Monthly Archives: September 2016

SB Wants $7,800 to Go to Denver

Although the School Board Chairman sees no reason to have a pressing school bus stop issue in Sandown on the agenda, he would like to ask the board for $7,800 to send 3 lucky school board members to a conference in Denver, CO in March.

Here is the notice given to school board members in their private agenda package:

NSBA Conference – 10 minutes
Chairman Bealo seeking board action on proposal to send 3 board members to the March 25-27, 2017 NSBA Conference in Denver, CO. (one weekend and three workdays). Estimated cost per person (flight, conference, food, hotel) – $2,600.

Here are my objections:

  • This money is not budgeted.
  • No one on our school board attends the New Hampshire School Boards Association conferences.  Learning starts at home.
  • Sending Mr. Bealo on this conference last year did not result in better behavior by the chairman or the board in terms of Right to Know issues, respecting public comment and correspondence, or respecting minority board member opinions and contributions – or for that matter in understanding or protecting the board’s authority versus overreach by our SAU. The proliferation of nonpublic Superintendent Advisory Committees is a prime example of the board failing to understand its duty to the public to conduct open meetings.
  • There is no published list of speakers or topics for the conference as of today.

A better use of time and resources would be for our board to watch videoed meetings of well functioning boards in  New Hampshire who truly deliberate issues. understand the gravity of their responsibilities and don’t abdicate their responsibilities to the SAU.

 

 

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Secret, Secret, Secret spells SAU55

A Sandown neighborhood is currently experiencing great upset over the location of its sole bus stop.  One parent addressed the Sandown Board of Selectmen at its Sept 19th meeting. The next day the Selectmen’s assistant sent an email to me and Kelly Ward asking for our help in getting this matter resolved with the school district.

I promised to try to get it on the school board agenda and to visit the bus stop during pickup hours. Kelly Ward said he would ask for an emergency meeting of the Transportation Advisory Committee.

Chairman Bealo refused my request to have the matter placed on the school board agenda saying it had nothing to do with policy and so nothing to do with the school board.  Take note Plaistow voters:  Mr. Bealo does not think the safety of students at a bus stop is a matter for the school board even when RSA gives school boards authority over student transportation.  I’m forever reminded of the three monkeys:  see nothing, hear nothing, speak nothing – and when possible, do it all in secret, which brings up the next topic shortly.

I emailed Superintendent Metzler asking if the emergency Transportation Advisory Committee meeting would be held in public.  He replied, “No.”  At this my lawyer fired off a letter to Dr. Metzler threatening legal action if I was not permitted to attend this meeting as it is our contention that these advisory meetings should be held in public and failing to do so is a violation of the Right to Know law.

At the next Selectmen meeting, Sept 26, I announced that I intended to go to the Advisory Committee meeting set for 11 am on Sept. 27 at the SAU office, which I had learned from Police Chief Gordon.

Today I was at the SAU office at 11:05 to discover no meeting was in progress.  I waited 15 minutes to learn from Mrs. Belcher that the meeting was not taking place at the SAU but she would tell me nothing further.  Mr. Tombarello’s truck was in the SAU parking lot.

As I was driving home I ran into Chief Gordon.  He had been at the meeting and told me that Kelly Ward was there along with Tom Tombarello, some transportation people from the bus companies, at least one bus driver, school principals, and other administrators.  Dr. Metzler did not attend the meeting though he is the sole authority by policy who can change a bus stop.

Neither Mr. Ward nor Mr. Tombarello are on the Transportation Advisory Committee but that was no impediment to them attending this meeting.  I, however, was barred. Knowing I was barred from this meeting, both Mr. Ward and Selectman Tombarello attended the meeting – in nonpublic at a secret location specifically so I could not attend.

These are the defenders of your freedom, of your right to know.  These are the respectors of the Sandown parents’ concerns who would have missed work to attend a meeting on this topic.

Awash in your tax dollars, the SAU’s lawyer sent me a letter after the advisory meeting finished.  It argued that superintendent advisory committee meetings are not subject to the Right to Know law and that Donna Green was attempting to micromanage the superintendent.

For the second day in a row I’ve been searching for a word that combines irony and hypocrisy.  Failing that bon mot, readers might enjoy this school board policy, KCB:

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT IN DECISION MAKING
The Board shall encourage the involvement of citizens to fulfill the mission of the schools through such means as hearings, surveys, informational meetings, etc., where the Board may hear and evaluate community opinions as it conducts its responsibilities.
The School Board recognizes that the public has vast resources of training and experience useful to schools. The strength of the local school district is in large measure determined by the degree to which these resources are tapped for advisory purposes and to the degree that these resources are involved in supporting the improvement of the local educational program.
The Board shall encourage the involvement of citizens both as individuals and as groups to act as advisers and resource people.
The advice of the public will be given consideration. In the evaluation of such contributions, the first concern will be for the educational program as it affects the pupils. The final decision may depart from this advice when in the judgment of the administrative staff and the Board, current educational practice, or within the reach of the financial resources available.


