Category Archives: Changing Funding Formula

April 2 SB Meeting: SAU a Power onto Itself

Thursday night’s school board meeting convinced me that the board allows the SAU to behave as a power unto itself.

Within the first fifteen minutes of the meeting, Superintendent Metzler handed out a verbatim transcript – only partially complete – of the Feb. 28 public hearing on amending the Articles of Agreement (Petitioned Warrant Article #10 on the March ballot).  At the March 19 school board meeting, the board, dissatisfied with the skeleton minutes offered for approval, had instructed the recording secretary to go back to make the minutes more reflective of what actually transpired at that historic meeting.

Superintendent Metzler took it upon himself to send the Vimeo out to a transcription service charging $1.20 a minute, an expenditure not approved by the board. Perhaps the Superintendent would like to pay for this indulgence himself?  The recording secretary was tasked with the job.  That is why we have a recording secretary.  At the board meeting I called it malicious compliance: You challenge the minutes?  You must pay!

After 45 minutes concerning athletic and booster programs, the board turned discussion to the troubling issue of the district’s use of the Turnitin software. The issue of student privacy in blogs and in work submitted to Turnitin became of concern to the board and the administration following hair-raising public comment by two parents at the March 5th school board meeting,  According to the parents, two years of work submitted to the global database of Turnitin had been submitted in violation of federal privacy laws (FERPA) because parents had not given permission for their children’s work to be placed in this databank and  personally identifiable information had in many cases been included in these submissions. The administration has since sent out parental permission forms and has changed practices in the schools so that student privacy is protected.  The administration came to the board on Thursday night to explain corrective steps taken which included plans to delete all the work previously submitted to Turnitin without parental consent. After much discussion, the board decided that this work should not be deleted. The vote was not unanimous and was, in my opinion, a bad decision which could expose the district to legal risk.

Sometime later Superintendent Metzler called for a non-public meeting under “reputation.”  Once the non-public session was underway and I learned of the topic, I objected that it did not fall under the legal criteria for a non-public session. Superintendent Metzler invited me to leave. I did not leave.  Instead I stayed to hear a discussion of important administration action that should have been discussed in public and was of great public interest. I suggest those of you who are concerned about these things write to your board representatives and to Superintendent Metzler to insist that this matter be raised in public session as it should have been during this meeting.

I am currently researching whether my duty of confidentiality applies to matters in non-public session which are not properly non-public.  While I look into this, I cannot individually disclose this matter.

The board then took about three minutes to approve teacher renominations for the forthcoming academic year – explaining for the new member what a “continuing contract” was. Then a science  curriculum on “second reading”  was approved with no discussion. This was followed by brief discussion about starting a strategic plan and also a district-wide Wellness Committee. The board also briefly discussed their own self-evaluation and the administration’s evaluation of the board.

After this there was a vote on the Sandown withdrawal study, but not what you might think.  It was merely a vote to support Mr. Ward as a member of the study, without taking any responsibility themselves for this study. The school board consistently denies its legal responsibility to conduct a withdrawal study as per the explicit requirements of RSA 194:25.Procedure for Withdrawal.

Finally, around midnight, there was disrespectful discussion about the requirement voted by the school budget committee for a preliminary end-of-year-financial report in late July or August.  Superintendent Metzler was adamant that the budget committee is not going to get this because it is earlier than the SAU’s normal timeframe for producing such a report.  SAU personnel also made unsupportive comments about the budget committee’s apparent willingness to hold a meeting in the summer in order to help direct the budget process that starts in September. This, it seems, is an unreasonable imposition on the SAU’s resources.

What we have is not an overweening budget committee, but rather an SAU that doesn’t understand that its job and purpose is to support the elected officials who protect the interests of taxpayers and parents.

Mr. Collins said that if the budget committee doesn’t back down on its requests, the SAU will need more staff.  I wonder what would happen to the timeframe for budget committee requests if, instead, the SAU staff were reduced?

The meeting is here: 

Gentle readers, a happy Easter and Passover greeting to all.

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Filed under Budget Committee, Changing Funding Formula, Expenditures, Non-public session abuse, Right to Know issues, Sandown Issues, School Board Behavior, School Board Functioning

Petitions Circulating to Change Funding Formula and Withdraw from District

It’s to be expected. Citizen’s unreasonably taxed will strike out for relief. Citizen’s who fear being unreasonably taxed will do the same.

