Category Archives: Closing Sandown Central

House of Marked Cards

Danville Selectman Shawn O’Neil made a devastating public comment at last night’s school board meeting. He read a letter outlining the complete chain of events that resulted in Danville being given, mistakenly, information Danville had requested but which the school board refused to release. Let’s call this the Danville Impact Fee Controversy.

Here is Mr. O’Neil’s letter:

Dear Timberlane School Board and Dr. Metzler,

I am here tonight to address the false accusations that were annunciated by Dr. Metzler at the September 3, 2015 meeting when Dr. Farah notified the School Board that we did not need any support from the School District for our School Impact Fee analysis. Dr. Farah was asked by Mrs. Steenson if the school provided the student data and she responded that they had. She did not state that the data was used for the town study. Dr. Metzler’s response was that “It was not authorized and you have it illegally”.

I would like to point to you Exhibit A – Which is an email sent from the Danville Board of Selectmen Assessing/Land Use Clerk, Ms. Janet Denison, to Mr. George Stockinger, Ms. Kathleen Smith, and Dr. Earl Metzler outlining our request for information relative to this study. This email was dated January 22, 2015 at 9:34am. This was the email version of the request that was sent via US Mail as well.

On the same Thursday, January 22, 2015 at 4:59pm Ms Denison received an email from Mr. John Holland, Technology Director of TRSD, which indicated “As requested, attached is the list of Danville students by grade level and residence address, in Excel format.” This is illustrated by Exhibit B.

Then 22 minutes later a subsequent email was sent by Mr. Holland requesting to recall the message “Danville List”. Ms. Denison responded at 6:21pm to Mr. Holland via email, “What do you mean?” Ms. Denison called Mr. Holland’s phone on Friday, January 23 on two occasions asking for clarifications about why his list was being recalled. This is illustrated by exhibit C. Questions that Ms. Denison had included: was the data incorrect, incomplete, or outdate? Later that morning Ms. Denison forwarded the list to Mr. Bruce Mayberry from BLM Planning who was conducting the survey on behalf of the Town of Danville. Ms. Denison indicated to Mr. Mayberry that the data way be incomplete or incorrect. This was done after two phone calls went unanswered to Mr. Holland.

On Monday January 26, 2016 Ms. Cathy Belcher sent the following email to Ms. Denision as a high priority – Exhibit D which indicated ‘… the divulgence of this information may be in violation of FERPA laws.”

On Wednesday, January 28, 2015 Mr. Bruce Mayberry sent Ms. Cathy Belcher an email outlining the receipt of the recalled data, and supplied 2 pages of supporting documentation to ask for reconsideration – Exhibit E. No response followed from Ms. Belcher to Mr. Mayberry about this matter.

This information was never supplied to the School Board.

On March 12, 2015 I, acting as Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, sent a follow up to Dr. Metzler to discuss the outstanding issue that remains with respect to our School Impact fee Study – Exhibit F. You will also notice in this exchange that Danville Representative Mr. Collins was involved in this discussion and after a few email exchanges between him and me, indicated “this isn’t happening. I’ve confirmed it, it’s a FERPA violation.” This is illustrated by exhibit F.

I will disclose now that Mr. Collins and I had a phone conversation relative to this matter around this time frame and I disclosed to him that we already had the data from the SAU. His response was, “You didn’t destroy it yet?”

Now let us fast forward to the April 2, 2015 School Board meeting (Time 3:13:45 -3:24:05) when Dr. Metzler recommended to the School Board that they waive School Board policy to support the release of this information to the Town of Danville. This recommendation was based on discussions with Dr. Metzler, Dr. Farah, and Cathy Belcher in which it was noted there was no FERPA violation but rather a school board policy in place. Dr. Metzler’s office was in possession of Mr. Mayberry’s 2 page explanation of why the data was needed from Jan 28, 2015. This information was not provided to the School Board for your deliberations.

On May 7, 2015 I presented more information to the School Board which resulted in a May 21, agenda item on this topic which Mr. Mayberry attended at our expense.

On Sept 3, 2015 Dr. Farah indicated to the School Board that we had the data from the SAU but she did not indicate that we had used the data in our School Impact Fee study. Mr. Mayberry, as you may recall from his May 21, 2015 appearance is able to obtain this data in a statistical form from the State. It is not as accurate as having actual verifiable data as obtained from the District. The Town of Danville and Mr. Mayberry used the State statistical data knowing that the School District was not going to assist in our effort to obtain the data.

