Category Archives: Withdrawal Feasibility Study

House of Marked Cards

Danville Selectman Shawn O’Neil made a devastating public comment at last night’s school board meeting. He read a letter outlining the complete chain of events that resulted in Danville being given, mistakenly, information Danville had requested but which the school board refused to release. Let’s call this the Danville Impact Fee Controversy.

Here is Mr. O’Neil’s letter:

Dear Timberlane School Board and Dr. Metzler,

I am here tonight to address the false accusations that were annunciated by Dr. Metzler at the September 3, 2015 meeting when Dr. Farah notified the School Board that we did not need any support from the School District for our School Impact Fee analysis. Dr. Farah was asked by Mrs. Steenson if the school provided the student data and she responded that they had. She did not state that the data was used for the town study. Dr. Metzler’s response was that “It was not authorized and you have it illegally”.

I would like to point to you Exhibit A – Which is an email sent from the Danville Board of Selectmen Assessing/Land Use Clerk, Ms. Janet Denison, to Mr. George Stockinger, Ms. Kathleen Smith, and Dr. Earl Metzler outlining our request for information relative to this study. This email was dated January 22, 2015 at 9:34am. This was the email version of the request that was sent via US Mail as well.

On the same Thursday, January 22, 2015 at 4:59pm Ms Denison received an email from Mr. John Holland, Technology Director of TRSD, which indicated “As requested, attached is the list of Danville students by grade level and residence address, in Excel format.” This is illustrated by Exhibit B.

Then 22 minutes later a subsequent email was sent by Mr. Holland requesting to recall the message “Danville List”. Ms. Denison responded at 6:21pm to Mr. Holland via email, “What do you mean?” Ms. Denison called Mr. Holland’s phone on Friday, January 23 on two occasions asking for clarifications about why his list was being recalled. This is illustrated by exhibit C. Questions that Ms. Denison had included: was the data incorrect, incomplete, or outdate? Later that morning Ms. Denison forwarded the list to Mr. Bruce Mayberry from BLM Planning who was conducting the survey on behalf of the Town of Danville. Ms. Denison indicated to Mr. Mayberry that the data way be incomplete or incorrect. This was done after two phone calls went unanswered to Mr. Holland.

On Monday January 26, 2016 Ms. Cathy Belcher sent the following email to Ms. Denision as a high priority – Exhibit D which indicated ‘… the divulgence of this information may be in violation of FERPA laws.”

On Wednesday, January 28, 2015 Mr. Bruce Mayberry sent Ms. Cathy Belcher an email outlining the receipt of the recalled data, and supplied 2 pages of supporting documentation to ask for reconsideration – Exhibit E. No response followed from Ms. Belcher to Mr. Mayberry about this matter.

This information was never supplied to the School Board.

On March 12, 2015 I, acting as Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, sent a follow up to Dr. Metzler to discuss the outstanding issue that remains with respect to our School Impact fee Study – Exhibit F. You will also notice in this exchange that Danville Representative Mr. Collins was involved in this discussion and after a few email exchanges between him and me, indicated “this isn’t happening. I’ve confirmed it, it’s a FERPA violation.” This is illustrated by exhibit F.

I will disclose now that Mr. Collins and I had a phone conversation relative to this matter around this time frame and I disclosed to him that we already had the data from the SAU. His response was, “You didn’t destroy it yet?”

Now let us fast forward to the April 2, 2015 School Board meeting (Time 3:13:45 -3:24:05) when Dr. Metzler recommended to the School Board that they waive School Board policy to support the release of this information to the Town of Danville. This recommendation was based on discussions with Dr. Metzler, Dr. Farah, and Cathy Belcher in which it was noted there was no FERPA violation but rather a school board policy in place. Dr. Metzler’s office was in possession of Mr. Mayberry’s 2 page explanation of why the data was needed from Jan 28, 2015. This information was not provided to the School Board for your deliberations.

On May 7, 2015 I presented more information to the School Board which resulted in a May 21, agenda item on this topic which Mr. Mayberry attended at our expense.

