An elected official walks a fine line between leadership and responsiveness. I have tremendous respect for the wisdom of Sandown voters. Although the opposition to withdrawal disseminated a lot of false information about the withdrawal plan, I have to believe my constituents did their homework and voted with full and correct knowledge. Given the overwhelming vote to stay in Timberlane, the conclusion must be that they want to achieve the best academic and financial outcome within Timberlane. From now until the end of my term, I will work towards that goal and hope a Supreme Court ruling in my favor will help me in that objective.
I also hope that those opposed to withdrawal will summon their impressive organization to correct the failings within Timberlane that gave rise to this divisive issue in the first place, though in truth, if I believed they could be corrected by popular action, I would never have supported withdrawal.
All those who worked tirelessly on the withdrawal plan especially, Arthur Green, Cindy Buco, Michael Constanzo, Tony Piemonte, Tina Buckley and not least Cathy Gorman, had no motive other than to put a viable plan before the voters of Sandown – to present an educational option for the betterment of students and taxpayers.
Voters rejected it. That is fine. What is not fine is the hate-filled social media campaign propagated and encouraged by Michelle Livingston and other vicious social media commentators who compared withdrawal supporters to cancer, dreaded diseases and much more.
Cathy Sargeant Schoopes wrote this on Ms. Livingston’s CAW Facebook page on Oct. 10, 2015: They are out of control and will stop at nothing to get to their main goal; complete control of the town, town budget and education of our children.
“They will stop at nothing,” was a phrase often repeated on CAW which in its cowardice did not allow opposing views, or individuals to respond who were attacked and slandered.
“Stop at nothing?” “Total control?” Do we also want to control the global media, perhaps?
The people of Sandown should be grateful to those who strove to provide a solution to a serious problem – an underperforming educational system that we can no longer afford. Instead, there erupted an ungodly and despicably malicious social media campaign to vilify people of a different opinion. This is the divisiveness that will not heal – not the failure of an educational option.
How Did It Begin?
Since being elected to TRSD four years ago, I have learned that the majority of elected representatives rubber stamp the wishes of the superintendent. To constituents who don’t watch school board meetings or school budget committee meetings, this may sound shocking and disrespectful, but those who have spent some hours following meetings know that my conclusion is well grounded in experience.
Here’s a very abbreviated list to illustrate the abdication of your representatives to the administration:
- budget committee sees the full proposed budget for just two meetings before voting to approve it and this budget does not come in a live spreadsheet;
- budget committee does not get supporting information for the biggest cost drivers in the budget – salary, benefits and revenues;
- neither the school board nor the budget committee monitors expenditures;
- school board does not insist contracts go out to bid;
- school board allows the superintendent to control the agenda to the exclusion of individual member requests;
- school board allows the superintendent and other administrators to be in the majority on the Policy Committee and other School Board standing committees;
- school board has no idea of class sizes or how many staff we actually employ vs. budgeted positions;
- superintendent has full carte blanche to pursue legal suits in which he himself is named and he does not so much as inform the board of legal action;
- the superintendent charges elected representatives for public information they are forced to request through NH’s Right to Know law;
- the superintendent has issued No Trespass orders against 2 elected officials and one Danville resident without first obtaining an enabling vote of a board.
These and countless more issues cannot be corrected by a vote of Sandown or Danville to change a representative or two. The problems with the governance at TRSD are long-lived and profoundly systemic. The SAU runs the show and the elected officials sit in the back seat beeping their toy steering wheels. Parents don’t see this. Ordinary citizens don’t see this. Their only indication that something is wrong is when residents open their tax bill in late November – or when towns, a teacher, or an elected official sue the district.
Punishing school taxes are a symptom of a governance structure that is failing at Timberlane and it is an intractable problem because the culture of acquiescence to administration is profoundly entrenched. It does not matter who is the superintendent. The culture endures from one administration to another.
Will This Be the End?
The opposition to withdrawal knowingly disseminated a lot of false information about the withdrawal plan to scare parents; nevertheless, no one should second guess a vote. Was it the correct vote? We’ll see when the Nov./Dec. tax bill comes out and the 2016 SAT scores are released. For my part, I will not mount another withdrawal campaign and I call upon CAW and their supporters to stop the personal attacks and turn their power to changing the systemic problems at Timberlane, since they evidently think it can be done.