Why Gordon Champion Sponsored WA 13

Gordon Champion, long-time resident, lawyer, and town moderator, was the lead petitioner of Warrant Article 13.  Here is a letter he wrote, read during Town Deliberative Session, in support of Article 13.

To all the citizens of Sandown,

As the past Town Moderator I felt compelled to assist in presenting a citizen petition warrant article regarding the Timberlane School District. Last year the citizens of Sandown voted to conduct a feasibility study for a possible withdrawal from the Timberlane School District. Last year’s vote during Town Elections made it clear, that at that time, the majority of the voters in Sandown were upset with the current school administration and their questionable activities. At last year’s SAU Deliberative Session I watched the attendees hijack the democratic process by limiting Sandown’s opportunity to present its case for fiscal austerity following an unlimited discussion period for those advocating an increased budget. This shameful demonstration followed actions such as hiring the superintendent’s wife, charging the Town of Sandown for Right to Know requests, continuing to operate Sandown Central despite the vote to close the facility and showing unnecessary disrespect to our elected representatives.

As in every issue regarding schools, and how they are to be administered, there will always be disagreements. The intent of this warrant article is to let all of the taxpayers determine the future of our Town not just a few dissidents whose unwarranted and unsubstantiated opposition range from their child attending an unfamiliar school to Timberlane potentially becoming a “D2” school, a well publicized fear by one of the opponents to this warrant article.

This warrant article has been written to give the voters of Sandown an opportunity to once again let the BOS know how the majority feels. If this initiative is rejected then those of us who have sought fiscal accountability and austerity will continue to audit the activities of SAU55. As the Town Moderator I was consistently discouraged by the attempts of small groups of citizens to nullify citizen petitioned warrant articles before reaching the voters. Why this reluctance to allow all of our fellow citizens to have an opportunity through the ballot box to show just how the majority feels is incomprehensible. Debate the Article at Deliberative Session and when all sides have been given an equal opportunity to be heard let the voters decide whether or not to pursue a course of action that will benefit both taxpayers and our children.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,

Gordon Champion, JD


Mr. Champion refers to SAU55 charging Sandown for Right to Know requests.  SAU55 has charged three of Sandown’s representatives for public information multiple times: Donna Green, Arthur, Green, and Cathleen Gorman. Those who think the withdrawal movement is a “personality conflict” between Sandown’s elected officials and the superintendent should think hard about the possible motives by SAU55 in keeping public information from elected officials and making it as difficult as possible for them to do their job. The district is using your money to fight all the way up to the NH Supreme Court to keep your elected representative from getting salary information in a usable (electronic) form.

Why do so many of your elected representatives past and present to the school district think withdrawal is the only answer?* Just because of the difficulty in obtaining public information? Just because our taxes are high and only going higher while enrollment plummets? Just because our older students are consistently below state average in standardized tests while we will be paying at least $19,600 to educate each and every child in the district? Just because we have no influence on a regional school board of 9 members?

None of these reasons alone justifies withdrawal, but add them together with nepotism in hiring, a flurry of lawsuits, and an inability of citizens to control the district’s budget and you get a perfect storm of reasons to become our own district.  We can do it better for less.

This is not about personalities.  It is all about demanding better for our children and our taxpayers. Let those who are opposed to withdrawing from Timberlane make one actionable suggestion to change any of the drivers listed above.  They can’t, and that is exactly why you need to support Warrant Article 13.

*Signing the withdrawal Citizen’s Petition with Gordon Champion were 11 individuals who collectively have held the following positions:

  • 2 current selectmen
  • 3 current Sandown Budget Committee members
  • 2 current state representatives
  • 1 current school board member
  • 3 former school board members
  • 1 former chief of police
  • 2 former Sandown Board of Selectmen chairmen
  • 1 former Timberlane School Board Chairman
  • 1 former chairman of the planning board

A third state rep signed but we were not able to include his sheet in the final submission due to technical difficulties. (This list includes only the offices I know of and apologies if I missed the accomplishments of some of our petitioners.)

Why would so many people with direct experience of the governance of the Timberlane School District and the town feel that we, the people of Sandown, can do a better job educating our children and for less money?  Could they know something about waste and the lack of educational accountability?

 

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “Why Gordon Champion Sponsored WA 13

  1. I am curious to know how many signers of the petition currently have students in the district? Separately, how many used to have students in the district that are now grown? Thanks.

    • And why should this matter? Are you implying:
      1) people without children in school currently have no interest in quality education for all?
      2) people without children in school currently think only about their taxes and not about the welfare of their community and their neighbors’ children?
      3)only people with children in school currently know what is best in this issue?
      4) people with adult children and grandchildren soon to be in school should somehow have a lesser voice than parents with children currently enrolled?
      5) that only people with school-aged children really understand the tension between taxes, property values and declining academic achievement?

      CAW would like to make this about retired people vs. young families but the issue is broader than that. The issue is demanding more value for our educational dollars and having confidence in our own ability with local control to do better than what we have now.

