Monthly Archives: February 2018

Second Board of Education Decision Favorable to Green

In the long saga that is my complaint to the NH Board of Education concerning the hiring and salary setting practices of SAU 55, there approaches a happy ending though you may not yet recognize it.  Even Superintendent Metzler does not realize it.

Superintendent Metzler is representing to the Timberlane school board that the Board of Education’s February 8th decision was a win for him.  In fact, it is much more favorable to me.

The re-issued decision says that the Board of Education asserts jurisdiction over my complaint and refers it to the Department of Education for “review and investigation.”

For me, this is a fabulous outcome.  The NH Board of Education’s previous decision on my complaint instructed the SAU 55 board to hold a fact-finding public hearing.  At the Feb 8 NHBOE meeting, the board rescinded that decision and instead issued a new decision that instructs the Department of Education to look into my complaint.

This means I am saved a pointless sham “public hearing” by SAU 55’s board, which would have resulted in yet another appeal to the state Board of Education any way.  Now the Department of Education is going to actually examine the facts and make a determination based on facts.  SAU 55 would have considered only their own craven political expedience.

What Could Come Next?

It is quite possible that Superintendent Metzler is going to ask for a reconsideration of the NH Board of Education’s most recent decision.  Why?

  1. Legal fees are no issue to the superintendent or the SAU board
  2. The decision asserts jurisdiction over SAUs and the superintendent disputes that there is any state authority over him
  3. A reconsideration is the first step in appealing to the state Supreme Court where the court would determine who, if anyone, has authority over superintendents.

Why the Timberlane School Board Still Needs to be Involved

The Timberlane School Board voted on Jan. 25, 2018 to request a special meeting of the SAU 55 board to discuss putting a stop to the needless legal fees being expended on my complaint. (I didn’t hire a lawyer and neither did they need to.)  By policy, an SAU meeting must be called at the request of one of the constituent boards.  Mrs. Sherman, chairman of SAU 55’s board, set a date of March 7.

As a result of  Facebook chatter on Feb. 22, the SAU office sent me this note:

Please be advised that in light of the recent State Board of Education decision, the March 7th special SAU Board meeting has been cancelled.

This would be laughable if it weren’t so typical of the perversity of SAU 55.

  • The point of the requested meeting was to put an end to further SAU legal action
  • The BOE’s new decision can still be appealed by SAU 55

Will the Timberlane board permit the superintendent to unilaterally cancel an SAU meeting the board voted to request?

If you watched the Jan 25 school board meeting (conveniently not captured on video), you might recall Superintendent Metzler’s promise that no Hampstead school board member would attend a special SAU 55 board meeting on this topic.  It could be that we can add clairvoyance to the other extraordinary powers of our superintendent if the real reason the meeting was cancelled was because of lack of quorum.

Will TRSB Do Anything?

The correct action is to insist on a special SAU 55 meeting to direct the superintendent to stop spending money to fight a complaint that should just run its course – no reconsideration, no Supreme Court challenge.  Likely only a few members of the SAU’s board (namely, a few Timberlane members) will so vote, and the superintendent will go off with more of your tax dollars to fritter away in the pursuit of his ultimate authority over…. himself.

Regardless of the expected outcome, both TRSB and SAU 55 boards should convene and at least pretend to do their job defending your tax dollars. Sadly, your elected officials have given up their power to control the superintendent’s bat phone to legal services.  All they can try to do now is control his actual legal actions.

If my complaint is upheld, taxpayers will be able to control the salaries of SAU employees via their elected officials.  Right now, SAU salaries are set by the superintendent. You can read the basis of my complaint and why it matters to taxpayers  here.

re-issued decision Feb 2018

[DG: This posting has been corrected.  The meeting where the vote was taken to call a special SAU meeting was Jan. 25, 2018 – not Feb 1 as I reported.  The motion occurred at the school board meeting immediately after the second public hearing on the proposed budget.  This meeting, though live streamed, just happened not to be retained on live stream archives or transferred to Vimeo.]

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Relatives, come work at Timberlane!

For those who have ever been passed over in favor of a boss’ child, spouse or lover, you know how corrosive nepotism is to morale, and Dr. Metzler’s favorite expression, “The climate and culture of Timberlane.”  Yes, we all know that nepotism is bad for the sound functioning of any organization, but the Timberlane Regional School Board apparently doesn’t.

