Category Archives: Withdrawing from District

Another Elected Official Told Not to Trespass

One hour ago, long-time Hampstead resident and SAU critic Jorge Mesa-Tejada was served with a no trespass order from the Superintendent of the Hampstead School District, Dr. Earl Metzler.

The SAU conveniently had a press release prepared – which has not been circulated to the members of the SAU board.

Mr. Mesa-Tejada is chairman of the Hampstead Budget Committee which oversees the Hampstead School District budget in an advisory capacity. During last night’s public budget committee meeting in Hampstead, Mr. Mesa-Tejada was discussing whether or not the budget committee should recommend the school district’s warrant asking for a $4.5 million bond for school building and renovations. One of the arguments advance during a slick school building bond presentation played during the Hampstead School Board meeting a few nights ago, was that students were unsafe from harm when transfering from portables to the main school building.  Last night Mr. Mesa-Tejada ridiculed that safety concern by pointing out in more detail than necessary that the children were far more at risk on the playground than when transferring between portables. It is his ridicule, which you can see at 46 minutes into last night’s meeting, that was the superintendent’s pretext for disgracing a valued elected official and an outspoken critic.

video=bb8c5e404f68ea648cd9d1dd5e255714

Mr. Mesa-Tejada is also the lead petitioner for a citizen’s petition competing against the school district’s $4.5 million bond request. His petition asks for just $1.2 million for renovations only.

No trespass order

Hampstead School District Press Release 01 15 16

Since this is the second time Dr. Metzler has invoked police authority against an elected official who is also a critic, I have called for an emergency meeting of the SAU board. Mr. Mesa-Tejada clearly had no ill intent in mind. No fair minded person could possibly have construed his comments as a threat but only as disparaging the administration’s far fetched justification for what Mr. Mesa-Tejada considers an unnecessary expenditure.

The Hampstead School District has received a citizen’s petition to withdraw from the SAU.

The Hampstead Budget Committee voted not to recommend the school district’s bond warrant by a vote of 1 for and 4 against.

 

11 Comments

Filed under Sandown Issues, SAU 55 Issues, Withdrawing from District

Proposed Changes to RSA195:25 on Withdrawal

This week it is expected that the New Hampshire state legislature will be introducing House Bill 1303 and referring it to the Education Committee for hearings. House Bill 1303 clarifies some of the ambiguous language in RSA 195:25, 28 and 29 concerning a town withdrawing from a cooperative school district.

The proposed legislation attempts to clarify four points in the current legislation:

  1. Time of delivery of a minority report.  Current legislation says a minority report is to be submitted at the same time as a district report.  This left a minority report in limbo if no district report was done, or if it was submitted well before a minority report could be completed, or if a hostile withdrawal plan was submitted by the district. This clarifies that a report from the withdrawing town can always be submitted to the Board of Education.
  2. Capital Contribution payback. Current legislation is highly ambiguous. The demands of fairness require the withdrawing district to pay back capital contributions by the district to their town – but only in excess of what the town has paid in capital contributions to the other towns in the district.
  3. Capital forfeiture.  The current legislation is ambiguous as to what and when capital forfeiture applies.  The proposed change clarifies that the forfeiture begins upon the transfer of title to buildings and land in the withdrawing district.
  4. Approval of a withdrawal plan.  The current legislation leaves towns wishing to withdraw from a cooperative district open to threats, which was in fact used again Sandown in 2015.  The current legislation appears to allow a district to expel a town that merely undertook to explore withdrawal. (I don’t believe the Board of Education would permit this, but it is a logical possibility if not an actual one.) The proposed legislative change would require a majority vote by both the town that initiated withdrawal exploration AND the entire school district in order to effectuate a withdrawal.  This takes threats off the table and gives the withdrawing town an equal part in the final decision.

Here is a link to the current legislation with the proposed changes.  HB1303

Thanks go to Jim Devine, Chris True, Sandown State Reps, and Ken Weyler of Kingston, for sponsoring this bill. To those vocal on Citizens Against Withdrawal from Timberlane Facebook page (which, in an abundance of transparency, has completely blocked my access) please remember we live in a democracy where anyone can petition for changes to laws. This is neither sneaky, dishonest nor unethical and our representatives in the state legislature are doing their job. Yours is not the only opinion on matters and those who disagree with you are not evil.  Here are some comments from this Facebook page:

Kelly Ward: “…Very dangerous and reckless way to try and get your way.”

Debra Oxner Rose: What is wrong with them??

Michelle Livingston: They will not stop until they get their way, regardless of what’s right for Sandown and Timberlane.

Michelle Chagnon Lavoie: How did you find out that they were up to this? They are so damn sneaky and underhanded!

Kelly Ward: It was sent to me in an email as an FYI, so I put it up here. I know there’s not a lot we as citizens can do besides vote in REPs that actually represent us and not use the position as a means to forward their own agendas. So that is why we need to expose these REPs and the others for who they truly are. I will [not] go into naming names, but we need to keep a close eye on these people, they are devious.


Mr. Ward and others, what about the democratic process don’t you like?  Did we stack the Deliberative session with union members and then plant a shill to limit debate?  Did we spread unrealistic threats about being expelled from the district?  Do we use students and school facilities to make campaign advertising?

