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.