On January 18th the board approved a revised Board Member Conflict of Interest Policy.  It added a badly needed provision prohibiting board member business dealings with the district, but – despite my strenuous arguments to the contrary – it kept intact a wide open invitation to nepotism.

The board correctly added this prohibition: “A board member shall not have any direct personal and pecuniary interest in a contract with the school district, nor shall he or she furnish directly any labor, equipment, or supplies to the district.”

Let us hope that Kelly Ward, school board member from Sandown, will no longer be awarded any work or contracts with the district, no-bid or otherwise, so long as he serves on the board.

The board should also have prohibited nepotism, but when you hire the superintendent’s wife as a consultant, it is hard to impose common sense on other hires.

BOARD MEMBER CONFLICT OF INTEREST (as of 1/18/18)
As elected officials, school board members owe a duty of loyalty to the general public in protecting the school district’s interest. Therefore, the board declares that a conflict of interest is a personal and pecuniary interest that is immediate, definite, and demonstrable and which is or may be in conflict with the public interest.
A board member shall not have any direct personal and pecuniary interest in a contract with the school district, nor shall he or she furnish directly any labor, equipment, or supplies to the district. [New]
It is not the intent of this policy to prevent the district from contracting with corporations or businesses of which a board member is an employee. The policy is designed to prevent placing a Board member in a position where his/her interest in the public schools and his/her interest in his/her place of employment (or other indirect interest) might conflict, and to avoid appearances of conflict of interest even though such conflict may not exist.
Nepotism
The Board may employ a teacher or other employee if such teacher or other employee is the father, mother, brother, sister, wife, husband, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, or brother-in-law of the Superintendent or any member of the Board. Such a relationship will not automatically disqualify a job applicant from employment with the school district. However, the Board member shall declare his/her relationship with the job applicant and will refrain from debating, discussing, or voting on a nomination or other issue. The job applicant is expected to declare his/her relationship with the Board member as well.
This shall not apply to any person within such relationship or relationships who has been regularly employed by the Board prior to the inception of the relationship, the adoption of this policy, or a Board member’s election.
Legal Reference:
Marsh v. Hanover, 113 NH 667 (1973) and Atherton v. Concord, 109 NH 164 (1968).
RSA 671:18

____________________

Nepotism is a serious problem in Timberlane.  So is the hiring of formerly elected district officials. The board should change policy to disallow the hiring of former elected officials in any capacity whatsoever in the district or SAU55 for 3 years after their elective service.  Wake up TRSB. The “climate and culture of Timberlane” needs you to steer it straight.

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Are Smart Phones Destabilizing Our Children?

Graphic violence in video games, movies and television has often been blamed for the rise in mass shootings by young people.  I think the appetite for horrible violence cultivates a sickness of the soul similar to the appetite for pornography.  Neither of these anti-social and mentally unhealthy predilections should be encouraged, but they are, to my mind, not the cause of violence.

“Dr. Twenge started doing research 25 years ago on generational differences, but when 2011 -2012 hit, she saw something that would scare her to the core.   This is the year when those having iPhones went over the 50% mark.”

I urge you to continue reading:   The Scary Truth about What’s Hurting Our Children

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Court decision gives taxpayers standing to sue on default budgets

I’m proud to report that Attorney Richard Lehmann successfully argued that a New Hampshire taxpayer had standing to sue over a default budget in his town.  Not only did the judge grant standing but also ruled that the town’s default budget had to be reduced based on the arguments.  Mr. Lehmann’s client was Neal Kurk, Chairman of the House Finance Committee, representing Weare.

This is a momentous decision and is the thin edge of the wedge in helping taxpayers regain their standing to demand their towns and school districts actually follow the law.

via The Kurk Decision

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My Response to Eagle Tribune Reporting Error

Letter to the Editor:

In “BOE Reverses January Decision about Green Complaint,” published on Feb 21, Kristen Giddings reported that subsequent to the Board of Education’s Jan. 11 decision in my favor, SAU 55 filed an appeal. In fact, SAU 55 never filed an appeal.

Any reader of your article would infer from your reporting that the BOE’s action to rescind their Jan 11 decision and issue a new decision was as a result of SAU 55’s appeal. This is not true.