      I don’t know the answer to your question off hand and don’t feel the implications are worth my effort to answer. The petition is public. Feel free to determine this on your own.

      • Wow, I would love to say I appreciate your answer but unfortunately I don’t believe my honest question deserved your angered response.
        As someone fairly new to town with young children not yet in the district, I do believe that there is more weight in the opinion of those who either currently or formerly had a child or children in the school system. I am not saying that I believe those who have never had a child in the district should have a “lesser voice” or that they “don’t care about the welfare of the children of the community” as you have stated here. However, without the life experience it would seem that all that is left to go on are statistics, and unfortunately numbers don’t always represent the overall picture.
        Again, my question was an honest one, meant to hopefully strike up conversation with specifics rather than broad all-encompasing statements and test scores about why those residents who have been through the school system were looking to leave but it seems I am not going to get a response to that.

      • “…why those residents who have been through the school system were looking to leave…” Interestingly, that isn’t what you asked.

  2. Darren

    With no children in the school district, how can you or the petioners understand the value that we see and experience everyday when our children come home every afternoon and tell us about their days. When you talk about our children they are nothing more to you than #s on a spreadsheet. Innacurate #s at that!

    • The value you see is not unique to Timberlane and only available at Timberlane. It is unreasonable to pay $19,600 to educate every single child in the district to get less than state average results in our oldest students.

    • Darren, my youngest is just finishing his Timberlane ‘experience’. I have personally been engaged with the employees and management of the district for seventeen years. I have also been a tax payer in the district for twenty-six years. While there are many good educators in the district, the management team has been terrible for the entirety of my engagement. Priorities are 1. Music, 2. Sports, and 3. Academics. (Sports and music are ‘try out’ activities while classrooms enforce ‘diversity of ability’. Summer programs are mandatory for music and sports but not academics.) The last time I counted ‘teaching days’, I came up with 155. All of this is apparent in the testing of the students. At the same time, my taxes have nearly tripled and the school costs are primarily responsible. I don’t know what you ask your kids, but for two decades I have heard about teachers who are not in the classroom and ‘fun activities’ taking the place of academic endeavors. I have seen teachers and students removed from the classrooms to vacation in Orlando (to avoid the crowds of April vacation), I have seen ten days lost each year to ‘teacher development’ (ten non-teaching half days of development vs five full days of development and five full days of academics). We’ve had kids bused to an unheated school for one half day before Christmas vacation at the end of a major power outage just to preserve one day of summer vacation, and, or course. We now have ‘bag days’. We have had midterms and finals suspended to increase teaching time then re-instituted when teachers complained about the loss of ‘down time’ during exams. I have had a middle school teacher tell me that it was unreasonable to expect eighth graders to be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide integers and I have had a high school teacher tell me that her students were playing poker in class in June because they will not listen to her once exams are completed. My oldest came home one day and told me about a television show called The Apprentice he watched in his economics class once a week.

      That’s stuff you should have heard when you asked your kid what went on at school today. You should also be aware that we had a teacher with a My Space page which promoted sex, drugs, and rock and roll (literally and obscenely) whose ‘friends’ included Timberlane students (La Salle had him make the page private after I complained). We had one who had a ‘consensual’ sexual relationship with a TRSD student and another who was convicted of pedophilia. The latter was allowed to prowl the locker rooms of the middle school for eighteen months after admitting his crimes. Famously, we have had minutes to a nonpublic session sealed for 99 years.

      With children in the school district, how can you NOT see and experience everyday when your children come home every afternoon and tell you about their days that there must be a better way to educate children? When you talk to district children who have gone on to college, how can you say that this is good enough?

      The students are indeed numbers on a spreadsheet — Average Daily Attendance.

      The district and its shills have done a lot of surveys over the years. Here’s one they will not do — where do former TRSD students live ten years after graduation? The answer is somewhere else.

      • Melissa

        Mr, Mullins,
        Although much off what you state above is quite disturbing, I don’t think that these issues are unique to Timberlane. Education starts at home. Parents who have not instilled a love of learning or impressed upon their children the importance of education, are likely the “culprits”. Education is what you make out of it, the more you put in, the more you get out of it.

        I agree that Timberlane puts a high value on sports and music, but not to the detriment of our students. Having a week rounded education is very important. My husband works at Phillips Academy, which I’m sure most would agree is a highly sought after private school. There, they require students to be involved in sports and music, it is not a choice. Not all students are strong students academically. Having the chance to shine in another way builds confidence, not to mention all the studies that have been done regarding the importance of such skills.

        To complain about watching movies or doing “fun” activities, I find as trivial. Are you sagging during your educational career, you had your nose in a book or listened to a teacher lecture the entire time? Not to mention, many of these activities that students state are “fun” can really be ties in as real world learning activities. Setting up a school store to practice money skills, watching a movie to compare and contrast it with a it’s book counterpart, playing a game to practice learned silks in a different way. Outside of school, our children need to apply skills beyond paper and pencil tasks.

