Category Archives: The Mushroom Farm

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

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

School Board Shuts Down Info Requests

Here are some clips from the Nov. 19th school board meeting.  They concern two motions I made for information – one about the Smarter Balanced results and the other about a question of out-of-district tuition fees for students with IEPs.

Why would the school board not want timely, actionable data on test results?  Why would the school board not want to know how tuition is charged out-of-district students?

You will note that Mrs. Steenson lets the administration speak without being acknowledged and she allows the superintendent to speak to me disrespectfully and in a bullying fashion. I asked for specific data.  He tells me we are not getting it until he decides we are prepared to understand it  – sometime next spring when it is bundled with school action plans. Yippee.

I admit to having a hard time articulating a crisp motion in the last clip, but the thought was simple enough.

P.S. I do not control the photo that the software selects for the clips.  At least, I don’t know how to control it. The intention was not to single out Mrs. Sherman.

 

 

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Filed under School Board Behavior, The Mushroom Farm

Information Games at Your SAU

Faithful readers will remember the MS-25 (or DOE-25), the SAU’s official statement to the Department of Education of the school district’s year-end financials.  This form is one way to know what is going on financially with the district. It is also necessary for setting the district towns’ tax rates.

The form was due to the government on September first. It was not filed until some time past mid-October.

Yesterday (Nov 8) Dr. Metzler sent this email to the board:

Good afternoon! Several of you asked questions about this form the other night…and I have been assured that this is the final version of MS 25 for the NHDOE. I am sending it to you now because I intended having it your packets at the last meeting. I simply forgot to include it. I also intended on posting it once you had the final copy. We will be updating the folders later this week. Please direct any questions to Mr. Stokinger regarding this form.

In regards to next year….My hope is that you will have it in your hands at our first meeting in late August prior to the 9/1/2016 deadline.  

Respectfully,

Earl


This message from our superintendent raises a great many issues.

  • The MS-25 should be publicly available to the entire population of the district and not secreted in the  “agenda packets” on a private section of the school board website.
  • Dr. Metzler mentions a “final copy,” “final version.”  School board members signed the MS-25.  This IS the final copy. If anything is changed, those signatures are invalid. So, what is it that is being posted to “Agenda Packets”: the original signed form, or a modified, “final” version?
  • Is Dr. Metzler telling us that despite being 6 weeks late in producing the year-end information, the numbers signed and thereby attested to by the school board members who made the trek into the SAU during business hours on Oct. 13, really weren’t the true and accurate numbers?

Arthur Green has been asking after this form since October 5 because  it also reports a preliminary cost per pupil. At a school board meeting, I asked why this critical report was so very late to be told by our Business Administrator that he has had “many distractions.”

When the MS-25 was finally ready for the board’s signature, Cathy Belcher sent out an email to board members asking them to go into the SAU office on October 13 to sign the document. There was no discussion of the information with the board whatsoever. I did not sign it. Instead, I sent this reply to Ms. Belcher’s request:

I would be happy to assist but as I hope you and Mr. Stokinger are aware, I do not sign things on faith. If the underlying documents can be provided to me in enough time for me to vet and fully understand what my signature is vouching for, then yes; otherwise, my signature will not be forthcoming.

Thank you,
Donna Green

That email was sent October 13. The document was filed with the state some time subsequent. On October 13, Dr. Metzler sent out a note to our district towns apologizing for the delay in getting this information filed and the attendant delayed this caused the towns in setting their tax rates. No explanation for the delay was given but suggesting it would be filed that day.

After that note from Dr. Metzler, Mr. Green asked the Department of Education to provide him with a copy of the form. They unhelpfully directed him to obtain the form from our SAU; however, Mr. Green had already made a formal Right to Know request of TRSD to obtain this public information on October 5  (Link to blog post on this topic).  On Nov. 3 he was finally told by our SAU that the information was available – well past the time the form was filed with the state and well beyond the statutory deadline for providing information as per Right to Know requests, which, for those who don’t know, is immediately when the information is immediately available which it was the moment it was filed with the state.