In fact, the Board of Education rescinded it’s original order in my favor and issued a different decision that was even more in my favor. At the Feb. 8, 2018 BOE meeting, the board heard a similar complaint to mine, Verville/School Administrative Unit #53 – SB-FY-18-07-000. Based on their decision in that case the board decided to treat both cases the same and so rescinded their previous decision and ordered both cases to be investigated by the Department of Education. This new decision saved me the pointless exercise of an SAU 55 public hearing that would only have resulted in another appeal to the Board of Education.

It is my contention that SAU 55 is in violation of RSA 194-C:5 with respect to setting SAU employee salaries, and the sooner the merits of this complaint are addressed, the better for Timberlane and Hampstead taxpayers. So far, thanks to the bottomless well of taxpayer money being used to pay legal fees, I have not had a chance to argue the material facts of my complaint which began in July of 2017.

I have not hired a lawyer through all this and there was no need for SAU 55 to use legal services either.

They simply have an aversion to following the law when it works in the interest of taxpayers and not their own.

My thanks go to the NH Board of Education for putting an end to the delays and dilatory legal arguments in order to finally grapple with the issue of a lawless SAU.

Donna Green

_BOE Reverses January Decision about Green Complaint___

Eagle Tribune Editor’s Note [from Feb 22]

This story has been updated to clarify that a notice of appeal was filed with the state Board of Education, but no official appeal was filed after the board’s January meeting.

___________________________________________________

Could a kind reader let me know if the EAgle Tribune publishes this letter?  I’ve given up my subscription in favor of the Union Leader which is why, presumably, I can’t comment on the article online.

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Aftershock: SAU 55 behaves badly again

If the revelations of last Thursday night’s public comment leave you complacent about the good will of SAU 55, this may push you over the edge.  Below is an email sent to school board members tonight from a singularly articulate and witty NH resident.


Dear School Board Member,

I do not live in the SAU 55 District, a fact for which I am now eternally grateful, but I would like to give you an account of my dealings with them in trying to extract some very simple information.

Unable to locate from the District website an email address for how to contact SAU 55, I sent an email to Ms Sherman , who I determined, at that time, to be the Chairman of the School Committee, on December 15th, 2017 asking for two items of information. They were:

1. total legal costs incurred for the Right to Know case of 2016 (Green) and:

2. total legal costs for the Right to Know case of 2017 (Taylor).

Ms. Sherman did not deign to reply so on December 30th I wrote a letter to SAU 55 requesting the above information and enclosed a check for $15 to cover any costs. Ms. Belcher’s initial response of January 8th is a glorious illustration typical of an obdurate regime resistant to transparency or accountability. She writes of a requirement for redaction’s and taking 30 days (or more) to complete them. As I said in my response to such nonsense, quoting Richard Feynman, “Surely, you must be joking.”

After a series of prolonged exchanges, as of February 19th , I have received none of the information requested, i.e. over 60 days following my original request.

A record of the correspondence on this matter until February 12th is contained in the attached file.

For believers in accountability in government the standing of New Hampshire is cause for concern. According to the Center for Public Integrity, an organization that received a Pullitzer Prize in 2014, New Hampshire ranks 49th in the Nation with respect to access to public information. It is quite evident that SAU 55 is intent on being the shining light leading the race to the bottom.

And all I asked for were two simple numbers.

In the tech world and probably in most corporations, the perpetrator of such an archaic procedure as that devised by SAU 55 to handle 91-A requests, a procedure completely at odds with current standards of efficiency and costs and demeaning both to the word and the spirit of RSA 91-A, would be summarily fired.

You probably gave him a raise.

Even the NH Legislature, never noted for its alacrity to an urgent issue unless it involves freeing up more guns or restricting voting, has been shocked into action. SB 395, subliminally labeled by the underground cognoscenti as the “Metzler” bill, in honor? of your Superintendent, is designed to directly challenge the procedure so artfully created by SAU 55. Not at all surprising is that some public officials, presumably of the same genetic makeup as those in SAU 55, are opposed. Perhaps the locals can expect an article on the next School warrant to build a tall wall around the offices of SAU 55 for the express purpose of keeping inquiring minds at bay.

