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:
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.
Here is my second request in reply to a board email from the SB Chair:
April 1, 2014
This issue should be an item on our agenda.
On Tue, Apr 1, 2014 at 10:07 AM, Nancy Steenson wrote:
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:
- 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.
- 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!
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
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,
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:
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.
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.