Monthly Archives: July 2016

Enrollment Discrepancy Gets No Answer. Why?

Below you will read an interesting exchange of emails between Arthur Green, former school budget committee member, and TRSD school board chairman, Peter Bealo.
Each year, the district has been minimizing or obscuring the impact of declining enrollment.  In the 2015/16 year, the district told the public their anticipated decline was just 60 students despite the historically accurate NESDEC forecast of 140 fewer students. When TRSD released the Oct 1, 2015 enrollment figures for 15/16, it showed a 100 student decline; however, information filed with the Department of Education shows the decline as 120. This discrepancy is quite material and fits a persistent pattern of obfuscation and slow reveal.
In the email exchange below, Mr. Green notes a 20 student inflation in enrollment numbers told to the public versus what has been reported to the Department of Education. Mr. Green is simply wanting to know why there is a discrepancy.  Mr. Bealo’s answer is “Talk to the hand,” as though he sipped at Nancy Steenson’s knee.
Devoted readers will recall that a discrepancy between the number of staff reported to the public and the number of staff reported to the DOE was the start of our long court battle that resulted in a unanimous decision in my favor in the state Supreme Court.  Clearly the district learns nothing, cares nothing, and does nothing to inform citizens who have an  active interest in the district. The arrogance is staggering. The discrepancies are disturbing.
Dr. Metzler, Mr. Bealo,
I’d like to bring your attention to a discrepancy in the Timberlane 2015/16 enrollment numbers, and request some clarification.
The October 1 2015 enrollment report on the district website shows total enrollment of 3,673 students.  DOE reporting shows 3,653 students.
Breaking the differences down by building,
                    DOE Report                  TRSD Report
Danville            263                                268
TRMS                869                                870
TRHS               1,231                            1,245
The TRSD report states in a note that tuition students are included in the elementary school totals.  Are 5 tuition students at Danville removed from the school total as reported by DOE?
However, for TRHS, the Timberlane report shows 7 tuition students, yet the difference between the DOE and the TRSD reported enrollment is 14.
I’ve been assured in writing by the DOE that their figures are exactly as submitted by TRSD in the DOE’s online data collection system, and are as of Oct. 1 2015.
To summarize my questions:
What explains the difference in Oct. 1 2015 enrollment as reported by TRSD compared to the DOE reports?
If the difference is that the DOE figures remove tuition students, then why is the TRHS difference greater than the number of tuition students?
If you or your staff need any clarification of my questions or the background information, please feel free to contact me at the phone number below.
Thank you for attention to this matter.
Regards,

Arthur Green


July 26, 2016  8:03 am
 Dr. Metzler, Mr. Bealo,
I have not received so much as an acknowledgement of the attached communication, which was sent four weeks ago.
Please help me understand the professional standards to be expected from this office.
Thank you.

Arthur Green


rom: pbealo@comcast.net
To: azgreen@comcast.net
Cc: catherine.belcher@timberlane.net,earl.metzler@timberlane.net
Sent: 2016-07-26 9:34:05 AM
Subject: Enrollment Discrepancy

Mr. Green,
Regarding your question “Please help me understand the professional standards to be expected from this office.”
They would be covered under policies GBE and GBEA.
Regarding DOE reported numbers and statements: I can only speculate on how they report, formulas they use and errors that may creep in.
Best Regards,

Peter Bealo


No one asked for Mr. Bealo’s speculation. The district creates the enrollment report and the DOE submission.  Mr. Bealo was simply being asked to have the district explain the difference, or correct an error.  That’s what’s known as accountability.

The Timberlane Regional School District as a whole is losing students quickly.  This is a fact that the district is doing its best to keep from taxpayers who pay more and more each year for fewer and fewer students overall.   Sandown’s enrollment, on the other hand, may not be shrinking. There is a Capital Improvement Plan request for an addition of 8 new classrooms 6 years hence at Sandown North.  And just last week, fifty  2-and-3 bedroom apartments were approved in Sandown.


 

For readers’ edification, here are the policies Mr. Bealo did not kindly include in his reply to Mr. Green. You will see they are completely irrelevant and off topic.

Policy GBE:    EMPLOYEE RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

In an effort to maintain successful school district and educational operations, all staff members are expected to fulfill their legal and moral responsibilities. Such responsibilities include, but are not necessarily limited to:
1. Faithfulness and promptness in attendance at work.
2. Adherence, support and enforcement of all School Board policies and administrative regulations.
3. Adherence, support and enforcement of all education related statutes and Department of Education regulations.
4. Care and protection of school property.
5. Fulfill other responsibilities as may, from time to time, be implemented or established by the School Board or administration.
The School Board will respect all employee rights established by law, School Board policy, and collective bargaining agreements, if applicable.
Appendix GBE-R
———————————–
Policy GBEA: STAFF ETHICS
All employees of the District are expected to maintain high standards in their conduct both on and off duty. District employees are responsible for providing leadership in the school and community. This responsibility requires the employee to maintain standards of exemplary conduct. To these ends, the Board adopts the following statements of standards. District employees will:
Make the wellbeing of students the fundamental value of all decision-making and actions.
 Maintain just, courteous, and proper relationships with students, parents, staff members, and others. Fulfill their job responsibilities with honesty and integrity. Direct any criticism of other staff members toward improving the District. Such constructive criticism is to be made directly to the building administrator. Obey all local, state, and national laws. Implement the School Board’s policies, administrative rules and regulations. Avoid using position for personal gain through political, social, religious, economic, or other influence. Maintain the standards and seek to improve the effectiveness of the profession through research and continuing professional development. Honor all contracts until fulfillment or release. Maintain all privacy and confidentiality standards as required by law. Exhibit professional conduct both on and off duty.
Employees are put on notice that this list is not intended to be exhaustive or complete. Employees who fail to abide by the terms of this policy may be non-renewed and/or face discipline up to and including termination. Any action taken regarding an employee’s employment with the District will be consistent with all rules, laws, and collective bargaining agreements, if applicable.
Legal References:
RSA 189:13, Dismissal of Teacher
RSA 189:14-a, Failure to Be Renominated or Re-elected
RSA 189:14-d, Termination of Employment
RSA 189:31, Removal of Teacher

