Category Archives: Spanish Consultant Contract

SAU Violates Policy to Offer Metzler Early Renewal

Not only did your SAU board vote to renew Dr. Metzler’s contract under total cloak of darkness, but they violated their own policy to do so last night. The policy was not waived nor was it even mentioned. (Thank you to a reader for bringing this policy to my attention*)

SAU Policy CBC

SAU ADMINISTRATOR CONTRACT
New contracts, renewals or extensions for SAU administrators will be considered at the spring meeting of the SAU each year. A majority vote by the SAU Board will authorize the Chairperson to sign the contract on behalf of the SAU with the SAU administration.


This irregularity has the result of stripping any newly elected members to both the Hampstead and Timberlane School Boards of any say in the continuation of the superintendent’s term. This disenfranchised the public.

Now look at all the irregularities associated with your boards’ actions concerning the Metzlers.

  • TRSB went into an illegal non-public to discuss a contract for hiring Mrs. Metzler back in March of 2014.
  • Mrs. Metzler was hired as a consultant to the district in a newly created role. The board was told she was the only person in the state with the necessary qualifications. We subsequently found out this is not correct.
  • Mrs. Metzler’s contract was renewed without a vote of the board and about six months before it was due to expire.
  • Mrs. Metzler’s contract was renewed, extended to five years and signed without the knowledge of the board as a whole.
  • Mrs. Metzler’s five-year contract does not contain a non-appropriation clause therefore by law it should have gone before the voters.
  • Dr. Metzler’s contract is voted to be renewed outside of the prescribed time as set by policy, which is the spring after elections, and without notice to the public.

It is important to note that all these actions were taken by your elected officials. Neither Dr. Metzler nor his wife are responsible for the behavior of your school boards (who make up the SAU board).

About the Contract

The superintendent’s contract itself has very unfavorable terms should the SAU board want to change superintendents. The contract must be bought out unless the superintendent is released “for cause,” and I can assure you that any “cause” would end up in court. This is why it is a very bad business move to offer long contracts and there is no need of it. Keep in mind that the superintendent by contract can leave at any time with notice so the length of the contract doesn’t protect the district from change but only subjects it to Draconian consequences should we wish a new superintendent.

Here is Dr. Metzler’s first contract:  Metzler 2012-2015 (3)

The first renewal added an addendum stating the contract was renewed on the same terms until 2017.

* The reason “superintendent contract renewal” should have been put on the agenda was to allow board members to do research ahead of time. Honestly, I doubt I would have looked at policy in this case, but I would have had a chance to do so – and compare our superintendent’s contract with others around the region.  That I would have done. Your board consistently abuses the discretion they have been granted to discuss things in secret and it only ever works to your disadvantage.

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Filed under Non-public session abuse, Sandown Issues, SAU 55 Issues, School Board Behavior, Spanish Consultant Contract

How to Fix Non-public Meeting Abuse

Since issues with non-public meetings have come up on Friends of Education at Timberlane, as well as in the comment section of this blog, I would like to share my proposed solution for non-public meeting abuse. This essay was written last year in October and is not in response to anything recent.  It is not in any way an implied criticism of the selectmen of  Sandown and Danville nor is it intended to suggest that they have abused the Right to Know law with respect to non-public sessions.

Secrecy is to politics what vinyl siding is to termites which is why New Hampshire’s Constitution states “…the public’s right of access to governmental proceedings and records shall not be unreasonably restricted.” Nevertheless, some government business does need to be done out of the public eye for everyone’s best interests. How can we balance the public’s right to access with government’s need for secrecy?

New Hampshire has addressed this question in its Right to Know law which sets out the legally permissible reasons for public bodies to conduct non-public meetings (specifically RSA 91-A:3). I believe this law is badly in need of revision because it is widely violated with impunity.