This is the government you have.  It becomes the government you deserve when you do nothing about it.

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Attorney Lehmann Demands End to Illegal Meetings at TRSD

Attorney Richard J. Lehmann has fired off another letter alleging Right to Know violations at Timberlane.

His letter ends thus:  “I urge you in the strongest terms possible to come into compliance with the Right to Know law and cease holding illegal secret advisory committee meetings.  In particular, I fully expect that before the Transportation Advisory Committee meets again that my client will be advised of the date, time and place of the meeting, and be permitted to attend if she so chooses.”

The letter threatens to seek an injunction against the district should they continue to hold advisory committee meetings out of the public eye. This came to a head because Superintendent Metzler has called for an emergency meeting of the Transportation Advisory Committee to discuss a controversial bus stop issue in Sandown.  The superintendent has refused to allow me to participate in this meeting, a meeting that should clearly be open to me and the public.  These closed advisory meetings have got to end because they are supplanting the authority of the school board and violating the public’s right to know what public bodies are doing.

Here is Mr. Lehmann’s letter in full: rtk-9-22-16

Devoted readers might remember that the suit against Timberlane brought by Sandown and Danville also cited unnoticed and closed meetings of the Sandown Schools Consolidation Committee as being in violation of the Right to Know law.

The superintendent has initiated at least 17 Advisory Committees.  Some do meet in public, such as the Timberlane Parent Advisory Forum.

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Reading Program: Buy NOW!

If you watched the Sept. 15th board meeting, you would see high pressure sales tactics in full flight aided and abetted by the SAU.  Thank you to Stefanie Dube for being the sole board member present to push back. Had I been able to attend the meeting, I would have been another vote and voice in favor of responsible deliberation and governance.

“Achieve 3000” is an on-line reading program the SAU was introducing to the board for the first time. The $167,000 program had to be approved for purchase that evening, we were told, or the teachers would not have an opportunity for professional instruction in September when the program needed to be rolled out to the students.

In the course of board discussion, it was revealed that this program had been approved by the Superintendent’s Leadership Team before it was ever breathed to the school board. Not only that but the program had been in trial for the previous year without the knowledge of the school board.  But wait, there’s more.

The program had been budgeted for purchase but was not identified as such to the budget committee or the school board so…… the board had to vote to transfer money from one line to another in the budget to pay for their decision to purchase the program.  Had the program been included in the correct line, there was a chance the differential would have been questioned.  Instead, it was hidden in another line with a built-in surplus. I’d like to know what budget lines were involved but your need-to-know-nothing board didn’t ask.  They’re perfectly fine with the deceit that was built into the budget last year – no questions asked.

Danville’s Ms. Dube was the sole vote against approving this program at this meeting and also transferring the money between unknown accounts.  Finally someone is awake at the switch on our school board! Ms. Dube referred to a policy that requires curriculum changes to be approved in a meeting subsequent to their presentation to the board.  Mr. Bealo said there was no such policy and it was merely a practice of the board.

Well, there is a policy (IGA) and the board violates it all the time, so in fact there is no practice to respect it; Mr. Bealo was wrong on both counts. (Policy IGA is reproduced at the end of this posting.)

Now apart from the objectionable procedural stuff going on about this reading program, do I think it is a good idea?  Well, thanks to being able to do some research after the meeting, which is why the policy is in place, I have these questions:

  • We have invested heavily in a similar program called Reading 180.  Why are we getting a duplicative program?
  • Are we going to be paying for both 180 and 3000?
  • What were the results of the pilot program from last year specifically?
  • What evidence do we have that Achieve 3000 has improved reading in other districts where this is being used?  There was no data presented about this whatsoever by the salesmen at the meeting nor did the board ask.
  • What other programs where looked at and why was this one selected?
  • What is the cost of this program in relation to other programs of this kind?

Here you can read a teacher’s criticisms of Achieve 3000 which I found very enlightening:  A teacher talks about Achieve 3000

All this is too late, of course, because the board succumbed to high pressure sales tactics. Seeing is believing in this case. Watch the board’s discussion.  The reading program is introduced at 00:20:45 but the discussion of interest begins at 00:56:00.

