Just when I think self-respect will prevent the school board from sinking any farther, they reach for a new low in toadying to the superintendent.
Board Votes for Ignorance
At the last school board meeting (Nov. 3, 2016) the board voted against obtaining very respected – and free – enrollment projections.* Our district, like many others, belongs to an organization called New England School Development Council (NESDEC). As a benefit of membership, this organization provides highly accurate rolling 10-year district enrollment forecasts. They also provide a very helpful special education audit. Our district has always declined the special education audit, despite my objection, and now the board has decided that they wish to be ignorant of respected enrollment forecasts, too.
I saw this coming. Before I was around, no Timberlane elected official or member of the public knew these enrollment forecasts existed. I learned about them by talking to Jorge Mesa-Tejada in Hampstead. By Right to Know requests The Greens made them public and thereby spelled their doom.
Why would the district want to hide them, and if not hidden, then killed altogether? Here’s what I wrote about the NESDEC projections all the way back in July 2014:
The budget committee was not made aware of this report, by the way, even though the district has been getting it for years. I also believe the school board as a whole would not have been made aware of it either had I not accidentally learned of it and brought it to their attention.
Why not? Because it projects the district losing 27% of its students in the next 9 years. That’s 1000 fewer students! If you were asking for 4% budget increases like this year, would you want people to know your customer base was shriveling like a raisin?
The Attempt to Undermine Accuracy
Last year the district failed to disclose to NESDEC that the TLC population at Sandown Central was from many towns. As a result, NESDEC over estimated the student population in Sandown going forward. Also, there was a glaring error in the current enrollment that was obvious, but the district did not correct it. All it took was a phone call from me to NESDEC and they immediately discovered the cause of the mistake and corrected it because they pride themselves on their accuracy. I had the feeling then that the district was trying to undermine the projections so they could discredit them and do away with them – and the cold truth they reveal – and so they have, with the board’s vote for warm ignorance over knowledge.
Only Independent Source of Enrollment
Your elected officials actually voted against receiving the only independent source of enrollment projections our district has. Next they will remove us from being members of NESDEC so we can’t possibly get a special education audit like other conscientious districts obtain, or these enrollment forecasts. Remember, these two very valuable reports are free with membership.
Budgeting in the Bath
Your board finds it better to budget without having a firm grasp of our future student population – after all, that’s how it has always been done before The Greens. I would ask you who the board is working for – you or the superintendent, but that would be a condescending question. It is obvious the majority of the board is working for the superintendent. Information that might reflect badly on an out of control budget must be vanquished at all costs – even of their own self-respect.
See for Yourself the Accuracy of NESDEC Forecasts
Here is a chart compiled by Arthur Green showing NESDEC’s numbers are highly accurate for district-wide total numbers going out a few years. The farther out the projection, the more uncertain, of course, but it certainly identifies long-term trends. NESDEC itself targets 1% accuracy per year in advance, and from the chart you will see they almost always live up to and often surpass their target accuracy, and their projections 4 and 5 years ahead have turned out to be amazingly accurate in anticipating the persistent enrollment decline. The district always substantially overestimates enrollment. Also, the district does not even attempt to forecast beyond the upcoming year.
Listen to the Board Embrace Ignorance
You can listen to the meeting discussion starting at 23:30.(Link below.) A few things to know:
- The projections are less accurate by town, and even less by grade level in individual towns, especially at the elementary level. This is the inaccuracy Ms. Armfield says NESDEC admits to.
- NESDEC’s method for compiling their forecasts is completely straightforward. The forecasts the district does itself are for just one year in advance and we are not told how these projections are arrived at. If you compare the NESDEC projections to the actual TRSD enrollments, you will see that NESDEC nails it sometimes almost to the exact student number; whereas, the district’s own projections are far less accurate.
- Nobody argues that NESDEC numbers should be the only metric by which to make staffing decisions, nor does does NESDEC suggest teacher numbers. The report is for overall planning purposes.
Watch the discussion here : TRSB meeting Nov 3, 2016 (starting at 23:30)
Now, Trust Them with Expansion Plans!
Once you’ve watched this display of irresponsibility, ask yourself how you can give any credence to a six-classroom addition on Sandown North which has been requested in the Capital Improvement Plan for eight years hence.
See Some NESDEC Reports
Here are a few NESDEC reports for your reading pleasure…. and it will be. It is a masterful document, very easily understood.2014-nesdec-trsd-enrollment-projections-1
- The vote was two in favor of getting the report, SIX to bathe in ignorance. Green and Dube voted in favor. Sherman was ill and left before the vote.