In my short seven years of civic participation, I have found that local public bodies go into non-public more than they strictly need to, their discussion often wanders off allowable non-public topics, and sometimes the very reason for the non-public session does not fall under the law’s allowable non-public topics. Citizens are helpless to stop these abuses because they are by their nature secret and when they are exposed, the only recourse is a private suit against a public body.

Before I share my simple solution, let me give you a few examples of non-public meeting abuse from my own experience. Earlier this year, the Timberlane School Board hired the superintendent’s wife as a consultant. Contract discussion was done in non-public citing 91:A:3(a) which relates to the “…dismissal, promotion, or compensation of any public employee.” A consultant is not rightly considered a public employee. (The consultant’s contract was not made public. I obtained it via a Right to Know information request just after being elected to the school board.)

In 2013, the Timberlane School Board cited 91-A:3(i), to discuss mold in portable classrooms. This RSA allows non-public consideration of matters relating to emergency functions intended to thwart widespread damage or injury. Mold in portable classrooms or anywhere in school buildings may be a health concern, but it is hardly a security issue. The public had every right to know the condition of the portables.

Please don’t think that the Timberlane School District is the only one pushing the boundaries of non-public meetings. I could continue with examples involving other subsections of 91-A:3 from other public bodies. Some examples would be outright violations of the law, while others legally apply the provision to situations I believe are much better dealt with in public, such as performance reviews of superintendents, town managers, and other senior staff.

The Right to Know law does require documentation of non-public meetings by minutes. This is hardly enough because minutes can be sealed and kept from public view for decades. They can also be vacuous. My school district’s non-public minutes, as an example, contain one or two sentences about the discussion topic, as vaguely worded as possible, and nothing else concerning the discussion. Whether the non-public session went for five minutes or an hour and a half, the minutes are the same and absent details of discussion. Add to this the widespread misconception that everything said in non-public is absolutely confidential, and you have a perfect information blackout to the public even if the minutes aren’t sealed.

Any solution must:

  1. Create a disincentive to enter into non-public discussion so only those that are absolutely necessary and legal will be conducted;
  2. Shorten the length of non-public discussion to prevent wandering;
  3. Permit the public to see the legitimacy of every minute and topic in non-public discussion;
  4. Prevent unnecessary sealing of minutes and unreasonably long sealing periods which now are arbitrarily imposed without accountability;
  5. Free members to reveal abuses that take place within non-public meetings.

My proposal: require a verbatim transcript of all non-public meetings called under those subsections of the law frequently abused (viz; a,b,c,d, e and I). Transcripts may be redacted for reputation and privacy but the redactions (not deleted) must remain available for review by a judge. Any failure to completely transcribe or improperly redact will absolve all participants of their duty of confidentiality on the specific matter involved. Minutes may be sealed but the permitted length of time they may be sealed will be related to strict necessity, not arbitrary decision.

Such a simple requirement is a big disincentive and will quickly put an end to illegal secrecy. Elected officials are going to fling themselves against the crowbar as we try to lift off the siding. They will say this will impose costs. They will call it an unfunded mandate.

In fact, the costs of my proposal are almost certainly much smaller than lawsuits municipalities might fight and lose against citizens who pursue their right to know as a result of non-public session abuses. Not only that but towns and school districts can manage their costs by being much more circumspect about the length and frequency of non-public meetings.

As for being an unfunded mandate, the cost is entirely controllable and in many cases will not add to costs at all. School districts employ full-time people for whom minutes are just one of their responsibilities. The same can be said for many municipalities and towns. For those towns and commissions that pay a secretary by the hour, the solution would be to keep non-public sessions under ten minutes and everybody wins.

Donna Green is a Sandown representative on the Timberlane School Board and on the board of SAU 55. She is also a member of Right to Know NH, a group working to strengthen the Right to Know law. Her opinions are her own. TimberlaneandSandown.wordpress.com

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Filed under School Board Behavior, Spanish Consultant Contract

Responses to My Deliberative Speech

Gentle Readers,

Some very interesting comments have been posted to my last posting, “My Deliberative Speech.”  Please scroll down to it and click on the comments.  After the first 6, things get interesting.