TRSB Meeting Sept. 15, 2016   (Start watching at 56:00)

Policy IGA      CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT AND ADOPTION
It is the policy of the Timberlane Regional School Board to provide a curriculum that is aligned with statewide and national standards, that is coordinated throughout all buildings and grade levels, and that fulfills the mission and goals of the Timberlane Regional School District.
It will be the responsibility of the Superintendent and the professional staff to make recommendations to the School Board that will ensure curriculum and instructional practices that are up-to-date and consistent with the responsibilities of contemporary education and standards established by the New Hampshire Department of Education.
The Superintendent will establish curriculum committees for the on-going study of curriculum improvement, including the selection of new instructional materials, as found necessary and desirable to implement this policy.
The Board believes it is important to empower our professional staff to recommend and support the implementation of instructional change. All teachers have professional obligations to the school beyond regular classroom duties, and these obligations include work on curriculum committees. It is expected that all teachers will make contribution to curriculum development.
The School Board will support efforts to investigate new curricular ideas, develop and improve programs, and evaluate results through appropriation of funds for specific curriculum development proposals approved by the School Board. The Superintendent will make recommendations to the Board regarding the specific level of funding for approved proposals.
The School Board will review all curricula developed and written by the professional staff in the schools. No basic course of study shall be eliminated or new courses added without approval of the Board, nor shall any significant alteration or reduction of a course of study be made without Board approval. No action will be taken on proposed changes by the Board until the meeting following the presentation by the administration so that Board members may have the opportunity to review the proposed program. Additionally, no course in the Program of Studies will be cancelled in the academic year without approval of the Superintendent or designee.
The Board in reviewing and evaluating curriculum recommendations may solicit community opinion.
Legal Reference:
NH Code of Administrative Rules, Section Ed. 302.02(f), Substantive Duties of Superintendents
NH Code of Administrative Rules, Section Ed. 303.01(g), Substantive Duties of School Boards

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Not in the correspondence folder

The letter immediately below was not included in the school board’s correspondence folder at the Sept. 15th meeting. Devoted readers might recall that my disagreement with Ms. Belcher back in 2014 concerned my correspondence to the board being excluded from the correspondence folder.  A thank you to my fellow board member, Ms. Dube, for writing this letter.


Dear Chairman Bealo, Chairman Cipriano and respective Boardmembers:

Since the last SB meeting, on Sept.1st, I have thought alot about what took place during the agenda topic of “Hampstead Schools Issue.”   I have heard from many people regarding their reaction to what they witnessed and the overwhelming majority has not been positive, regarding the comments directed at Mrs. Green by Chairman Bealo.  Further, it was also brought to my attention that while the Chair chose to read aloud the whole letter from Chair Jason Cipriano, there are numerous letters/ emails that get relegated to the yellow correspondence folder and not afforded the same attention.  The correspondence folder and the contents therein need to be given the same gravity.  I certainly hope my fellow board members would be in agreement with me and would want to rectify this. 

I have also listened to the audio of that portion of the meeting, under “Hampstead Schools Issue” several times and have the following observations/ concerns:

1)  This was not necessary to address at all, let alone in a public session, as the Chair of the SAU, Jason Cipriano indicated in his email this topic would be discussed at the next SAU meeting in October.

2)  The term “investigate” was used at least 3 times to describe Mrs. Green’s comment.  Her exact words are as follows: I would very much appreciate hearing what issues you encountered if you care to share them with me. We can arrange to talk through my email donnagre@gmail.com. Thank you and best going forward.”  This was not an investigation –  This was a response to a Mother’s public FB post about her child in OUR community.  This was a supportive response to this parent as there were many other supportive and reassurig comments directed at her.

3)  I have been unable to find any mention or reference by Mrs. Green regarding the “actions of employees” as was the charge by Mr. Cipriano.   Can you please let me know where/ when this took place?

4)  The legal advice:  I would like to know if the Chair sought legal advice on this issue.  If so, at whose direction?   What, if any legal advise was given?

5)  Mr. Cipriano further mentioned that he didn’t believe Mrs. Green was “speaking on behalf or at the direction of the Timberlane Board…”

This is an interesting comment especially since it directly relates to another School Board Member, Rob Collins, who, with “permission” gave details about the Superintendants evaluation and did, in fact speak on behalf of the Board.  His comments were also cited in the recent lawsuit by David Taylor against the SAU (screen shot of Mr. Collins’s comments on facebook attached.)

 6)  Mr. Bealo mentioned that he was “shocked and appalled” and “deeply saddened, ashamed and disgusted.” by Mrs. Green’s actions.