Danville Wants to Spread the Burden

Danville’s Board of Selectmen is in unanimous agreement that the school district’s funding formula must change.  They have spearheaded a petition for the Timberlane School District ballot to ask voters to approve a change to the district’s Articles of Agreement that would determine the way each town in the district contributes to the operational expenses of the schools. Right now each town pays on the basis of their student enrollment (Average Daily Membership). If Danville’s petition passes, each town would pay exactly the same school tax rate which means that towns with higher valued properties pay more in total than towns with lower valued properties.  Under this arrangement, Danville and Sandown would benefit at the expense of Atkinson and Plaistow.

Is this fair?  That all depends on your political philosophy.  Should each town pay for their own children’s education, or should wealthier towns subsidize poorer towns?  The warrant article draft is at the end of this posting.  Their tax rate proposal can be found here.   FY15 School Calculation – V04   (Danville’s school taxes would go down $6 per thousand while Sandown’s would go down $3 per thousand.  Atkinson’s school tax rate would go up $3.50 per thousand.)

As a representative of Sandown, you might think I would be in favor of helping our overtaxed town get out from under its burden. I wish I could embrace Danville’s initiative but I can’t because I think it is short-sighted and does not address the fundamental issue which is that the cost per student is way too high. (See forthcoming post, “The Truth about Cost Per Pupil.”)

Petitions to Study Withdrawing from the School District

Sandown and Atkinson have citizens circulating a Citizen’s Petition for inclusion on their respective town ballots to begin a study into the feasibility of withdrawing  from the school district.  If the voters of these towns pass this warrant article, then the school board must convene a committee to explore the feasibility of letting the petitioning towns out of the district (and presumably the SAU as well).  Since it is unlikely the school board would ever see any feasibility in such a possibility, the individual towns can and certainly would simultaneously prepare a minority report for the State Board of Education, advancing their arguments for separation.

If we cannot get the bottom line of the budget lowered at Deliberative this year, I would support these petitions because I would like to see a study into what would be involved in allowing Sandown to manage the education of their own children.  The possibilities are numerous.  We could possibly send our high school students to Pinkerton at a much reduced cost from what we are paying to send them to Timberlane now.  ($10,700 vs. approx. $15,200).  We could also open a charter middle school in Sandown Central with emphasis on math and science  while keeping Sandown North for elementary.  Sandown would have control over its own educational costs and have a chance to establish a quality educational system that reflects its values. At the very least a study into these possibilities is a study whose time has come, most certainly if we can’t get control of the budget.  Sandown currently provides $15,507,268 in taxes and education grants to Timberlane to educate our 986 students.  That is $15,727. per child from kindergarten through to high school. Can you imagine a private kindergarten or elementary school charging that much money?   Tuition for Central Catholic High School In Haverhill is just $12,260 this year including athletic fees.  Suffice it to say, there is a  case to be made that Sandown can do better on its own

Danville’s Draft Warrant Article

The signatories below request the following Warrant Article to be placed on the Official ballot for Town Meeting 2015.

Article 2015-X Timberlane Regional School District Article of Agreement

To see if the Timberlane Regional School District shall replace Article #5 and Article #6 from the April 30, 1964

agreement to read as follows:

5. The operating and capital expenses of the Timberlane Regional School District payable in each fiscal year shall be

apportioned at a rate so each pre-existing district pays the same local school rate of taxation based upon the equalized

valuation as most currently available as determine by the State Tax Commission. All forms of aid and local school impact

fees from each pre-existing district will be applied to reduce the operating and capital expense before apportionment.

6. Repealed

Sandown’s Citizen’s Petition

Shall the Town of Sandown, New Hampshire direct the Timberlane Regional School Board to conduct a study

of the feasibility and suitability of the withdrawal of Sandown from the Timberlane Regional School District

and to be completed before October 1, 2015 as per the provisions of RSA 195:25? (Majority vote required.)

________________________________________________

Teachers and students are not simply numbers, as Support Timberlane says, but but numbers have the power to hurt families when those numbers arrive in the form of an unaffordable  tax bill.  What is happening before our eyes is the destruction of a school district because its elected officials have allowed the budget to grow wildly undisciplined.  Some may characterize this as a fight between quality education and stingy taxpayers, but if you are of that persuasion, ask yourself at what cost per student is it reasonable to expect a school system to run?  The majority of the other comparable high performing districts of the same size are doing the job for a lot less than Timberlane, and they all have to meet the same special education mandates as we do.

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Filed under 2015 Warrant ARticles, Budget 2015-2016, Changing Funding Formula, Sandown Issues, Taxes, Withdrawing from District