For instance, it is news to me that there is a certified Foreign Language in Elementary School instructor already employed at Timberlane High School. We did not need to hire the superintendent’s wife.  I knew that there were other FLES instructors in NH, but right at our own high school, this is rich.  Pinocchio Academy and the Mushroom Farm strike the school board once again and hit you in the pocketbook, too.

And of course, the no big secret, that Mrs. Grosky, the budget committee chairman’s wife, was hired to combat “The Greens.”   Mr. Collins said so at a Danville Board of Selectman meeting.

As I said before, Timberlane does not look for the best people in its own backyard; it climbs up on ladders and peers into bedroom windows. And nepotism is far from the only hiring problem.

Those who care about education are going to wake up one day to realize that all these things that look like minor financial and ethical irregularities have completely corroded our ability to deliver a quality education.

 

 

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Filed under Budget 2015-2016, Pinocchio Academy, Spanish Consultant Contract, The Mushroom Farm

Complaint to the Office of Public Integrity

Nov.24, 2014

Dear Attorney General:

We submit the attached letter of complaint for your attention with the faith that you will forward it to the appropriate investigative team under your supervision.
The first attachment in this email is our letter of complaint concerning the Timberlane Regional School District and SAU #55 for a repeated pattern of withholding public information for political purposes and charging people in elective office for that information. The second attachment is a very detailed history of municipal budget law violations at Timberlane supported by extensive documentation we have uploaded to Google drive. The budget infractions are just a part of our larger complaint.
Thank you for your attention to this matter and we hope to hear from you soon to learn who will be investigating our complaint.
Sincerely,
Donna Green
Arthur Green

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Filed under Budget Committee, Expenditures, Non-public session abuse, PR hire, Right to Know issues, Sandown Issues, SAU 55 Issues, School Board Behavior, Spanish Consultant Contract

Surprise! Cozy Low Bid for PR Contract

Four bids were received for the district’s proposed Public Relations services.

  • $50,400   (Massachusetts)
  • $46,800    (California)
  • $39,500    (Massachusetts)
  • $18,000    (New Hampshire)

The low bid is from SERESC, the organization where superintendents go off to their final taxpayer funded reward.  About SERESC   Our former superintendent, Mr. LaSalle, now heads this organization and Dr. Metzler is one of seven fellow superintendents from neighboring SAUs who comprise the Executive Committee. You might remember SERESC as being the organization that gave us Mrs. Metzler as the Spanish consultant for kindergarten.

SERESC is quick footed, if nothing else.  They recently managed to snag Jason Grosky’s wife, Gretchen Grosky, as a PR consultant and have proposed her as the service provider in their bid.  Mr. Jason Grosky is chairman of the Timberlane Budget Committee.

The Community Relations Committee, which disgraced itself by opening these bids outside of the publicly announced time and place for the opening, will be deciding on their recommendations at their next meeting in early December.  Then they will put their recommendation forward to the school board who will bless the committee’s hard work and thank them for finding such a marvelous consultant right in our own backyard!  Actually we don’t look in backyards.  We climb up on ladders and peer into bedrooms.

Mrs. Grosky is a former journalist and editor who registered her own PR company, GMG Strategies LLC, with the state of New Hampshire in August 2013.

I should stress that no decision has yet been made and no contract has yet been awarded, but I smell her name plate being printed.

Only five short years ago our policy KDCA (student communications) said this:

“The best possible community relations grow from a superior teaching job in the classroom. Enthusiastic pupils with serious intentions, well directed by sympathetic and capable teachers, are certain to communicate with the parents and the community.  The School Board believes this is the cornerstone of good community relations.”

That earnest and encouraging paragraph can no longer be found in any of our policies.

See Dr. Metzler announcing that he had given Rob Collins of the Community Relations Committee Mrs. Grosky’s name  at the May 29 School Board meeting:

http://vimeo.com/album/255898/video/97162461     FORWARD  TO   3: 42: 40  .

