year. No one owned up to requesting them on the agenda and after some back and forth they were removed from our consideration.(0:57:34)

Regular Meeting 3/17/16    You want the truth?  You can’t handle the truth!

After the organizational meeting and hours into the regular evening, I made motions to obtain information you would think any board would get as a matter of course. Unfortunately the TRSB has an allergy to facts. Watch all of my requests for very basic information relating to student safety, fiscal prudence and workforce deployment get shot down in the last 20 minutes of the meeting.  Seeing is believing because on most boards this would be unbelievable.

(3:12:30)  I asked for a bi-weekly report of incidents reported by our Safety Resource Officer at the middle school and high school.  Mr. Sapia said it was “Highly inappropriate that we discuss this at this level.” Dr. Metzler said I was “compromising the safety and security of the entire school district” to even mention such a thing and threatened to leave the room if the discussion continued. This is not to be missed.

Oddly enough, the very next day, after all this posturing, a parent posted the number of police responses to the MS and HS for 2014 and 2015 as published by the Plaistow Police on their Twitter page.

  • TRHS   2014:  271        2015: 325
  • TRMS    2014:   93        2015:  161

Then, suddenly, the school board received a report from Mr. Woodworth on the number of fights in the last two academic years and to date. You will have to ask the superintendent for those numbers as I have had enough threats about being personally sued to release them here though I believe them to be public and believe even more that you should know them.

Later, I made a motion (with no second) to put discussion of replacing our auditor on the next agenda. Our audit is once again more than four months late and the auditor’s relationship is with the SAU not the board as it should properly be – among other concerns I was not given an opportunity to voice.

I then asked to received the number of students per class now that students have their class assignments for next year.The board was incredulous.  Why, after all, would we want to know how effectively our workforce is deployed? That request went down in flames with thinly veiled derision. (3:25:56)

Finally, I asked yet again to get the information to determine if the full-time kindergarten program was running at a profit or loss since the administration refuses to tell us. (3:27:00)  Mrs. Dube seconded this request as she did with a number of my motions through the evening for which I am most grateful. What must be known specifically is the number of students enrolled and the number being given free or subsidized tuition. The board and Superintendent Metzler went on and on about how this information is not public and can’t be given to the board.

Oddly enough, the next morning, the same phenomenal parent showed that the information supposedly so private and impossible to provide (# of students in free and reduced lunch program) was actually published in Mr. Collins’ authored District Report Card every year!

It’s a new board, but the games remain the same. What’s new, and what you will be seeing a lot, is political payback.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Sandown Issues

Proposed Policy on Student Surveys

This is the draft policy the school board approved for “first reading” last night.  The problems with this policy are significant, in my opinion. I did not vote to move this policy forward.

ILD Educational Questionnaires Surveys and Research

Here are my issues with this proposed policy:

  1. To my mind there is no reason to limit this policy to “non-academic” surveys.  It should apply to all surveys.
  2. Only the superintendent makes the call as to whether a survey is “academic” or “non-academic.”  Our current superintendent is not in favor of personally intrusive surveys but what if we should get a superintendent who is?  The board should be deciding this matter because there are sometimes financial incentives and always political incentives to conduct these surveys.  An elected board and not one single individual should be between these pressures and the decision.
  3. A previous draft of this policy said that no surveys (academic or otherwise) with sexually explicit questions or questions about illegal activity would be given to elementary students. This statement should be retained.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Sandown Issues

How the SB Can Work for Sandown

Opponents to Sandown’s withdrawal say they want to work to improve the district. Here are some suggested school board (SB) goals I’d like to put forward as a way of directing CAW’s energy, and as a way of making the school board and the SAU more responsive to the people they serve.

The school board should:

  • Put substantial issues on the agenda – not just PR opportunities.
  • allow individual member requests to be added to the agenda – not just what the superintendent wants discussed publicly
  • strip the superintendent of control of the agenda
  • read and address correspondence from parents in meetings
  • listen and address public comments in meetings
  • have all administration removed from the board table – they are not part of the board and should provide input when invited
  • require the Business Administrator to have a laptop at hand to answer all financial questions in real time
  •  promise to reply to all member questions within 24 hours of a meeting and then do it
  • stop illegal non-public sessions
  • stop illegally playing favorites with some members in  the know, others frozen out
  • stop discussing issues with the administration behind the scenes
  • learn and follow SB policies
  • stop private pages on the SB website
  • publish all agenda material 48 hours before all meetings for members and the public
  • deny the chairman of the SB the authority to withhold permission to members to visit schools during operational hours.
  • put SB members in the majority on all SB standing committees
  • stop the endless proliferation of “advisory committees” that strip knowledge and authority from the SB and which are not answerable to the public
  • begin to demonstrate sound fiscal management by no longer increasing the budget while enrollment plummets
  • provide the TRSD budget committee with the entire budget in live spreadsheet months before final vote and including past year expenditures and revenues fully detailed
  • require prior SB approval to advertise for new hiring
  • require prior SB approval for legal action
  • require discussion of monthly expenditure reports at SB meetings
  • require all contracts to go out to bid on a regular basis
  • require prior board approval for use of funds for other than appropriated purpose
  • require SB and SAU audits be done promptly and insist that the auditor be present for board questioning
  • insist information be provided to SB members as per their requests and stop the malicious practice of forcing elected officials to make Right to Know requests for public information
  • require all press releases be distributed to the board before being distributed to the media
  • require all contract extensions to be discussed in public meetings
  • be honest with the public about ultimate intentions; e.g., “closing” of Sandown Central, “tuitioned” full-time kindergarten
  • be honest and forthright about what actually happened; e.g., with Danville’s student information, the consultant “hired” to research Sandown’s buyout.

Let’s see how sincere CAW is in actually wanting to improve the district. So far we’ve seen CAW celebrations with the superintendent and Grand Inquisitor questions of Sandown’s Selectmen Buco and Devine about their future commitments – but nothing whatsoever to address the underlying issues.

CAW, it’s time for you to do something more than crow.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Sandown Issues

Qualification Test for New SB Chair

Here are the questions anyone vying for school board chairman should answer before being considered for the position:

Will you use your position to defend the independence of the board from the administration?

Will you continue the practice of allowing the superintendent to set the agenda?

Will you continue the practice of excluding agenda items requested by SB members?

Will you continue to permit the superintendent to sit at the board table?

Will you continue to permit the superintendent to populate the board table with administrators?

Will you continue to permit the absence of Mr. Stokinger?

Will you continue the practice of withholding permission of unpopular SB members from visiting schools during working hours?

Will you continue to allow the superintendent to intercept SB member emails to any Timberlane.net address? *

Will you continue the practice of encouraging the SAU to not answer questions asked in meetings and continue to encourage the SAU to charge SB members for public information?

Will you continue to use seating as a political weapon?

Will you continue to ignore correspondence?

Will you continue to refuse to respond to public comment?

Will you continue to turn a blind eye to nepotism in hiring?

Will you continue the practice of signing legal documents without the knowledge or authority of the school board?

*CLARIFICATION:  A prior version said “all SB emails…”  I know only that all my emails are intercepted.

 

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Sandown Issues