On Monday Sept 14, 2015 the Town of Danville received a letter from the District attorney outlining some of these events. This is illustrated as Exhibit G.

Dr. Metzler and Mr. Collins, how can you say that the District is ‘transparent’ to this community when you are not transparent to your fellow Board members? It is clear that Ms. Steenson, as Chairwoman, was not aware of the release of information by the SAU. I suspect than many of your fellow Board members were not aware either. I have seen in our schools, that you oversee, a very powerful and inspirational passage, “Character – Doing the right thing when nobody is watching”. How would you define your Character at this time?

Upon receipt of a written apology to the Danville Board of Selectmen and our staff, as a courtesy to the district, we will destroy the data, which we believe is NOT a FERPA violation but a School Board policy violation which is NOT applicable to the Town of Danville.

Thank you,

Shawn O’Neil

Chairman

Board of Selectmen

Town of Danville, New Hampshire      10.1.15 ltr to the school (1)

The Danville Impact Fee Controversy: September 17th non-public session

At the school board’s previous meeting on September 17th, the board went into non-public session on the grounds of reputation (91-A:3, II (c)). The topic was Danville’s acquisition of data for their impact fee study. In no way does the law allow this topic to be discussed in non-public.  It is not one of the clearly listed subject matter exclusions from mandatory public discussion. S0oooo,  the name of an employee was used as a pretext to hide this discussion in non-public. Your school board regularly stretches the law to keep uncomfortable realities from you. Thanks to the Danville Board of Selectmen you now know how the information got to Danville.

This time the district was thwarted in its efforts to keep unpleasant truths from the public ear, but the board nevertheless continues to do its best to distance itself from the truth in its minutes. Let’s take the non-public minutes from that meeting of the 17th.  It says that I seconded a motion to go into non-public. I don’t remember doing this, though my memory is not perfect, but given my mistrust of non-public sessions generally, I don’t think I provided the second.  Wouldn’t you know it?  The Vimeo cuts off just at the moment a second is being requested.

Then the September 17th non-public minutes go on to say that “A brief discussion ensued concerning the Danville Board of Seletman (sic) and student information.”

This is a more accurate one sentence description than is normally provided; however, the brevity of the discussion is exaggerated. The minutes show exactly two minutes elapsed, when in fact the discussion lasted well in excess of ten and I would say closer to twenty minutes because it was a far ranging discussion with a number of people jumping in. I had time to eat an entire plate of carrots and grapes so you can be sure it was not a two-minute conversation.

Same Old: The August 27th non-public session

You may not think this abuse of non-public discussions and its subsequent misrepresentation in minutes is as big a problem as I do, so let me give you some recent background.

On August 27, 2015 the board went into another illicit non-public session to discuss the possibility of launching legal action against Danville selectman Joshua Horns should he refuse to surrender either his seat on the Timberlane Budget Committee or on the Danville BOS. During this meeting I protested that it was an illegal non-public and that I wanted my protest recorded in the minutes. Here’s what the minutes ended up recording:


A discussion ensued regarding the implied threat of legal action by an individual as it relates to a conflict of interest when retaining both Board of Selectman and Budget Committee positions.

Motion: Mr. Bealo motioned to authorize Madam Chair Steenson to compose a letter to Joshua Horns to accompany the attorney’s letter requesting he make a choice of which position to serve: Danville Board of Selectman or TRSD Budget Committee member, as serving on both constitutes incompatibility of offices. Seconded was made by Mr. Sapia.

With no further discussion the motion passed by a vote of 6-1-0 (Mrs. Green opposed).


These minutes do not faithfully describe the actual nature of the discussion or my protest of it being done in non-public.  To rectify this, I made the following motion during the next PUBLIC meeting on September 3, 2015:

MOTION:  “To correct the non-public minutes of August 27 to read: ‘A discussion ensued regarding the possibility of launching legal action against an individual as it relates to a conflict of interest when retaining both Board of Selectman and Budget Committee positions.  Mrs. Green objected to the non-public as being inappropriate and illegal.’ “

In another proud moment for your school board, they voted down the motion to amend the minutes which means

  1. the non-public minutes are not accurate in their description of this discussion;
  2. my protest about the non-public session was not recorded in the non-public minutes.