Should you be concerned about the independence of elected officials in the district or the SAU,  let me reassure you that there is nothing to worry about. It’s business as usual. The wife of  SAU board member, Jason Cipriano, was hired as a full-time teacher at Timberlane in August.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Expenditures, School Board Behavior, Spanish Consultant Contract

Eagle Tribune Takes Aim at Need for PR Consultant

Today the Eagle Tribune newspaper today ran a bold editorial about the Timberlane School Board’s decision to look for a Public Relations specialist.  The editorial details many of my travails with the board and concludes: “Rather than attempting to control public perceptions of its actions by greasing the skids with a hired flack, the Timberlane board might try just answering some questions openly and honestly.”

Read the feisty editorial :Spin won’t solve Timberlane board’s communications problem

I’m grateful for their interest and their coverage.

 

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Filed under Expenditures, My censure, School Board Behavior, Spanish Consultant Contract, Taxes

Press Weighs in on Lawyer’s Letters

Attorney Richard Lehmann’s letters have made quite a stir in the press.

Rich Girard, radio commentator, was first off the mark devoting an hour to the controversy at Timberlane.  You can listen to his September 19th segment here:

Girard on Timberlane Sept. 19, 2014

Rich’s outrage is absolutely well founded.  I’ll be going on Rich’s show on Monday morning, Sept. 22, 2014 starting around 6 am.

The Union Leader’s story said: “She [Green] was issued a formal censure for violating open meeting laws and posting ‘disrespectful, inappropriate’ messages on a personal blog.” This sentence gives the reader the impression that the accusations in the censure letter were proven fact.  They are not and I dispute them.

Union Leader article Sept. 19, 2014

I do not believe I have violated any Open Meeting laws.  Writing to a quorum of a board is not a crime in New Hampshire. Furthermore, my blog is about Timberlane school district issues and is both accurate and professional.  Before moving to New Hampshire, I was previously a freelance writer with a number of respected publications.  (I was, for instance, the Canadian stringer for the Economist‘s Finance and Economics section for two years.)  The superintendent and my school board peers simply don’t like what I say so they discredit it as inaccurate and disrespectful when it is simply truthful or a fair expression of opinion.

The press has also reported that the letter of censure detailed 60 examples of inaccuracies in my blog.  The letter in fact pointed out 16 quotes and did not state what was inaccurate or otherwise objectionable about them.  I stand by every single word I have written. See these quotes for yourself.

Here is the letter of censure in its entirety: Letter of Censure Aug 28

The Eagle Tribune did a much better job of reporting the story, though it, too, reported inaccurately about the censure letter when the reporter wrote: “Last month School Board Chairman Nancy Steenson wrote Green a letter, outlining about 60 specific blog entries she said were inaccurate.”  The Eagle Trib’s James Niedzinski  did an otherwise outstanding job on a complicated subject with a long history and he has my thanks.

Here is the Eagle Tribune story:  Board Member Stirs the Pot

UPDATE:  Sept. 22, 2014:  Listen to Rich Girard interview me at the crack of dawn:  Girard interviews Green     Thank you, Rich!

 

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Filed under Budget 2014-2015, DELIBERATIVE 2014, Expenditures, Fill-time Kindergarten, My censure, Non-public session abuse, Right to Know issues, School Board Behavior, Spanish Consultant Contract, Taxes

My Agenda Requests Denied: 7-0 UPDATED

As a member of both the Timberlane School Board and the board of SAU 55, I have asked to have numerous items placed on the agenda for public discussion.  So far, every single one of my requests has been denied.  At the risk of pointing out the obvious, this means that issues of concern to Sandown residents are deliberately not being discussed at school board and SAU meetings. This is not an issue of personalities; this is an issue of the majority oppressing the minority.  As your elected representative, I am being prevented from doing my job which is asking questions and getting to the truth of matters.