On Sept 3, 2015 Dr. Farah indicated to the School Board that we had the data from the SAU but she did not indicate that we had used the data in our School Impact Fee study. Mr. Mayberry, as you may recall from his May 21, 2015 appearance is able to obtain this data in a statistical form from the State. It is not as accurate as having actual verifiable data as obtained from the District. The Town of Danville and Mr. Mayberry used the State statistical data knowing that the School District was not going to assist in our effort to obtain the data.

On Monday Sept 14, 2015 the Town of Danville received a letter from the District attorney outlining some of these events. This is illustrated as Exhibit G.

Dr. Metzler and Mr. Collins, how can you say that the District is ‘transparent’ to this community when you are not transparent to your fellow Board members? It is clear that Ms. Steenson, as Chairwoman, was not aware of the release of information by the SAU. I suspect than many of your fellow Board members were not aware either. I have seen in our schools, that you oversee, a very powerful and inspirational passage, “Character – Doing the right thing when nobody is watching”. How would you define your Character at this time?

Upon receipt of a written apology to the Danville Board of Selectmen and our staff, as a courtesy to the district, we will destroy the data, which we believe is NOT a FERPA violation but a School Board policy violation which is NOT applicable to the Town of Danville.

Thank you,

Shawn O’Neil

Chairman

Board of Selectmen

Town of Danville, New Hampshire      10.1.15 ltr to the school (1)

The Danville Impact Fee Controversy: September 17th non-public session

At the school board’s previous meeting on September 17th, the board went into non-public session on the grounds of reputation (91-A:3, II (c)). The topic was Danville’s acquisition of data for their impact fee study. In no way does the law allow this topic to be discussed in non-public.  It is not one of the clearly listed subject matter exclusions from mandatory public discussion. S0oooo,  the name of an employee was used as a pretext to hide this discussion in non-public. Your school board regularly stretches the law to keep uncomfortable realities from you. Thanks to the Danville Board of Selectmen you now know how the information got to Danville.

This time the district was thwarted in its efforts to keep unpleasant truths from the public ear, but the board nevertheless continues to do its best to distance itself from the truth in its minutes. Let’s take the non-public minutes from that meeting of the 17th.  It says that I seconded a motion to go into non-public. I don’t remember doing this, though my memory is not perfect, but given my mistrust of non-public sessions generally, I don’t think I provided the second.  Wouldn’t you know it?  The Vimeo cuts off just at the moment a second is being requested.

Then the September 17th non-public minutes go on to say that “A brief discussion ensued concerning the Danville Board of Seletman (sic) and student information.”

This is a more accurate one sentence description than is normally provided; however, the brevity of the discussion is exaggerated. The minutes show exactly two minutes elapsed, when in fact the discussion lasted well in excess of ten and I would say closer to twenty minutes because it was a far ranging discussion with a number of people jumping in. I had time to eat an entire plate of carrots and grapes so you can be sure it was not a two-minute conversation.

Same Old: The August 27th non-public session

You may not think this abuse of non-public discussions and its subsequent misrepresentation in minutes is as big a problem as I do, so let me give you some recent background.

On August 27, 2015 the board went into another illicit non-public session to discuss the possibility of launching legal action against Danville selectman Joshua Horns should he refuse to surrender either his seat on the Timberlane Budget Committee or on the Danville BOS. During this meeting I protested that it was an illegal non-public and that I wanted my protest recorded in the minutes. Here’s what the minutes ended up recording:


A discussion ensued regarding the implied threat of legal action by an individual as it relates to a conflict of interest when retaining both Board of Selectman and Budget Committee positions.

Motion: Mr. Bealo motioned to authorize Madam Chair Steenson to compose a letter to Joshua Horns to accompany the attorney’s letter requesting he make a choice of which position to serve: Danville Board of Selectman or TRSD Budget Committee member, as serving on both constitutes incompatibility of offices. Seconded was made by Mr. Sapia.

With no further discussion the motion passed by a vote of 6-1-0 (Mrs. Green opposed).


These minutes do not faithfully describe the actual nature of the discussion or my protest of it being done in non-public.  To rectify this, I made the following motion during the next PUBLIC meeting on September 3, 2015:

MOTION:  “To correct the non-public minutes of August 27 to read: ‘A discussion ensued regarding the possibility of launching legal action against an individual as it relates to a conflict of interest when retaining both Board of Selectman and Budget Committee positions.  Mrs. Green objected to the non-public as being inappropriate and illegal.’ “

In another proud moment for your school board, they voted down the motion to amend the minutes which means

  1. the non-public minutes are not accurate in their description of this discussion;
  2. my protest about the non-public session was not recorded in the non-public minutes.