But it gets better.

When the minutes for the September 3, 2015 (public) meeting came out, here’s what was recorded:

“Mrs. Green motioned to change and add wording of the discussion held during the non-public session.

For those who may not know, all motions made at public meetings should be recorded and minuted as they were said – not some Cliff Notes freeze-dried version.

Soooo, on October 1, 2015 I tried once again to get into the public record my motion to correct the public minutes of Sept. 3, 2015…. and Mrs. Steenson cut me off. The board directed the recording secretary to go back, watch the Vimeo recording, adjust the minutes, and with that they blithely and irresponsibly accepted them.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the trouble with this is that all these minutes are legal records of events, which is why it is so important for the board not to record the truth and to substitute a facsimile for history.  What a fine example for the moral instruction of our students.

Post Script

Lest you think it is only I who have issues with honesty, read the Tri-Town Times article about Hampstead’s school board feeling duped. http://tritowntimes.net/2015/09/school-district-misinformed-parents-about-controversial-program/

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Filed under Closing Sandown Central, Non-public session abuse, Pinocchio Academy, Sandown Issues, School Board Behavior, Withdrawal Feasibility Study, Withdrawing from District

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? Here’s Why

Today, July 20, there is a scheduled tour of Sandown North being given by the principal, Mrs. Georgian, for the members of Sandown’s minority committee.  As I have an active interest in this issue as well as being a contributor to a working group of the committee (though not an official committee member), I asked to be included in the tour.

The school principal, Mrs. Georgian, denied my request because she needs Dr. Metzler’s permission.  Dr. Metzler is out of the office until July 27.

I actually feel quite bad for the principals in our district who fear returning a call from me and who cannot give me permission to enter their school on their own authority. I’ve been previously prohibited from visiting any school during operational hours despite the fact that other school board members visit schools without permission from the superintendent. Clearly I am in Dr. Metzler’s own words, “a select individual.”

A representative of Sandown on the school board, and an active volunteer to the minority committee, has been denied a tour of a Sandown school for no other reason than political vengeance. This is quite palpably hindering Sandown’s representation and can only fuel indignation among Sandown voters against the school district.

School Board Policy BHC  (in relevant part)

Visits to School
Individual Board members interested in visiting schools or classrooms will inform the Superintendent of such visits and make arrangements for visitations through the principals of the various schools. Such visits shall be regarded as informal expressions of interest in school affairs and not as “inspections” or visits for supervisory or administrative purposes. Official visits by Board members will be carried on only under Board authorization and with the full knowledge of the Superintendent and principals.

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Filed under Closing Sandown Central, Sandown Issues, Withdrawing from District

SB Posts Agenda: “Sandown Consolidation Plan Action”??

School board members are always the last to know what is going to be on their own agenda; nevertheless, I was extremely surprised to see “Sandown Consolidation Plan – Action (45 minutes) on the agenda.

We just dealt with the consolidation at the last meeting.

45 minutes too?  Nothing short of declaring nuclear war on Bedford (so we can move up in the rankings) would make the chairman allot 45 minutes to any agenda topic. Last meeting’s agenda allotted just 30 minutes to the momentous decision that was dreaded since November.

I previously emailed a request to the chairman asking to revisit the issue of student information for the purposes of impact fee calculation since new information has come out that parents have (for the most part) given pre-authorization for the release of this information at the beginning of the year.

An agenda item that affects the taxes of every property owner in Danville is ignored but something we already dealt with gets 45 minutes.  Hmm…..

I personally welcome more considered discussion of the consolidation decision taken at the last meeting which was rushed and superficial, but this is a procedurally odd thing to do considering the vote was unanimous.

It would be a courtesy of the chairman to inform the board as to the reason this item has returned to the agenda so we are not sideswiped at the next meeting, but that isn’t the way things are done at the mushroom farm.