Here is my first agenda request made to the chair of the school board on March 27, 2014:

Dear Nancy,

These are items I would like added to the agenda so we can address them specifically at our forthcoming meeting on April 3.

1) Decision and action on SB being given monthly line item report of expenditures;
2) Discussion and action re: expenditure of formerly projected $1.9 million surplus

3) Status of Spanish program in kindergarten and in elementary schools

4) Understanding the deliverables in the Spanish consultant’s contract

Might you also explain what you meant in your note of Sunday last as to “being held accountable” for not following the school board rules and code of ethics?
I have noted in the past that the board does not read emails or letters addressed to the board at meetings.  I would like to see this practice changed.  People from the district take the time to write to us.  I feel we should take the time to read their letters in a public forum and share our reply with them as well. Perhaps we can discuss this also at our next meeting.
Thank you,
Donna

———————

Here is my second request in reply to a board email from the SB Chair:

April 1, 2014

Nancy,

This issue should be an item on our agenda.

Donna

On Tue, Apr 1, 2014 at 10:07 AM, Nancy Steenson  wrote:

Hi all,
This has been a very difficult week with the press and people on Facebook misrepresenting facts, which has caused a PR nightmare for me personally, for the Board, and for Timberlane. If you are contacted by people who are angry with you, the Board or Timberlane in general, I would like to suggest the following:

  1.  If they are asking questions about Sweeney Todd, the Board was not part of that decision. It was never discussed by the Board, as is it not within our purview. There will be a forum to discuss the issue in the high school library Wednesday night, April 2 at 5:30 pm, and it will be open to the public. This would be a good opportunity to hear from high school administration directly, as well as a chance to ask any questions.
  2. The School Board rules have been taken out of context and misrepresented. They are not my rules as newly elected Chair; they were voted on by a majority of the Board because we have been doing business that way for years. There has been tremendous backlash to this, and we will revisit this topic on Thursday when we reconvene. We will not revisit it before Thursday night, because we will not have an opportunity to meet before then. I will not, as Chair, comment before then, because we need to come to a consensus on this together.

As  always, you are very capable of speaking with your own constituents, so please do as you see fit.

Thanks to all of you for your support during this difficult time!

Best,

Nancy

——————

On April 1, Nancy Steenson replied to me that the School Board Rules issue was still before the district’s attorney and would be addressed during “the adoption of the minutes.”  (Dealing with an extremely substantive issue during adoption of the minutes?  Highly irregular, but I let it pass.)  As for my other agenda items and the issue of correspondence, she said “our agenda is too full” and invited me to make a motion under “Other Business” to have them added to our next meeting.  Of course I did subsequently make four motions at the  meeting under “Other Business” and all four motions failed, mostly for lack of a second.  These are uncomfortable topics.  Why discuss them in public when you can just shut down a dissenting member and be done with it?

Now  the SAU board chair is also thwarting my agenda requests.

Here is my first request to the SAU Chair:

May 16, 2014

Dear Jason:

Given that the SAU board is responsible for setting the policies of the SAU, I would like to have the SAU’s new Right to Know policy discussed at the next SAU meeting.  As you probably know, Dr. Metzler has, by his own action, implemented a policy of charging 50 cents a page and refusing to provide electronic copies and requiring RTK requests to be picked up only at the SAU during its very restrictive office hours. All of this should be approved by the board and be stated in an SAU policy.
I would also like to discuss where the money came from to fund Dr. Metzler’s raise and bonus and would like to see “Budget impact of Dr. Metzler’s raise and bonus” added to the agenda.
Thank you very much,
Donna
_________________________________________________

On May 19th the SAU Chair replied that the Right to Know issue is a district issue and not an SAU issue, and that Dr. Metzler’s raise would be discussed in non-public session at the forthcoming meeting. (I would reproduce his entire email but unless I warn my correspondents ahead that I may publish their private emails to me, I publish only those emails sent to a quorum.)  I replied as follows:

Jason,

The new RTK policy is posted on the SAU website.  Here is the first sentence of that new policy:  “Right to Know requests shall be submitted to the
Superintendent’s Office in writing (emails are acceptable).”
Since the Superintendent is an employee of the SAU, my request absolutely should be addressed in the SAU agenda.
My inquiry with respect to the budget was specifically to know from what line or lines the money came for the salary increase.  It is obvious the salary line is going to be increasing. Mine is a simple budgetary question and I would consider discussion of this under non-public an abuse of 91-A. Please ask Mr. Stokinger  to report exactly from what line or lines the money is being taken to increase the salary line.
I ask you to correct your error by bring my requested agenda items up yourself under Other Business and in future will respect my agenda requests.  Thwarting my legitimate requests is in fact denying my constituents their voice.
Thank you,
Donna
______________________
The next SAU meeting is this Wednesday, May 21, (7 p.m.) and the next school board meeting is on Thursday, May 22 (7:30 p.m.).  Come watch “democracy” in action.
UPDATE:  (May 22, 2014)   
At last night’s SAU meeting, the chairman, Jason Cipriano from Hampstead, did indeed bring up my requested items under Other Business. I thank him.  The budget question was tabled because neither the district business manager nor Dr. Metzler were in attendance. The issue of the SAU Right to Know policy was discussed thanks to a “second for discussion” by Sandown’s Kelly Ward.  The board voted against creating a policy (Mr. Ward abstained), but two members from Hampstead asked for the issue to be put on the next meeting’s agenda.  To them, I am grateful.
The May 22 school board meeting has been rescheduled to May 29th.

 

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Filed under Sandown Issues, SAU 55 Issues, School Board Behavior, Spanish Consultant Contract

Ballot Recount on Saturday, March 22, 2014 and Other News

Eight teams of ballot counters will be at the Timberlane Middle School cafeteria at 8 a.m. on Saturday.  Friends are stepping forward to be observers.  Eight are needed.

The public is welcome to attend. (Expected duration around 4 hours.)

Results will be reported here.

In other news, Mr. Collins has undertaken to have the Spanish consultant’s contract to me before the School Board meeting tonight, in fulfillment of my Right to Know request.

And in the good news department, the Sandown Board of Selectman appointed Arthur Green to the school budget committee to fill my vacant seat.  The board will enjoy his quiet, logical approach to budget issues.

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Filed under 2014 Recount, 2014 TRSD Warrant ARticles, Budget Committee, Spanish Consultant Contract

Devious School Board Goes into Non-public then Votes to Approve Consultant Contract

Instead of meeting in the well-appointed SAU building, the more fitting venue for your school board should be under a blanket with flashlights.

In the most breathtaking disdain for their constituents that has my hands shaking in fury, the  Timberlane School Board went into non-public ON MARCH 6, to discuss the SERESC contract for a Spanish consultant for full-time kindergarten. WITHOUT ANY PUBLIC DISCUSSION WHATSOEVER, they unanimously approved the contract immediately after exiting non-public.  Conveniently and most suspiciously, the VIMEO of this meeting was not released until after the elections – so no one knew about this sneaky move until yesterday.

The agenda did not mention discussion or action on a contract.  There was absolutely no public discussion of the terms of the contract. And keep in mind, this was done just days before the election that put the district into a default budget for 2014-2015 and which does not include the new positions for the full-time kindergarten program.

Your school board makes a mockery of the word “transparency.”   They spend your money with abandon and they mock us all with complete indifference to public objections, and their own policies.

I have made a Right to Know request to see this contract and the RFP that solicited it.  I would like to know exactly how much the district is paying a consultant and who that consultant is…. Dr. Metzler’s wife?

Watch the meeting here:  http://vimeo.com/88915836    early on you will see me voice my objections to the contract.  At 1:25 you will see them enter non-public and then vote for the contract.

 

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Filed under Non-public session abuse, School Board Issues, Spanish Consultant Contract