Hello Mr. Green,

This email serves as notification that the item you requested under RSA 91-A (DOE 25 Form) is available for pick up or inspection at the Superintendent’s Office. There are a total of 27 pages.  The cost for copies associated with right-to-know requests are $.50 per page, thus your total (should you want copies) is $13.50. 

Kindly note our business hours of Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm.

Thank you,

Cathy


On November 6,  I spent well over an hour at the SAU scanning public documents requested by Mr. Green and that have not been given to the board or made public: the staffing report filed to the DOE, the MS-25, and the 2015 NESDEC enrollment projections report. The district wanted to charge me a total of $39.50 for copies of the MS-25, the staffing filing, and the NESDEC enrollment report – all information that should be posted online and available not only to the board but to the public.

District taxpayers should be wondering why your elected officials are not given this information as a regular part of their oversight, and why the SAU thinks it is perfectly acceptable to charge for public information that other districts post to their website. Of course, it will eventually be posted to Timberlane’s website somewhere or other – in a public or private area – but only after it has inconvenienced conscientious citizens and elected officials who care.

Well functioning districts committed to accountability to those they serve automatically post such critical information on their website for the benefit of the public.  Never assume your elected officials are seeing information that you are not.

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Filed under School Board Issues, Taxes, The Mushroom Farm

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

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

Sandown Central Closure Staff Reduction – Less Than Meets The Eye

Guest Contribution by Arthur Green

Despite being sold as a reduction of 9 positions,  the district will actually lose only 7 positions in the closing of Sandown Central.

Here are the announced staffing cuts from Sandown Central closure (all numbers are Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) staff:

  • 2.4 Teachers
  • 1 Guidance
  • 1 Nurse
  • 1 Principal
  • 1 Secretary
  • 2.4 Custodians

… for a total of 8.8 staff.  The associated salary and benefits reduction is about $700 thousand.

This year’s staffing of Sandown Central is 35.6 staff.  Let’s look at the reductions in context:

2014/15 FTE Staff Reduction Remaining
Regular Education Classroom Teachers 10.4 2.4 8
Special Education Classroom Teachers 3 3
Regular Education Aides 3 3
Special Education Aides 6 6
Principals 1 1 0
Guidance Counselors/Directors 1 1 0
Media Specialists 0.4 0.4
Media Aides 1 1
Non-teaching Professionals not included above 3.9 1 2.9
Clerical support staff 1 1 0
Other support staff 4.9 2.4 2.5
Total 35.6 8.8 26.8

 

How many of the 26.8 remaining staff are directly needed to service the relocated students?

We know that there will be 6 grade 4/grade 5 classes in the consolidated Sandown North.  That’s 6 classroom teachers.  There are 3 regular ed aides who directly support the existing classes, so they will be equally required in the consolidation. The 9 Special Ed teachers and aides workload is driven by IEPs, and we can assume that will be unchanged by consolidation.

So we can directly associate 18 staff with the transfer of 6 classrooms plus relocating special ed services.  That is half of the original staff.

What are the other nine needed for?  We would like to be told.  This has not been discussed at School Board or Budget Committee, and there is no plan which lays out the rationale for how many positions are deemed necessary.

But wait, the administration proposed, with approval of the budget committee, to add the following positions to the 2015/16 budget:

  • Principal  (with no assignment as yet)
  • Floating Nurse
  • Danville assistant principal change to full time from part time
  • Special ed teacher
  • Technology specialist

… at a total cost of $390 thousand.

Coincidentally, the principal and nurse positions correspond to positions removed from Sandown Central.

So realistically, the closure/consolidation has resulted in only 7 real staff reductions which makes one question the real savings in  the proposed consolidation.  And don’t forget the cost of upgrading Sandown North’s playground and adding a sprinkler system – expenses the superintendent says he would do anyway but were not part of the facilities five year plan.

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Filed under Budget 2015-2016, Closing Sandown Central, Expenditures, Sandown Issues, Taxes, The Mushroom Farm