NH Code of Administrative Rules, Section Ed 511, Denial, Suspension or Revocation of Certified Personnel


By the way, this is from the school board code of ethics that Mr. Bealo signed:

Render all decisions based on the available facts and my independent judgment, and refuse to surrender that judgment to individuals or special interest groups.
Encourage the free expression of opinion by all Board members, and seek systematic communications between the Board and students, staff, and all elements of the community.


 

 

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SAU SEALS Superintendent “Evaluation”

Certain Timberlane Facebook pages buzzed with anger when the superintendent’s raise and bonus were made public a few weeks ago. “Why was this information not disclosed for 5 weeks?  Why are the minutes in which this was deliberated sealed?”  Angry criticism and pointed emails were sent to the Timberlane and SAU boards. Of course, it does no good.

The Backstory

During the May 12th non-public meeting, SAU 55’s  board voted to award Dr. Metzler a 3.75% raise and a 4% bonus.  By contract, the bonus cannot be larger than 4% annually. (There is no contractual limit on raises.) This raise and bonus were not known publicly until this blog broke the news on June 16th.

SAU Board Votes to Continue to Seal the May 12th non-public minutes

On May 12th, the SAU board voted to seal the minutes of the non-public meeting “until they have been reviewed.”

Sound reasonable to you?  It shouldn’t because it is downright pernicious and an affront to the public’s right to know what their elected officials are doing in secret – a place where many officials doing your business would like to reside if legislators would only let them. You have a right to see draft minutes within 5 business days of a public meeting – unless the board votes to seal the minutes, which the Timberlane board is now voting to do regularly with respect to non-public minutes. There is no justifiable reason for this, but it does serve a purpose, one that is against the public interest.

Funny thing is that when the SAU board reviewed the non-public minutes at their next meeting on June 15th, the board decided to continue to seal these minutes. I had motioned to unseal them. That motion failed for want of a second.  That’s right – all 12 members of the board present at that meeting didn’t even want to have a discussion about what they owe the people they represent by way of disclosure. (Mrs. Dube and Mr. Spero both of Timberlane were absent.)

Why the steadfast insistence on keeping non-public minutes sealed?  Let me offer some speculation. Your elected representatives from Timberlane and Hampstead had a good inkling that the raise and bonus would be unpopular news among an outspoken contingent.  When something might be unpopular, the path of least resistance is to hide your voting record from public scrutiny.

In their defense, the SAU board will claim they are protecting the superintendent’s reputation. Really?  Getting a 3.75% raise and a maximum bonus during an annual evaluation could do reputational harm?  If so, perhaps the prudent route would be for the superintendent to refuse both.

Superintendent evaluations should be public

Now what part of a Superintendent’s evaluation should be non-public?  None, in my opinion, but let’s look at the statutory exemption being claimed by your less than transparent SAU board:

(a) The dismissal, promotion or compensation or disciplining of any public employee 

You can be sure that under “evaluation” your board is not disciplining the superintendent because that would be a dishonest public notice. That leaves “dismissal, promotion or compensation.”  Superintendent’s can’t be promoted, so that’s out.  We are left with dismissal or compensation.  You can guess which one applied to this non-public meeting advertised as “evaluation.”

(c) matters which, if discussed in public, would likely affect adversely the reputation of any person.

We have gone crazy in this state thinking all personnel matters as ordinary as an annual evaluation of a superintendent need be done in non-public.  This is not required by law and should not be expected by highly paid public employees with public accountability to public bodies such as school boards and boards of selectmen. By hiding evaluations in non-public, taxpayers cannot see or hear the considerations (or lack thereof) that go in to things such as contract renewals, raises, bonuses and guidelines for improvements. The Right to Know law permits these things to be discussed in secret, but it does not require them to be discussed in secret, and well-governing bodies should not be using license to mean necessity. The practice of discussing “evaluations” in non-public is pernicious and contrary to your interests.  The same is true of collective bargaining.

Superintendent’s raise and bonus

Not only did your representatives conduct the evaluation in non-public as well as the discussion of remuneration, but they also voted on a raise and a bonus in non-public. Then they sealed the minutes just to be sure no one would know what motions may have been put forward, or how anyone voted.

There was no reason to hold this vote in non-public and no reason to keep it secret but that’s the way we roll.

Will the SAU board unseal the minutes during its next meeting on October 5th?  I’m not a betting gal, but my money is on “Nope,” because I’ve read those minutes.

Addendum:  The May 12th meeting, most of which was non-public, was not televised or recorded. I had left that meeting early in frustration.  I did not know that, when the board later left non-public session, the chairman announced the raise and bonus to a room absent any members of the public or media.  Unlike last year, there was no breathless press release announcing the news.  Both administration and board members were silent. The only way for the public to learn this news was to await the publication of the public minutes of May 12th. Since the SAU conveniently no longer publishes its draft minutes, the earliest possible moment the public could have become aware of the news (apart from making a Right to Know request for draft minutes) was during the June 15th meeting in which the May 12th draft minutes were approved.  The June 15th meeting was also was neither televised nor recorded.

 

 

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