Category Archives: School Board Functioning

SB Meeting: Immature Malice on Full Display

Three board members used the Public Comment portion of the school board’s agenda last night (Feb 16, 2017) to air their grievances.  Board members cannot get items on the agenda and so must resort to Public Comment period for three minutes of free speech. The Timberlane board, you see, does not control their own agenda. As a result, their meetings are usually little more than puppet shows — of the Punch and Judy kind. Last night was different. The drama turned against Punch.

Jack Sapia, school board representative from Atkinson, is not running for re-election.  Last night was his last meeting as a board member and he decided to go out with a bang.  Mr. Sapia read a list of objectionable incidents contrived by Chairman Bealo and then called for Bealo’s resignation from the board.  Bealo pretended nothing had happened and moved on.  Fortunately social media and the press are not moving on.

One particular incident Mr. Sapia related involved me.  According to Sapia, before the October 6, 2016 school board meeting, Bealo bragged to some board members that he was going to “set me up” with an anonymous donation.

Sure enough, I objected to accepting an anonymous donation, as I always do, and Bealo shot back with some quick insults calling me the busybody Aunt Bea from the old TV series, Mayberry RFD.  Without knowing**  about the “set up,” Sapia joined in disparaging my concerns, although minus Bealo’s personal insults.

Stefanie Dube showed remarkable insight and backbone to call them both out.  She was the only person on the board to understand that malicious behavior towards one is a threat to all – eventually. Mr. Sapia now knows it as well.  Perceptively, Mrs. Dube told Bealo that he had to have known that the anonymous donation would elicit my criticism.  Bealo put on a good show of innocent indignation, showing what bold-faced lying looks like in real life.

According to Sapia, Bealo then gloated about his success and enjoyed a laugh in front of him with the same confreres after the meeting.

You can watch the immature malice in this 6 minute video from the October 2016 meeting:

Bealo donation setup

Mr. Sapia should be given credit for pulling back the curtain on the evil puppet show and I thank him for it. To hear all of Mr. Sapia’s complaints, start at 13 minutes into this video:

TRSB Meeting Feb 16, 2017

Vote wisely in March.

** A previous version of this post reported that Mr. Sapia knew about the “set up” before the meeting.  He corrects my misapprehension and affirms that he knew about the plot only afterwards when he was present with the inner circle of board members.  I apologize to Mr. Sapia for the error.

 

 

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Filed under Pinocchio Academy, School Board Behavior, School Board Functioning

Transparency Wins More Ground

In one week, NH had two big advances in citizen’s right to know what their government is doing.  On April 19, the NH Supreme Court ruled that public bodies must provide electronic documents if they exist in electronic form and if they are so requested. This puts an end to public bodies insisting on providing paper copies exclusively, as did the Timberlane Regional School District until that ruling.

Four days after that seismic ruling, Governor Hassan signed into law HB 1418, a bill requiring the same level of detail in non-public minutes as in public minutes.  HB1418 was initiated by Right to Know NH and will become effective on January 1, 2017.

Thanks go to the sponsors of HB1418 for their commitment in shepherding the law through two judiciary committees and the House and Senate: Rep. Sylvia, Rep. True, and Rep D. Brown.  Chris True, representing Rockingham 4 from Sandown has been in the House just a year but his responsiveness and tenacity has already made a difference. Both House reps from Sandown, Chris True and James Devine,  sponsored important and meaningful legislation this session.

See what Timberlane’s non-public minutes look like now:  NonPublic TRSB 02 18 16 (2)*

For more information on Right to Know legislation this year, both successful and unsuccessful, see RightToKnowNH.wordpress.com.

*UPDATE (5/6/16):  A previous version of this article contained non-public draft minutes from April, 2016 that were subsequently sealed (over my objections) at the May 5, 2016 school board meeting.

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Filed under School Board Functioning, School Board Issues

Subcommittees and Non-public Meetings

Board subcommittees should not be meeting in non-public to the exclusion of other board members.  Period.  A recent action by your school board will show why.