AGENDA

Regular Meeting – 7:30 PM   Thursday, June 4,, 2015

Dr. Earl Metzler, II, Superintendent

Dr. Roxanne Wilson, Asst. Superintendent

1. 7:30 PM Call to Order – Chair (15 minutes)

2. Roll Call – Clerk

3. Pledge of Allegiance

4. Approval of Minutes

a. May 21, 2015 public and nonpublic sessions

5. Delegations or Individuals

6. Current Business

a. 7:45PM DI Team Presentation* – INFORMATIONAL (10 minutes)

b. 7:55PM English Language Arts Curriculum – ACTION (15 minutes) – 2nd Read

c. 8:10PM Dual Enrollment* – INFORMATIONAL (15)

d. 8:25PM TTA Update – INFORMATIONAL (10 minutes)

e. 8:35PM Project Lead the Way* – ACTION (10 minutes)

f. 8:45PM Sandown Consolidation Plan – ACTION (45 minutes)

g. 9:30PM Tuition Rates – ACTION (5 minutes)

h. 9:35PM Policies – ACTION (5 minutes) – 2nd Read

i. 9:40PM School Board Goals – INFORMATIONAL/ACTION (5 minutes)

7. 9:45PM Administrator’s Report

a. Update on School Activities – INFORMATIONAL

8. Personnel Report

9. 9:55PM Committee Reports

10.10:00PM Reports of the School Board

11.Correspondence Folder

12.Vendor and Payroll Registers

13.10:10PM Other Business

14.Non-public (if needed)

15.Future Dates

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Filed under Closing Sandown Central, Sandown Issues, School Board Functioning, The Mushroom Farm

Mushroom Farm at its Best: Railroaded into Votes

By way of background, let me establish that I have served on the board of a small non-profit, served four years on the Sandown Planning Board and a number of years as an alternate on the Sandown ZBA, two years on the school budget committee along with my 1+ service on the school board. Only at Timberlane have I felt railroaded into a vote and this has happened repeatedly.

The Consolidation

The consolidation vote was a prime example. The study was officially released to the school board 29 hours before we voted on it. During the all too brief discussion of the issue at the May 21 school board meeting, I asked for the vote to be delayed so all the board members could think about the recommendations and discuss it with constituents.  Not one member supported this.  Ms. Steenson said none of her constituents ever contact her. Mrs. Sherman said the teachers needed an end to the uncertainty. From the paucity of questions about the report, it isn’t clear just how many board members had actually had time to read the report in full.

Despite being fundamentally against the consolidation, all my practical objections were addressed at the meeting.  Yes, there are two nagging and outstanding problems with Sandown North  — the sprinklers and the traffic — but these issues would be the same with or without consolidation and as far as I could tell would not be made worse.  The number of students after the consolidation would be almost exactly the same as presently. As for needing a larger playground for the older children, Rob Collins seemed confident the board would approve funding for that out of this year’s budget. (Let’s ignore that disturbing issue of paying for capital improvements with operational funding surplus because this situation hardly seems a precedent — or the fact that the voters rejected funding that in the forthcoming budget year.)

Ignored completely was the cost of running the independent pre-k’s in each school.  We were in such a rush to make a decision – any decision at all – that niggling things like money just never entered the picture. It was a precipitous vote and I regret not insisting that we needed more time instead of being railroaded into that vote by a sense of urgency that was deliberately orchestrated.

New Hiring

I was slightly more successful in resisting the railroaded votes of approval for the two new hires, only because I have a firm policy of not approving any hires because we are simply not given enough information to make an informed decision. (I abstain.)

In a room packed with administrators and spectators, including the press, Dr. Metzler introduced without warning or in agenda order, two prospective new hires – a new assistant principal and a new Director of Data and Accountability, both of whom were present in the room.  Dr. Metzler reads one resume.  He asks for a vote of the board.  Up go the hands.  Done. Candidate shakes hands with all board members.  Repeat.  Done.   Candidate shakes hands with all board members.

