On October 16, 2016 I made a Right to Know request for information concerning the reading program Timberlane purchased in September, Achieve 3000. This story matters because the purchase of this $184,000 program was done under unusual and high pressure sales tactics at a school board meeting; furthermore, it was not disclosed to the board that Mrs. Metzler was a consultant for Achieve 3000 at the time of the purchase. Also not disclosed to the board was an additional planned purchase for $100,000 with Achieve 3000 put in the proposed 17/18 budget.
Why I made the Right to Know request
- I learned from a filed legal deposition in the case of Carolyn Morse v. TRSD, that Mrs. Metzler was employed by Achieve 3000 sometime before mid-November 2015.
- We know from a published LinkedIn profile that Mrs. Metzler was still engaged by Achieve 3000 in October 2016 as a “Curriculum and Implementation Consultant” for the Northeast Region.
- The school board was not told that Mrs. Metzler was associated with Achieve 3000 when the board voted to buy the program on Sept. 15, 2016.
- TRSD implemented a trial of Achieve 3000 in early 2016
- Without the school board knowing -or even asking after – the results of the trial, the board purchased Achieve 3000 under intense sales pressure. Nominal cost was $183,400 in unbudgeted expense. (Sept 15, TRSD meeting).
- The board voted to transfer money from unknown lines to other unknown lines to pay for the purchase.
What I discovered
I learned a lot from my Right to Know request that would influence me to vote against the purchase of this program:
- Teacher reviews of the program before the purchase brought up significant negatives which were not disclosed to the school board as a whole. Some teachers know of a free program which they believe to be superior. Negatives were massaged, if not altogether expunged, prior to a presentation to the Curriculum and Assessment Committee.
- Not all teachers were quick to adopt this program. Based on information given to me, a large majority of high school teachers of classes for whom this program was targeted were not using the program as of October 11.
- An additional $100,000 was to be budgeted to roll the program out to all the elementary schools, despite the fact that the board approved the program for middle and high schools only. At last night’s board meeting (Dec.6,2016) Mr. Stokinger revealed at my prompting that yes, $100,000 was included in the proposed 17/18 Curriculum budget for Achieve 3000 in our elementary schools. The 17/18 Curriculum budget documentation shows only $10,000 for “SmartyAnts,” an Achieve 3000 product.
- No contract was provided to me. Did the district approve a program with a 3 year commitment without a written contract?
More Right to Know requests have resulted
Dec. 5, 2016
Dear Sirs and Madam:On Dec. 1, I asked for the following information concerning Achieve 3000:
- Grade level Achieve 3000 testing results for all grades since introduction of the program trial and implementation as provided by the program. Mr. Bealo’s response was that all test data cannot be separated from identifiable student information. I know this to be false. I have an email dated May 24, 2016 from Mary Youngblood to Deb Armfield showing the middle school test results from January 2016 through May 2016.
- Signed contracts for Achieve 3000 for the middle school and high school, as well as the subsequent contract for our elementary schools.
- Any letter sent to parents to obtain permission for the data collection on their children involved in the trail of Achieve 3000 and now the implementation – as was noted as an action item in the Curriculum and Assessment meeting minutes of Feb. 16, 2016.
This information should be forthcoming by Dec. 8, 2016 to comply with 91-A. If it is not forthcoming by then I will assume there is no signed contract and that no letter was sent to parents. This assumption would be justified in that no contracts or parental letters or other communication to parents about Achieve 3000 were included in the extensive material given to me responsive to my first Right to Know request on this matter of Oct 16, 2016.
I will also assume the district is refusing to provide me with test data aggregated by grade.
Today I am expanding my Right to Know request to ask you to provide any communication with parents at all that would authorize you to collect data on children with respect to this program. If the district did not sign a contract but instead signed a formal quote, please provide the final quotes signed.
I would also urge you to be fully forthcoming with the school board as to the efficacy of this program and your intention to roll it out into the elementary schools.
Thank you again,
I await a response.
Now wouldn’t it be nice if
Wouldn’t it be nice if school board members could simply ask for information and receive it without having to invoke a law that is designed as a last-resort protection for the public?