On April 14, the TRSD Safety Committee along with police went into non-public to have a discussion with Homeland Security.  The Safety Committee co-chairman, Kelly Ward, refused to allow me to be present during this non-public meeting even though I was there (during the public portion) and requested to attend.  (I am not a member of the Safety Committee, which is a standing committee of the school board.  I am, however, a member of the school board.)

At their previous Safety Committee meeting, that committee once again met in non-public with a Homeland Security representative.

Subsequent to this non-public safety committee meeting, the school board was asked to approve a Homeland Security matching grant for $48,000 in total.  ($24,00 in TRSD commitment.)  The board was not given any written material to support this need for money, nor was the board given, despite my request, the terms and conditions of the matching loan itself. The most sketchy details were floated of what would be done with this money, and a vote was taken, as it often is at our board, “on faith, and trust.”  My personal account of those TRSD commodities is in overdraft right now.

Fortunately I was able to obtain more detailed information through public documents made available by the Manchester School District.  They applied for the same grant.

What I learned from Manchester

  1. The equipment has to be purchased and installed by September 30, 2016 and the paperwork for reimbursement must be completed by Oct 31, 2016. I do not recall this being mentioned during our brief discussion of this grant because I would certainly have asked after our manpower to get all this ordered and installed in such a short time – as well as the bookkeeping followup during SAU summer hours.[Note: other board members got a single sheet of paper that I’ve subsequently learned did say that the equipment had to be installed by Sept. 30.  That paper was absent my packet.]
  2. The equipment purchases must comply with OMB Circular 2 CFR 200 which requires in part that:

    §200.62   Internal control over compliance requirements for Federal awards.

    Internal control over compliance requirements for Federal awards means a process implemented by a non-Federal entity designed to provide reasonable assurance regarding the achievement of the following objectives for Federal awards:

    (a) Transactions are properly recorded and accounted for, in order to:

    (1) Permit the preparation of reliable financial statements and Federal reports;

    (2) Maintain accountability over assets; and

    (3) Demonstrate compliance with Federal statutes, regulations, and the terms and conditions of the Federal award;

    (b) Transactions are executed in compliance with:

    (1) Federal statutes, regulations, and the terms and conditions of the Federal award that could have a direct and material effect on a Federal program; and

    (2) Any other Federal statutes and regulations that are identified in the Compliance Supplement; and

    (c) Funds, property, and other assets are safeguarded against loss from unauthorized use or disposition.

Oddly enough, this is exactly the issue Timberlane’s own auditors pointed out that we fell down doing – complying with the conditions of Federal program for equipment given to us or bought with Federal money.

“Basis for Qualified Opinion on CFDA No. 84.010 Title One Grants to Local Educational Agencies: As described in the accompanying schedule of findings and questioned costs, the Timberlane Regional School District did not comply with a requirement regarding CFDA No. 84.010  Title One Grants to Local Educational Agencies as described in finding number 2014-001 for Equipment and Real Property Management. Compliance with such a requirement is necessary, in our opinion, for the Timberlane Regional School District to comply with the requirements applicable to that program. ” (page 27 of the TRSD audit 2014, the most recent one available and not posted publicly.)

What else don’t we know?

Who knows what else about this rushed grant we don’t know. If I didn’t learn of this from another school district with a more robust commitment to transparency, I’d not even know this much. This is just one of the many problems with letting a subcommittee conduct its affairs in non-public to the exclusion of the rest of the board. The imaginable problems are countless because the board as a whole must operate on trust and faith rather than knowledge and facts when one of its sub-committees conducts its business in non-public to the exclusion of other board members.

Security: Yes;  Blind Faith, NO

There is no doubt security matters must be discussed in non-public. There is also no question that these non-public meetings should not exclude other members of the board who just so happen not to be assigned to these particular sub-committees.  If other members are content to operate on blind truth, that is their constituents’ loss.  I plan to do my job and trust is a luxury for non-elected persons.

Manchester Board of School Committee also approved a Homeland Security grant, but  their board had a detailed, written accounting of everything the grant money would be spent on as well as ALL the associated grant documents AND they posted this publicly.  Manchester B of SC Agendas   (See April 18, 2016 meeting materials.)