Naturally, only Mrs. Green asks any questions.  In the mad rush; however, I missed the fact, disclosed only on paper not given to the board before that meeting, that the Data Accountability position is $100,000. This was a position that we were previously told required strong math skills and would be difficult to fill. I’m sure Ms. Michaud is a lovely and competent person, but the resume the board was given does not indicate any strength or training in mathematics. Also not disclosed either in writing or in Dr. Metzler’s introduction, was the fact that Ms. Michaud is currently the principal of Manchester’s Hallsville Elementary School. This is the school that hosted an extremely controversial “lesson” on bullying which created such an uproar that parents started a petition in April to have Ms. Michaud reprimanded.  See the story here: Hallsville Bullying Lesson

There are always two sides to a story and Ms. Michaud’s position at Timberlane is very different from her position at Hallsville. It is a regrettable beginning for Ms. Michaud to find herself the subject of a blog, but that is the fault of the administration. Whether or not this controversy in Manchester has any bearing on her position at Timberlane, it should certainly have been disclosed to the board. I bring it up to illustrate how the school board is herded into votes by selective disclosure of information and deliberately rushed situations.

An Undertaking Learned the Hard Way

Whenever I feel forced into a vote, I will vote no.

New hires presented in front of an audience of their peers looking to get approved?  No.

New hires with a skeleton resume given to us and no knowledge of other candidates?  No.

Artificially or deliberately orchestrated urgent situations?  No.

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Filed under Closing Sandown Central, Sandown Issues, SAU 55 Issues

Bait and Switch at Sandown Central: Consolidation Report Recommendations

Sandown has been in turmoil since December 4, 2014 when the school board voted to support Dr. Metzler’s removal of operational funding for Sandown Central in the 2015-2016 budget.

First:  The Bait

We were given the following arguments for closing Sandown Central:

1) the building had the highest cost per pupil of the entire district

2) all Sandown students could be accommodated in Sandown North

3) closing SC would save $744,000 every year to infinity after consolidation costs.

Now:  The Switch

This morning, the Sandown Schools Consolidation report was leaked to me. It is due to be presented to the school board tomorrow night.  If what I’ve been given is genuine, and I have reason to believe it is, the study recommends:

1) District-wide consolidation of pre-school programs at Sandown Central

2) all Sandown kindergarten programs at Sandown Central

In order to accomplish this the report says Sandown North should have:

  •  a bus-only additional access road to relieve traffic issues
  • A new one acre fenced off playground
  • building-wide sprinklers

If ever a project was sold under false pretenses, this is it.

There was never an educational argument in this consolidation. There is no educational advantage to Sandown students or any others who will have to spend more time on buses to get to programs. The argument was always a financial one and that turned out to be a promise more false than the hope of spring in March. There will be no money whatsoever saved in this re-organization, and certainly nothing saved that couldn’t have been done without the consolidation. Furthermore, this has the potential to be a big waste of money. How can the district be proposing a major program reorganization to a Sandown location when Sandown is exploring leaving the district potentially as early as July 2017?

Is This Even Legal?

Now let’s look at the legality of all of this.  The voters denied operational funding of Sandown Central when they defeated two warrant articles to keep the school open with funding. The district is keeping the school open anyway. “No” means “No” except in the Timberlane School District where the school board chair signed a five-year contract without school board vote and budget laws are mere leaves of paper in a dusty book. The district also voted against a new playground at Sandown North but, with the large influx of older students, Sandown North very much needs a new playground.  Let’s watch the magical logic and twisted legal opinions coming soon that rationalize a new playing field despite a failed warrant article.

For the record, I am relieved Sandown Central is staying open as a school because I believe this consolidation was precipitous, and we clearly still need two facilities. In my opinion, the Sandown schools should stay as they currently are configured for at least one more year until the voters approve necessary changes to Sandown North and permit whatever reasonable operational and capital improvement funding is needed for both schools’ new use – and we see the results of the withdrawal feasibility studies.

If the district is going to break the law by violating the will of the voters in keeping Sandown Central open without district approved operational funding, why not leave things as they are for another year and finally do it right?

Transition to Public/Private Model without School Board Approval?

The idea of a dedicated special education facility for pre-school is an interesting one that could have benefits to the district if it does indeed make space for more tuitioned pre-K and full-time K students. But this should be a deliberate decision and not one forced on us by “closing” a school.  We now have tuitioned full-time kindergarten.  We may now be encouraging an expanded tuitioned pre-school program. Are we turning into a public/private model something akin to Pinkerton without an explicit plan by the school board?

It Was Never Truthfully About Money

Interestingly, the consolidation committee was instructed not to concern themselves with the financial consequences of their recommendations. This tells me right from the start that the Superintendent never had any intention of making good on the statement that “closing” Sandown Central would save the district money.  It was never truthfully about saving money.  It was never about education.  So what was it about except retribution to Sandown?