 

19 Comments

Filed under Withdrawing from District

Smarter Balanced Results: TRSD vs. Comparables

Here are the Smarter Balanced 11th grade test results for selected districts comparable to Timberlane.  Only one of these districts, (Keene), had higher per pupil costs in 2014/15 than TRSD – coincidentally, that is the district with the weakest results, proving once again that money does not buy quality education. (The 2015/16 cost per pupil has not been finalized by the Department of Education yet.).

Results for Pinkerton Academy have been included because Pinkerton was proposed as a high school of record in the minority committee withdrawal plan.

Smarter Balance G11 results 2015

UPDATE:  Thanks to the reader who pointed out that I had erroneously shown Bedford’s Math result as 59 – the correct number is 57.  Still the highest in the group.

11 Comments

Filed under Academic Achievement, Withdrawing from District

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/

Leave a comment

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

How Your School Board Hides the Truth

Last night’s school board meeting was a raucous one but most of the shouting happened before the camera started rolling.

First, the immature drama

Chairman Steenson instructed me to change my seat at the board table.  I calmly but emphatically refused.  Ms. Steenson reacted like a mother with few coping skills to a daughter in defiance. She insisted and moved the name plates.  I refused and helpfully suggested she call the police.  At that she stormed out of the room clutching her cell phone saying, “I just might do that!”  When she returned, she asked Mr. Sapia to please sit at the end of the table so Mr. Spero, who arrived quite late to the meeting, would not have to sit at the end of the table.  Mr. Sapia did not do so.

Then, revenge

Mr. Sapia later felt the chairperson’s wrath when she tried mightily to shut him down during Other Business. Coincidentally, Mr. Spero was the one who voiced his support for Mr. Sapia speaking to his issue about the athletic wing during Other Business. Mrs. Steenson’s vigorous attempt to shut down Mr. Sapia can be seen around 10:45 pm when the Vimeo is posted. (The Sept. 3 meeting is available now as a live stream capture in five parts but the last part of the meeting does not play….sigh.(http://livestream.com/TRSD/TRSB)

We mustn’t dress the mannequins in the window

Mrs. Steenson takes it upon herself to shut anyone down who wants to contribute something she doesn’t want to be heard. That is her idea of being a chairman, along with arranging the boardroom table. You can also see her shut me down when I bring to the board’s attention that Mr. Collins has a tactic of moving outrageous dollar figures forward so the board can feel virtuous in approving a more modest number that is probably larger than could have been hoped for in an honest approach to things. You can see this little drama at about 58 minutes into the meeting. The board voted to add $350,000 to the Fund Balance Retention on top of the $250,000 they previously voted to squirrel away. This is the harm that comes with running ridiculously high surpluses. It’s your money, but you can’t have it back. We need a rainy day fund…. that’s only prudent…even though we normally have a $2 million surplus. I called this fund a moral hazard and poor Messrs. Sapia and Bealo thought I was insulting the ethics of the towns’ selectmen!  A definition of “moral hazard,”  a term used in finance, is below for their benefit.

Now, the duplicity

At the beginning of the meeting Mr. Collins motioned that approval of the minutes should be moved to the end of our meetings. He argued that this is for consideration of presenters. I believe it is to keep the public from learning how controversial the minutes often are. Last night was a prime example.

The non-public minutes for Aug. 27 came up for approval.  Here is the summary of a 35 minute non-public session:

“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.”

That is as false as a sidewalk Rolex in New York City .   Mr. Horns has not threatened to sue us or even implied that he would do so. We, on the other hand, have threatened to sue him, as evidenced in a letter the board subsequently sent to Mr. Horns.

I proposed this amendment to correct the historical record:

“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.”

The board voted against accepting my amendment by a vote of 1-7 (Mr. Blair abstained as he was not present during the non-public session.)

Why was it so important for your school board to hide the truth from you and history?  You will have to ask your own representatives, but here’s my guess: they had to hide the fact that they were not in compliance with the law…. but they overlooked one eency weensy provision for permitted non-public sessions:  the threat of legal action has to be in writing.

91-A:3, II    (e) Consideration or negotiation of pending claims or litigation which has been threatened in writing or filed against the public body or any subdivision thereof, or against any member thereof because of his or her membership in such public body, until the claim or litigation has been fully adjudicated or otherwise settled. Any application filed for tax abatement, pursuant to law, with any body or board shall not constitute a threatened or filed litigation against any public body for the purposes of this subparagraph.

As a point of information, this section of 91-A will be changing in January to permit non-public discussion of litigation contemplated by a public body, so you can decide how much the board should be beaten up about this violation. Lying about it in the minutes and not recording my objection to the entire proceeding is another matter altogether.

The moral** of the story:  Don’t trust what you read in TRSB minutes.

Moral Hazard:

  1. lack of incentive to guard against risk where one is protected from its consequences, e.g., by insurance.

http://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=moral%20hazard%20definition

Coming soon:  How the board spent $30,000 wastefully, and Superintendent “Goals.”

** “Moral” used in this sense means “a message.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Non-public session abuse, School Board Behavior, Taxes, Withdrawing from District

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.)

6 Comments

Filed under Withdrawal Feasibility Study, Withdrawing from District

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

18 Comments

Filed under Withdrawal Feasibility Study, Withdrawing from District