        And to answer your last question, where do Timberlane graduates go, I find your answer to be incorrect. I am a graduate of Timberlane. I purposely moved back to Sandown to raise my children here. My sister, also a Timberlane graduates, returned to Sandown to give her son’s the quality education that she received when she was younger. Many of the citizens that are fighting so vehemently against this warrant article are also Timberlane graduates. So I am sorry Mr. Mullins for your son’s experience, but I ask people to take others experience into consideration as well when voting, as not everyone thinks Timberlane is as horrible as you perceive it to be.

      • I personally feel there is an over reliance on movies and TV shows in our classrooms and agree with Mr. Mullen.

  3. Melissa

    How is it that you believe someone whom works in the district or has a family member working in this district cannot be partial, yet you feel so strongly that those without children can be? If an employee of Timberlane is only concerned with their jobs, as you claimed about Erich Beyrent. Isn’t it only right to be concerned that those without children are only concerned with their taxes and not what is in the best interest of our children?

    Honestly, I do believe that there are several people out there that do care about Sandown’s children. However Jesse1328 only asked a serious question and you were awful quit to jump to this assumption.

    • People with family members working for the district cannot be impartial in this matter. They have something to lose and little to gain from a smaller Timberlane. I stand by that statement. Parents and taxpayers have a much different calculus.

      • Melissa

        “Parents and taxpayers have a much different calculus.”

        So you Jesse1327 had a valid question then. I will admit that I am biased and that the welfare of my children’s education comes first, over the current tax rates. As a “non parent” in this district, wouldn’t you say that your primary concern is your taxes?

        I have heard from very few parents/family members that have ties to the district, that is for this withdrawal. That is not to say that there are none, hence my question to My. Buckley below. However, I think many people feel that this warrant article is being pushed upon us by those who only care about taxes and not what happens to our children. It is only natural to wonder if people would vote differently if they were in each other’s shoes.

        I guess we will find out at the polls today where the majority of Sandown voters fall.

      • I believe profoundly that people would vote differently if they had experience with the governance of this district, which is why so many elected officials past and present support WA 13. High taxes are a symptom of a failing governance structure. We can do better ourselves and we should for the benefit of everyone. In my experience, a district that doesn’t manage its budget well also doesn’t manage much of anything else well, including its educational mission.

    • Mark Acciard

      Melissa, this is in response to your reply to mr. Mullins.

      How do you whitewash, Middle school principal mike Hogan saying to me “I would never say this outside this office, but how much of what they learn in the 8th grade are they ever going to use?”. this was in response to my disbelief that a kid could get 4 “F”‘s and a D- in core subjects and be passed onto the 9th grade. I have recounted this conversation many times as an example of the dearth of academic rigor at TRSD. At $19k per kid you should DEMAND better., God knows you are paying for it.

      • Melissa

        Mr. Acciard,
        I am not trying to whitewash anything, I am giving you must honest opinion and experience with in the Timberlane school district. I know you haven’t been happy with your son’s education at Timberlane, and I am sorry for that. However, I can honestly say that I personally had good experiences.

        I attended Timberlane schools from grades 4 on. My three daughters ages 11, 10, and 5 have attended Pollard, Sandown North, Sandown Central, Atkinson Academy, and TRMS throughout the years. My oldest was on an IEP early on, so I’ve dealt with the special education side of things. My oldest two are both very bright and receive enrichment. My youngest is now experiencing the preschool. I myself am a teacher in Atkinson, and have been with the district for 16 years. I think I can say that I have a pretty good handle on our district overall.

        It’s the district perfect? No! Are the teachers perfect? No! Do people raise valid concerns over curriculum and budget? Yes! But that doesn’t mean that I don’t think that my children are getting their monies worth regarding their education.

        I do think many people who have not been within a classroom are quick to judge. I love my job, and wouldn’t change it for the world, but it is also not the easiest thing. To group all teachers together or judge a district based on a discussion with one principal, one wrong doings of a teacher, or one experience of a student is unfair.

  4. Jim Buckley

    jesse1328,
    FYI – I signed the petition. I have lived in Sandown for 31 years. Both of my children went through the TRSD. I also have one granddaughter and another on the way that also live in Sandown.

  5. Melissa

    Mr Buckley,
    May I inquire as to why you signed the petition? Obviously you believe in it, but I am curious why. Did your children or grandchildren have a bad experience with Timberlane? Does it really come down to taxes and the inflated budget?
    I too am a product of Timberlane. I am also an employee and parent of three school age children. Although I will admit that I do not always agree with everything that Timberlane and our school board does, I feel overall it is a good school district. I feel that although somethings do need to change, withdrawing from the district is like “throwing the baby out with the bath water”.
    I’m just curious to hear the side of someone that does have direct ties to Timberlane.

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