Seldom do examples of waste and school board incompetence show themselves as obviously as this. On Feb 20th the Timberlane Regional School Board blessed Dr. Metzler’s suggestion that the district hire his wife to serve as a Foreign Language in Elementary Schools consultant (FLES for short). According to Dr. Metzler, over a one year contract the FLES consultant will write the Full-Time Kindgarten Spanish curriculum, help hire the Spanish teacher, supervise that teacher as he or she travels amongst four elementary schools in our district, and will also work with each school’s principal to work out scheduling issues. Not one person on the board voiced any problem with the arrangement. I’ve seen frogs on a dissecting table demonstrate more neural activity.
Let me list my objections. Full disclosure: I have not yet been elected to school board therefore my legs still twitch when taxpayers get poked in the gut.
- The Spanish teacher hired for the kindergarten program should be able to develop his or her own curriculum, or leverage the considerable resources available to the district. This is just a kindergarten program! If this program is intended to be continuous with a Spanish program throughout the elementary schools, then this is something that should have been discussed, voted and approved by the board, which it has not. THERE IS CURRENTLY NO FOREIGN LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION IN ANY OF OUR ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS. I’m not saying this is a good thing, I’m just pointing out a full-blown curriculum for kindergarten is a bridge to nowhere without a contiguous Spanish program in all the elementary grades. Should we roll out a Spanish program to all elementary grades, that’s when we should design a curriculum that encompasses kindergarten.
- The teacher hired should have a proven record of achievement and trustworthiness at multiple locations. Teachers have been peripatetic for generations and never have we had to hire a consultant to supervise them. Isn’t that what we have a superintendent and an assistant superintendent for? We also have a human resource executive, not to mention the schools’ principals and vice principals. That we need a consultant to do their job tells me they are either not actually doing any teacher supervision or Dr. Metzler thinks this case is special. I would have you note that in costing full-time kindergarten out to the budget committee, at no time was there any mention of the need for a consultant. (The full-time kindergarten budget was the subject of a Right to Know request by another member of the budget committee, Cathy Gorman, because the administration repeatedly failed to provide a detailed budget of this proposed program.)
- We also need a consultant to work with the principals to sort out scheduling issues? Hmm…. Just think of it. We are hiring a full-time Spanish teacher to travel amongst four schools. Given that Spanish instruction could not be more than 45 minutes every other day per school, and that would be a lot, we’re looking at a good amount of time free to work out scheduling issues with principals, which one would think would be worked out in advance over the summer in any event.
- If we do not currently use a consultant to hire teachers, why should a kindergarten teacher of Spanish be any different? Again, hiring is the job of the Superintendent, the principals and the school board. Let me remind you that the School Administrative Unit costs us well over one million dollars a year…. and this is what you are getting for your money…. more consultants, less accountability, program “extensions” pushed through without full cost disclosure.
- Dr. Metzler reports that his wife may be the only person in all of New Hampshire who has extensive experience writing FLES curricula. I do not doubt that this is true. Even if we could get Mrs. Metzler’s considerable expertise at a discounted rate, it still raises the question of nepotism. Nancy Steenson, Vice Chair, pointed out that the wife of our previous Assistant Superintendent worked as a teacher in the district; therefore, Ms. Steenson said, “…[This is] not ground breaking or shocking to me…. I’m fine with it.” So was everyone else at that meeting. The board needs to be reminded that contracts should go out to open bid. Period.
- The decision was made to ask SERESC for a proposal for a one-year contract for a FLES consultant for the full-time kindergarten program. “The Southeastern Regional Education Service Center (SERESC), located in Bedford NH, has a solid history of providing quality professional development and consulting services to school districts, the New Hampshire Department of Education and other similar agencies.” [from SERESC.net] I think of it as the place where retired superintendents go to collect more taxpayer dollars before they die. It is currently headed by Richard LaSalle, our former Superintendent. TRSD is a member of SERESC. Dr. Metzler’s wife works as a consultant for SERESC.
So, if the board votes to proceed, we will have taxpayer money being used to hire a consultant to implement a stand-alone Spanish program in kindergarten – and the one consultant in all of New Hampshire who could possibly do this is the Superintendent’s wife! This expense was not budgeted nor was it ever discussed when the budget committee pressed for more detailed costs of the FT kindergarten program. If it is a legitimate need, why was it not budgeted for?
On every score this is a waste of money.
Discussion during the meeting seemed to indicate that the hiring would happen some time in March. The next school board meeting is this Thursday, March 6th at Sandown Central School. I intend to be there to voice my opinion. Be prepared for the smell of formaldehyde wafting from the board.
Thank you to Jennifer Caruso for bringing this to my attention. She is the district gadfly for whom we should all be grateful.