The school board meets tomorrow at 7:30 pm.  The report is to be presented to the school board at that time. I will post the report to this blog on Friday.  Thank you to the Sandown patriot who leaked it to me. Thank you, also, to the dedicated Sandown residents who volunteered their effort to the study. The study gives no indication as to how many members of the committee endorsed the recommendations.

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Filed under 2015 Warrant ARticles, Closing Sandown Central, Sandown Issues

The Vote to Exit Sandown Central

Here is the historic vote taken on March 19, 2015 to move students out of Sandown Central:

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Sandown Schools Consolidation Committee

At last night’s school board meeting, Superintendent Metzler provided the board with the membership of the Sandown Schools Consolidation Committee.  Dr. Metzler said he “hand-picked” the members and I would say he did a good job of it.

The hardworking and effective Ms. Armfield co-chairs the committee with Sandown resident and Citizen Petition promulgator, Shawn Freligh.  Also from Sandown are Erich Beyrent, Lee Dube, Jon Goldman, Deb Lytle and Kelly Ward. The entire membership list is here:Consolidation Advisory Committee Membership

As this is a superintendent’s advisory committee, Dr. Metzler has said repeatedly that this body will not be subject to New Hampshire’s Right to Know law.  The claim that an advisory committee is not subject to the open meeting laws and other RTK provisions was emphatically contradicted by two lawyers at a Right to Know training session held in Plaistow last week from the New Hampshire Municipal Association. At last night’s board meeting, I asked if the Consolidation Committee meetings would be open to the public. I was told the committee has not yet decided on this issue. I expect, especially given the respected people populating the committee, that they will see their responsibility as encompassing full transparency.

In a related development, Dr. Metzler said that exploring the possibility of leasing Sandown Central to a charter school, which had approached the district, has been given to a sub-committee of the Consolidation Committee. They are to report back to Dr. Metzler in time for the charter’s school’s deadline of April vacation.

Although I have no issue with the committee’s purpose or its composition, I do worry about a few things:

1) Is it wise or even permissible for the superintendent to strike a committee independent of the board concerning the consolidation of schools?   Timberlane’s Policy CE, “ADMINISTRATIVE COUNCILS, CABINETS, AND COMMITTEES,” states: “The Board authorizes the Superintendent to establish such permanent or temporary councils, cabinets, and committees, as he/she deems necessary for proper administration of Board policies and for the improvement of the total educational program.”  I would argue that consolidating schools is not an educational program and it is clearly not an administration of board policy.

2) In what way should the consolidation committee be exploring – completely independent of the school board – the possibility of leasing a building to another organization?  I am going to answer my own question with a surprising discovery: RSA 194-C which governs School Administrative Units seems to empower the superintendent to “hold and dispose of real and personal property for the establishment of facilities for administration and any instructional purposes…” (194-C:I. 1) and “[a]ssignment, usage, and maintenance of administrative and school facilities (194-C:4, II (k).  By my reading this seems to indicate that the superintendent could lease or sell a building without school board approval barring a district policy to the contrary.HOWEVER, a kind and knowledgeable reader, Jorge Mesa-Tejada, pointed out that the SAU does not own any real property —  only the individual districts do; therefore only the school board can sell or lease any facility.

3) When the Consolidation Committee’s report is finished, will it be presented to the public as a document replete with the benefit of public consultation for all its parent members?  For that to be convincing, the meetings are going to have to be open to the public and allow generous public input received with an open mind.

In separate news, the board as a whole last night reached  consensus on going ahead with a Capital Improvement Plan Committee.  Oddly enough, here is policy  (FB) :  FACILITIES PLANNING

“It is the policy of the School Board that the administration prepare a six-year Capital Improvement Plan and update and extend it every two years.”

So it looks like we have a school board committee for work the SAU should be doing, and an SAU advisory committee for work the school board should be doing.

The Sandown Schools Consolidation Committee will meet every Tuesday at 4 pm for 6 weeks.

And finally, the Timberlane School Board voted to consolidate the Sandown schools last night.

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Filed under Closing Sandown Central, Right to Know issues, Sandown Issues