But it gets better.

When the minutes for the September 3, 2015 (public) meeting came out, here’s what was recorded:

“Mrs. Green motioned to change and add wording of the discussion held during the non-public session.

For those who may not know, all motions made at public meetings should be recorded and minuted as they were said – not some Cliff Notes freeze-dried version.

Soooo, on October 1, 2015 I tried once again to get into the public record my motion to correct the public minutes of Sept. 3, 2015…. and Mrs. Steenson cut me off. The board directed the recording secretary to go back, watch the Vimeo recording, adjust the minutes, and with that they blithely and irresponsibly accepted them.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the trouble with this is that all these minutes are legal records of events, which is why it is so important for the board not to record the truth and to substitute a facsimile for history.  What a fine example for the moral instruction of our students.

Post Script

Lest you think it is only I who have issues with honesty, read the Tri-Town Times article about Hampstead’s school board feeling duped. http://tritowntimes.net/2015/09/school-district-misinformed-parents-about-controversial-program/

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Filed under Closing Sandown Central, Non-public session abuse, Pinocchio Academy, Sandown Issues, School Board Behavior, Withdrawal Feasibility Study, Withdrawing from District

My RTK Case Advances to the Supreme Court and Other News

Here are the documents filed today at the New Hampshire Supreme Court to appeal Judge David Anderson’s ruling on my Right to Know case against the Timberlane Regional School District.

Donna Green Brief Case 2015-0274

appendix to donna green brief

I will post the district’s response to this brief, as well as the hearing date, when they are available.

In other news, the chairman of the school board appointed Sue Sherman as co-chair of the Capital Improvement Plan Committee, in keeping with the vote of the CIP committee itself asking to replace Rob Collins with Sue Sherman. This is a good thing and shows some public commitment to the goal of planning capital improvements in the district.

[CORRECTION 9/22/15: A previous version of this post said that Mrs. Steenson did not have the authority to assign a co-chair to the CIP without a vote of the school board. Dr. Metzler pointed out that Policy BDE permits the SB chair and the superintendent to appoint standing committee co-chairs without a vote of the board. I heartily regret voting in favor of changing this policy and completely overlooked this unpalatable and misguided aspect of it.]

This just in:

NOTICE OF MEETING

The Sandown Withdrawal and Feasibility Study Committee will meet

on September 22, 2015 at 7:30 PM in the Timberlane Regional High

School library, 36 Greenough Road, Plaistow, NH. The committee is

tasked with conducting a study of the feasibility and suitability of the

Town of Sandown withdrawing from the Timberlane Regional School

District.

This meeting is open to the public.

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Threats of Expulsion Reach the Sandown BOS

Guest contribution by Arthur Green

At last night’s Sandown Board of Selectmen meeting, Jon Goldman asked the board to reconsider its decision last week declining a meeting with the Timberlane District’s Sandown Withdrawal Feasibility Committee.  Mr. Goldman’s concern, as best I can summarize, is that what people voted as a study could result in Sandown being thrown out of the district with a multi-million dollar bill for buyout of facilities.  (Not part of Mr. Goldman’s discussion was that this fantasy has been suggested by Rob Collins on social media.)

After deciding (on consensus) to stand by their decision of last week, the Selectmen allowed me to make a public comment.

I said (paraphrasing myself) that I was very sorry the session wasn’t being recorded and broadcast because I think it is important for people to know that the Prime Minister of the Timberlane School Board, Mr. Rob Collins, is threatening to the effect that the official withdrawal committee would be willing to vote a recommendation that withdrawal is feasible and suitable in a plan with a multi-million dollar buyout that they know Sandown can’t afford.  This could bring about a situation whereby, if accepted by the State Board of Education, 3 towns that would benefit from a multi-million dollar windfall could vote to impose it on the fourth town that would have to pay it.