Is TRSD so transparent it is translucent, as Dr. Metzler claims?  Really?

Why are TRSD’s audits not on public pages of our website? Why aren’t the SAU audits on the public pages of the SAU site?

 

 

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Filed under Expenditures, School Board Functioning

Policy vs. Practice

Timberlane Policy DJE

BIDDING REQUIREMENTS
The Superintendent is required to get written competitive bids on purchases of supplies, materials, equipment, and contractual services in the amount of $10,000 or more. As a general rule, purchases of $1,000 or more per item will require at least three competitive documented quotes for the open market. All purchases made in the open market shall be consummated after careful evaluation.

In May 2014, your current board added the following: “Existing services that continue to meet the needs of the district shall be subject to an annual review and may not need to go out to bid.”

This is the pernicious result:

To me, the most flagrant example of the mismanagement of your money is the board’s refusal to insist that all contracts go out to bid on a regular basis. Our auditing arrangement is badly in need of a change because our annual audits are regularly 8 months late and are given to the SAU instead of the school board which is the authority that nominally commissions the audit and is the responsible body for dealing with weaknesses.

 

 

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Filed under Expenditures, School Board Behavior, School Board Functioning, Taxes

More Exploits from the Mushroom Farm

Social media has been abuzz since Cindy Buco announced at Sandown’s Town Deliberative Session on Jan. 30 that the consultant supposedly hired by the school district’s withdrawal study committee  was never actually hired and never actually did any work – despite Rob Collins’ assertions in the past that this consultant had verified the preliminary buyout number.  Something isn’t making sense.

To clear things up I sent the school board chairman, Mrs. Steenson, an email yesterday:

Dear Mrs. Steenson:

Please add to the next School Board meeting agenda the following:
   Discussion and action on communication to the school board concerning the engagement and pay of the consultant associated with the TRSB’s Sandown Withdrawal Study Committee.
I await confirmation that this will in fact be placed on the forthcoming agenda.
Thank you,

Donna Green


Here is the reply I received today:

Mrs. Green

If you have a question about the  consultant, feel free to contact Rob. He’d be glad to answer any questions you may have. There is no need to put this on the agenda. Furthermore, we won’t have a meeting for two and a half more weeks. I’d like you to get any questions you may have answered a lot sooner than that.

Nancy


My reply:

I’m overwhelmed by your kind solicitude. Do you ever get tired of putting your head in the sand and covering for Rob?


Mrs. Steenson’s reply:

Mrs. Green,

I am trying to get your questions answered in a timely manner. I am sure Mr. Collins would be happy to clear up any confusion for you.

Nancy


My reply:

It should be evident that mine are not questions that need to be cleared up but rather to discuss an issue of Mr. Collins’ conduct.


Mrs. Steenson’s reply:

No, Mrs. Green, it was not evident. I suggested you contact Mr. Collins because you appeared to have a question about the consultant for the committee which Mr. Collins chaired. If you have specific concerns about the conduct of another board member, I’d be happy to set up a meeting between the vice chair, you and me to discuss your concerns. But I would suggest that an open dialogue with Mr. Collins would be a very productive first step for you in understanding his actions.

Nancy


My reply:

 This is an issue for the entire board and the public as a whole as it goes to the credibility of the district’s withdrawal study committee and apparent deception to the school board as a whole.  This needs to be dealt with in public at a board meeting.  You had no hesitation whatsoever in discussing issues with my behavior in public without so much as a notification to me in advance.  I see no reason why something much more seriously such as what appears to be outright dishonesty to the board should not be placed on the agenda for public discussion.

The agenda for our next meeting on Feb 18 was posted two and a half hours later with no inclusion of my requested agenda item.  Talk to the hand while it feeds the mushrooms.

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Filed under Pinocchio Academy, School Board Functioning, School Board Issues, The Mushroom Farm

School Cancellation Protocol Itself Requires Protocol

When you wake up with 8 inches of snow in your driveway, or go to bed worrying about the overnight weather, our SAU has established a list of outlets for the announcement of snow days. This list was prudently circulated yesterday by press release. This time, though, there is a new twist.