The parent, after learning about Mrs. Green’s public chastising had this to say:

“.. was just made aware of all this conflict over Donna reaching out to me.  Donna thank you for reaching out to me. I am truly sorry that you were spoken to that way by other ‘educational professionals’.
How unfortunate that the HMS is more interested in making a case about this communication rather than seeing a red flag that a student left the school district because of a lack of competent and caring leadership. After hearing the communication read to TRSB from the HMS Board Member, my decision to withdraw from HMS is confirmed even further.  As a mom I feel terrible because obviously my daughters experience is not a concern, as an educator, what were the words he threw out there to Donna…disgusted, appalled….those are a few words I can relate to right now. Watching that was truly enlightening.”

So,  given all of the above, it certainly appears that the Chair grossly over-reached and owes Mrs. Green a public apology.

In closing, when are the SB and SAU 55 Chairmen going to address Rob Collins’ commenting on behalf of the Board?  And since Mrs. Greens comment on Facebook was addressed in public session, so should this also be done for Rob Collins.

Sincerely,

Stefanie Dube

2016-09-01-19-21-38

 

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SAU 55 Reality TV: “Real School Board Members”

This was read during public comment at the Hampstead School Board Meeting on Sept. 13, 2016:

On August 31 Mr. Cipriano made up a story about me out of whole cloth, sent it to you and kindly copied it to Timberlane School Board chairman, Peter Bealo. Mr. Bealo, dug right in and dished out his “shame and disgust” at my alleged behavior at the last Timberlane School Board meeting.

The pretext for this gleeful mud fest was a single reply to a Hampstead parent’s post on Speakout Timberlane Facebook page saying that she had withdrawn her child from HMS due to “issues… with the leadership.”

The following three sentence Facebook reply was the totality of my behavior: “I would very much appreciate hearing what issues you encountered if you care to share them with me. We can arrange to talk through my email donnagre@gmail.com. Thank you and best going forward.”

Just so I can be clear, is it the position of this board that I am not permitted to contact in any way a parent who at any time past or present had a child in the HSD?

If so I need to change my dentist, my hairdresser, my spa, and my favorite pizza place.

Obviously, Mr. Cipriano’s position is absurd, but also obviously, it springs from bad faith. If Mr. Cipriano were truly concerned about the consequences for his district by my communication with a member of the public, why did he not reach out to me or the parent privately?

Under Mr. Cipriano’s leadership, the Hampstead School Board has grasped for pretexts to malign political opponents. Reaffirming a No Trespass order against Jorge Mesa-Tejada is another example.

Is this the record you wish to be remembered for? It is certainly not one you will be thanked for – at least not by those you represent.


The response was, of course, stone silence by every member of the board.  Apologies make good reality TV, too.  Mr. Cipriano should try it for Season Two of “Real School Board Members of SAU 55.”

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Arthur Green Thanks Sandown BOS for School Tax Hike

This is what Arthur Green said to the Sandown Selectmen tonight.


The Timberlane School Board has disclosed that the estimated school tax increase on Sandown’s November tax bills will be about 9%, or about $500 on the typical home.

The seeds of this bitter fruit were planted in this room 1 year ago, at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting following Old Home Days, when 3 of the Selectmen still on this board voted to disband the committee which had been unanimously voted on behalf of the town to study the option of withdrawing from the Timberlane school district.

School taxes are skyrocketing for a single reason – the school district is grossly overspending and grossly overstaffed.

Mr. Tombarello, Mr. Goldman, and Mr. Trainor can claim credit for stifling the examination of alternatives which could have saved town taxpayers $1 million per year.

At school deliberative in 2014, Mrs. Green and I argued that Timberlane could operate perfectly well on $64 million, which was $3 million less than the district was proposing. We were met with threats of draconian cuts and draconian fees. What happened instead? Timberlane actually operated 2014/15 for $64 million, and the threatened apocalypse failed to arrive.

At school deliberative in 2015, we argued for a “responsible budget “ of $65 million, again about $3 million less than proposed. Again, apocalypse was threatened. Again, the district actually operated on $65 million in 2015/16, with none of the threatened horrors.

We were right in 2014, right in 2015, and again right this past winter that Sandown could operate an exceptional district on our own at a million dollar annual saving to taxpayers compared to Timberlane.

But the possibility of saving taxpayer dollars was not taken seriously by Mr. Tombarello, Mr. Goldman and Mr. Trainor.

By squashing the withdrawal study, you sent a clear signal to the school district that Sandown is willing to pay whatever the district demands. We are seeing the result.

Driving around town, I see a great many signs for Mr. Tombarello’s County Commissioner election. Every resident with one of those signs on their property is saying “thank you for raising my school tax $500 this year”.

 


 

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