These are people who beat their chests about how everything they do is for the good of the children, who are willing to use the threat of their majority on the withdrawal committee and on the school board to impose a multi-million dollar burden on one town that would make it impossible for that town to properly educate its children.

I said to the selectmen that if these are the people we are dealing with, then we can’t run fast enough to get away from them.  The willingness to make the threat speaks volumes.

Mr. Goldman suggested that the Board of Education (BOE) would merely be following the law.   I responded that the BOE is accustomed to dealing with districts which are hostile to withdrawal and try to use the process to prevent and obstruct – this is expected in these cases.  Further, the BOE will prioritize the impacts on the children, a consideration which just this past week was brought up in a Superior Court judgment declining to enforce the letter of budget and right-to-know law against the Timberlane district.

A few additional points about the likely action of the Board of Education (which I did not raise during the meeting, but which are important to this discussion):

  • There is no instance of the BOE enforcing withdrawal recommended by the cooperative district against the wishes of the withdrawing town.  This is more than a technicality.  If the town is saying it does not consider it feasible to operate as a school district, then by imposing a withdrawal plan, the BOE is stating that they are prepared to put the educational future of that town’s children at risk despite the town itself stating it does not have the capacity to deliver the educational system required.
  • The BOE is not administering Timberlane in isolation.  The overall scheme of cooperative school districts and the process for withdrawal is under their management, and they are not likely to disrupt that system for the convenience of one rogue school board.
  • The buyout fee itself is highly controversial.  I have argued here that Sandown would owe no buyout fee.  There is no question in my mind that a buyout fee in the range of $6 million to $9 million would swing the issue of feasibility and suitability. (By the way, there is no dispute about Sandown’s responsibility for its share of the outstanding bond.)

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Sandown Owes No Buyout to TRSD

At tonight’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Arthur Green made a brief presentation arguing that Sandown should owe no buyout fee to withdraw from the district.  As are all Mr. Green’s arguments, it is well supported by facts and a defensible reading of the law.  He did not have time to deliver the entire presentation tonight as he did not want to abuse public comment though the selectmen were certainly inviting and attentive.

Here is his presentation in full and I urge anyone interested in the buyout TRSD is demanding to look at these slides and form your own opinion.

Sandown Withdrawal – Buyout of Schools rev Aug10

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Breaking News: Ward out as Chair, Collins in, Steenson Exceeds Her Authority Again

In a new development of the Sandown Withdrawal Feasibility Study Committee established by the district, Co-chairman, Kelly Ward from Sandown, has resigned as co-chair.  (Note:  this is not the Sandown Study established by the Sandown BOS.) The school board chairman, Nancy Steenson, took it upon herself to issue this astonishing statement:


TO: Sandown Withdrawal Feasibility Study Committee

FROM: Nancy Steenson, Chair and Peter Bealo, Vice Chair

DATE: May 29, 2015

REFERENCE: Committee Officers

Due to the demands of serving as co-chair of the Sandown Withdrawal Feasibility Study

Committee and in light of current family and work obligations, Mr. Kelly Ward will no

longer be serving as co-chairman of the committee effective immediately. Mr. Ward will

remain on the committee as school board representative for the town of Sandown and in

doing so will remain committed to providing his very best to the citizens of Sandown and

the school district as a whole. Mr. Ward is highly regarded on the school board and on this

committee and we place high value on his contributions to the district as well as his

willingness to participate in this important study.

As appointing authority for this school board committee per RSA 195:25, and with the full

support of Mr. Bealo, my vice chair, I am appointing Mr. Rob Collins, school board

representative from the town of Danville as the Withdrawal Feasibility Study Committee

chairman. Mr. Collins is more than qualified to lead the committee’s charge as he is an

articulate, focused and organized chairman with a history of running effective and efficient

For clarification purposes, this is not a co-chair appointment, but a chairmanship. The

committee’s next point of order will be to select a new vice chair and secretary.

In closing, both Peter and I wish the committee every success in producing the feasibility

study report and look forward to our continued work as it relates to providing the very

best public education to the students of Atkinson, Danville, Plaistow and Sandown.