For those who want the very earliest announcement about school cancellation, follow Superintendent Metzler’s Twitter feed – not Timberlane’s Twitter feed.

The press release says in part, “Earliest announcements will be made through Twitter. Those wishing to receive Twitter announcements may do so by subscribing to Twitter; twitter.com/SuptSAU55.”

Timberlane’s Twitter address is: twitter.com/TimberlaneRSD.

I have a suggestion.  How about using my blog as the earliest announcement media location?

Clearly, we need some protocol about the protocol. Do we want employees enhancing their social media profile as part of their professional duties?

You can be sure I will never have the opportunity to bring this up at a school board meeting because the chairman has imposed a hard stop to meetings at 10:30 pm, extended only to complete the most pressing topics.  It was ostensibly imposed to end long meetings, but it was really imposed to prevent “Other Business” topics and “Reports of the School Board” which are regular agenda items now never addressed. Since the chairman will not include agenda topics from me, especially ones that might result in some direction to our superintendent, there is no way for a dissenting board member to ask for discussion of runaway advisory committee propagation, the use of press releases to inform the board of important business, the superintendent’s use of social media, and so on.  School board meetings are all for show and have no substance. And please do not think profundity is going on behind the scenes.  What you see, is what there is.

Snow Day Announcements Press Release:   SNWDYS2015-2016

 

 

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Filed under SAU 55 Issues, School Board Functioning

Many Steps Too Far

Our superintendent has announced yet another Advisory Committee, this time one called the “Timberlane Parents Advisory Forum.”

You may think this initiative is an invitation to dialogue, but it is actually a dead end to elected irresponsibility.

Here is today’s announcement:

Superintendent Dr. Earl Metzler is pleased to announce the establishment of TPAF, the Timberlane Parents Advisory Forum. TPAF will meet every other month, beginning in January, and be co-chaired by parent Julie Hammond, former Citizen Advisory Committee member Kate Delfino, and District administrators Deb Armfield and Christi Michaud. TPAF is charged with providing a forum for parents of Timberlane students to share their concerns and offer feedback to District leaders regarding program, curriculum and instruction. All parents of Timberlane students are invited to attend these meetings. Dates, times and locations of these meetings will be posted at ttps://public.timberlane.net/projects/paradv/default.aspx .

Parents may suggest agenda topics for these forums by emailing forum members at TPAF@timberlane.net.


This is a major initiative involving the community, parents and students, yet it was done completely without approval or even knowledge of the school board.  The school board should have been consulted to decide the scope of this “forum” and how it was to be composed – if at all. You will notice that there is no school board member involved with this “forum.”

You may think it alarmist for me to say again, yet even more forcefully in this case, that these advisory groups which have grown more numerous than mushrooms on a damp lawn are turning the school board into a Potemkin Village.

Every issue, every problem you have will now be directed to some advisory committee or forum or other and your elected officials will know nothing but what the SAU chooses to put on our agenda – of which individual school board members have no control. Under the guise of open dialogue, you are being stripped of accountability from your elected officials on the school board.

If the superintendent intended to isolate and emasculate the school board, he couldn’t have been more effective than his current course of action. The most disturbing element of these groups constructed by our superintendent is that they are being allowed and even encouraged by a board that doesn’t recognize how its own authority and avenues of information are being curtailed and undermined.

Here is the primary symptom of a lack of meaningful elected oversight: a $69.3 million budget for 16/17 was approved by the budget committee last night after only two meetings with the full budget. The proposed budget is up 1.5% over this current year’s budget.  Three new deans were added to the high school administration, a behaviorist, and one teacher/management position added to the music department in the proposed 16/17 budget. Enrollment in the district is expected to decline by 148 students next year.

Twenty-three positions were cut from the budget but despite my direct inquiries, the superintendent would not say how many of these cut positions were actually filled. TRSD has long carried an undisclosed number of vacant positions in the budget.

Going to warrant in March will most likely be a new teacher’s contract and a few facilities upgrades.

 

 

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Filed under Budget Committee, School Board Functioning, Taxes, The Mushroom Farm