Seldom does a single individual do something so offensive to the common sense of taxpayers that the whole course of history changes. Yesterday, Timberlane School District voted resoundingly to support a citizen’s petition warrant article to explore withdrawing from SAU 55.
Under Jason Cipriano’s leadership as chairman of SAU 55’s board, the SAU board sued the Timberlane Regional School District… and won. That court victory, which required the Timberlane board to deal with SAU 55’s budget, pushed Timberlane taxpayers over the edge. Yes, we’ve long had an SAU board that refused to keep the superintendent in check, who lavished bonuses and lush raises on someone of little experience and debatable accomplishments, and didn’t even insist on its right and duty to hire and set salaries of SAU staff. But a wacko board that sued the majority of its members because of a power struggle over the chairmanship of the board? That was the last straw.
All four towns in the Timberlane district voted overwhelmingly to explore withdrawing from SAU 55 – and its board of Hampstead superintendent acolytes. Thank you, Jason, for making the decision so easy for voters.
Of course the very biggest and sincere thanks go to the lead petitioner, Stefanie Dube of Danville. It was her stellar effort to inform the district of the behavior of the SAU board, and the options residents had to disassociate themselves from such a board by way of withdrawal, as well as gathering signatures on a petition that few, at first, believed would succeed. Stefanie and I served on the Timberlane School Board together, and I’m proud to call this singularly determined woman a friend.
Now there will have to be a study conducted to find out the legal and financial ramifications of Timberlane leaving SAU 55 to Hampstead. I devoutly hope Ms. Dube will be on this study committee. One thing for sure. SAU 55 should not be hiring a new Assistant Superintendent. And no SAU contracts should be issued for more than one year at a time. The SAU board a long time ago lost control over SAU contracts so Timberlane’s majority on the SAU board should immediately pass a motion that no contracts are to be signed without prior board vote.
In what may be a premonition of things to come, both Sandown and Danville defeated the district’s proposed budget and its request for capital fund contributions. Votes in the larger towns, however, carried the warrants. How much longer can a district so divided within itself continue?
Although this is far from the desire of the petitioner, Ms. Dube, and is by no means a logical consequence, I personally see this victory as the first step in ultimately liberating Sandown from Timberlane. Readers know I have long argued for the independence of Sandown in its public education. People in Sandown will be blind with fury when they open November’s tax bill. The inability of Sandown to manage its own tax burden and control the quality of its children’s education within a cooperative school district will become painfully apparent once again.
Regardless of the future of Sandown, dumping SAU 55 can only help Timberlane. Thank you, Jason, for making it so evident.
(SAU 55’s board is made up of the boards of the Timberlane Regional School District and the Hampstead School District. The SAU board’s job is to direct and give oversight over the functioning of the SAU 55 services.)