Once again, Mrs. Steenson is exceeding her authority.  A chairman has no authority outside of meetings to take any action whatsoever without the vote of the entire school board. Furthermore, the committee has an existing co-chair:  Cindy Buco from Sandown who by rights should now be the full chairman of the committee.  Mr. Collins is ever-present and is parachuted in to situations when they are not going in the pre-approved direction.  He instigates censures, forces resignations, steers deliberations, and generally fixes “problems.” He is the last person who should be chairing this committee.  The Capital Improvement Plan Committee, which he also chairs, is creaking into oblivion. Perhaps he envisions that same fate for this committee.

This is an affront to Sandown whose own Cindy Buco should be leading this committee so that she can ensure that Sandown’s interests in a full exploration of the options available are respected.  Mrs. Steenson should resign her position for repeatedly not knowing the limits of her authority.

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Sandown Minority Report Committee Meeting: May 20, 7 pm

The first meeting of Sandown’s own study for the feasibility of withdrawing from the Timberlane Regional School District will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, May 20th at 7 pm in the Town Hall. The agenda is reproduced below. The public is welcome.

Plans are being made to capture the meeting for cable channel broadcast and Vimeo archiving. Minutes, documents and future announcements will be posted on a dedicated page on the town’s website, Sandown.us.

Some adjustment to the membership will be made at the meeting:  Mr. Bruce Cleveland will be volunteering to assist the committee but cannot commit to full membership at this time; Ms. Sue Reynolds may not be able to be the recording secretary.

Sandown Feasibility of Withdrawal from TRSD Minority Committee

Date: Wednesday May 20, 2015

Members:

Cindy Buco (Board of Selectmen)

Tony Piemonte (Sandown Budget Committee)

Donna Green (Timberlane Regional School Board)

Cathy Gorman (Timberlane Budget Committee)

Bruce Cleveland (Sandown Moderator)

Lisa Tapley (Sandown)

Paula Martin (Sandown)

Michael Costanzo (Sandown)

Sue Reynolds (Recording Secretary)

Meeting Call to Order: 7:00 PM

Pledge of Allegiance

Organization:

Selection of Officers

  • Chair
  • Vice-Chair

Establish committees and designate committee chairs

  • Educational Plan
  • Financial Plans
  • Governance and Administration
  • Public Communication and Consultation
  • Others?

Invitation of additional members

Plan for public posting of committee materials

Public Comment: 5 minute comments

Timeline and plan:

  • Overview of RSAs
  • Feasibility Study
  • Plan for withdrawal
  • Schedule of committee meetings

Draft Outline of the Study Report

Information Requirements to be communicated to TRSD

  • Financials
  • Special Education Program Details
  • Grants
  • Transportation

Other business

Adjourn


Here is the agenda for the district’s Withdrawal Feasibility Study Committee that met on May 14, 2015:

1. Call to Order – 7:00 PM
2. Current Business
a. Committee Membership
b. RSA 195: Withdrawal From Cooperative School District – Overview
c. RSA 195:28 Disposition of property
3. Other business
4. Adjournment
AGENDA

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Breaking News: Sandown Strikes Minority Study Committee on TRSD Withdrawal

Guest Contribution by Arthur Green

At tonight’s Board of Selectman meeting which I attended, the Sandown selectmen unanimously voted to establish a minority study committee under RSA 195:25 to study the feasibility and suitability of Sandown withdrawing from the Timberlane Regional School District.

The minority committee will do its own study while the “majority committee” made up of selectmen and school board members of all four towns in the district goes about its study.

The board appointed the following committee members:

  • Cindy Buco (Board of Selectmen)
  • Tony Piemonte (Sandown Budget Committee)
  • Donna Green (Timberlane Regional School Board)
  • Cathy Gorman (Timberlane Budget Committee)
  • Bruce Cleveland (Sandown Moderator)
  • Lisa Tapley (Sandown)
  • Paula Martin (Sandown)
  • Michael Constanzo (Sandown)

Selectman Buco plans to hold the initial organizing meeting of the minority study committee on Wed. May 20, 7 pm, at Sandown town hall.  When the meeting notice is available, it will be posted on this blog,

Both majority and minority reports must be submitted to the state Board of Education by early November, 2015.  If a plan to withdraw is approved by the voters as well as by the Board of Education, the very earliest Sandown could withdraw from the Timberlane school district would be July 1, 2017.

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