Over the years I have contracted with a number of municipalities. Many years ago, one of them encountered a sudden spurt of 91-A requests. The advice from their lawyer at the time was that, unless it was specifically excluded by 91-A:5, “give ’em everything, give it to them quickly and ask if there is anything more they need. Then grin and bear it.” SAU 55, evidently, does not have the same lawyer.

Since your lawyers received over $100,000 in 2015-2016 exceeding the approved budget by nearly 50%, fighting lawsuits, for them, is much more lucrative than avoiding them. But what do your taxpayers think?

School Boards have a well earned reputation for sometimes appointing people to the positions of school principal or superintendent that is at least one rung above their level of competence. Perhaps that is why so many of them are always on the move. As the old adage goes, those who can, do research, those who cannot, teach and those who cannot do either become administrators. They just push papers, tot up numbers and talk. And yet the system perversely pays the administrators far far more than any of the finest teachers – and then claims credit for a high school product that scholastically, on average, is about two years behind their European and Asian counterparts in a world with an increasingly global component. The Ancients of Greece must be growling in their graves at the debasement of an educational ingredient they considered essential to a civilized society. Or have we now become, as Evelyn Waugh once suggested. “a syphilised society.” It is quite possible that history will eventually establish the impotence of school committees as a major factor in the rapidly increasing decline of the United States as a major contributor to the common good in the world at large.

By way of reference, I asked a different municipality for information on their legal costs for 2016 through 2017. I was offered complete information either as print outs (incidently at 10 cents/page cf yours at 50 cents/page) or as emails or both. The total time involved, including printing, was significantly less than 5 minutes – far less time, I suspect, than that required to compose Belcher’s asinine response to my request of December 30th.

And all I was asking for – were – two – very – simple – numbers.

As an elected public official whose passivity has condoned the claptrap and nonsense detailed above and in the attached file it is most unlikely that you are even minimally embarrassed by it.

But shouldn’t you be?

And

What are you going to do about it?

David V. Maudsley


The learned gentleman took the time to attached all the correspondences, which are even more entertaining and infuriating than his letter.

SAU 55 Correspondence

In this we have yet more material to add to the Attorney General’s thick folder on SAU 55 and Timberlane.  As taxpayers and consumers of SAU 55 services, we should be ashamed and outraged that our public servants act in this manner.

To answer this gentleman’s concluding question:  no one will do anything about it whatsoever.  The elected officials like it just the way it is. As chair of Policy Committee I tried to get a citizen friendly Right to Know policy in place only to be filibustered by the administration and not supported by my colleagues on the board.

Here was the policy I introduced in the summer of 2017: Green’s proposed RTK policy

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Metzler is Subject to the Will of the Timberlane Board, but Neither He nor the Board Knows It.

Recently I was perusing the Education Administrative Rules and discovered a gem. Contrary to Superintendent Metzler’s many declarations to the contrary, he is indeed subject to the will of the Timberlane school board. Education Administrative Rule 302.01 says this:

 (g)  The superintendent shall be directly responsible to the local school district or districts within the school administrative unit board.

Administrative Rules have the force of law. This means that if the Timberlane board should suddenly find its mind and votes to direct Metzler to do something, like, oh,  rescind the letter to school board candidate Maxann Dobson restricting her access to Timberlane schools, then he would have to comply.

Do you hear that Timberlane School Board members?

He would have to comply or be be subject to dismissal for insubordination.  “Insubordination” is a grounds for dismissal in Superintendent Metzler’s contract.  Here are the other grounds:

Termination for Cause. This agreement may be terminated by the SAU at any time for immorality, incompetence, insubordination, failure to follow SAU and/or School District policies or failure on the part of the Superintendent to conform to the laws of the State of New Hampshire, the rules and regulations of the State Board of Education, of the School Administrative Unit and of the local school boards within the School Administrative Unit. If a conflict arises, the rules and regulations established by the SAU Board will prevail.

Now the trick to all this is that the SAU board as a whole will never take any action against the superintendent other than throw money at him.  The Hampstead portion of the SAU board will give Superintendent Metzler anything he wants so they can enjoy the services of the Assistant Superintendent. And as loyal readers of this blog well know, the Timberlane board is split along very stark lines– those who wish to delegate all their authority to the superintendent and those who wish to retain a modicum of responsibility.

 

 

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