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Welcome to the NEW Atkinson Reporter! Under new management, with new resolve.

The purpose of this Blog is to pick up where the Atkinson Reporter has left off. "The King is dead, Long live the King!" This Blog is a forum for the discussion of predominantly Atkinson; Officials, People, Ideas, and Events. You may give opinion, fact, or evaluation, but ad hominem personal attacks will not be tolerated, or published. The conversation begun on the Atkinson Reporter MUST be continued!

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Timberlane Administrators take Vegas trip on our dime!

From the Eagle Tribune;

November 22, 2010
Timberlane officials tight-lipped about Vegas trip

By Cara Hogan The Eagle Tribune Mon Nov 22, 2010, 02:05 AM EST

PLAISTOW — Four Timberlane School District administrators flew to Las Vegas for a two-day conference this month, but district officials won't say whether taxpayer money funded the trip.

The School Board chairman and the superintendent also refused to identify the four employees who made the trip.

Edwina Lovett, the district's director of pupil personnel services, said she and three other administrators paid a significant portion of the cost themselves, in order to save the district money.

"The trip was approved, but we paid a good portion of this on our own, including accommodations and food," Lovett said. "For myself, I applied for a grant and paid for the registration of the conference, roughly $500."

The conference was held at the Bally Hotel in Las Vegas Nov. 4 and 5 and focused on school improvement.

Pollard School principal Michelle Auger also attended the conference. She said it was worthwhile to hear from education expert Robert Marzano, the main speaker.

"I think the district got a good deal out of it," Auger said. "We brought back quite a few things we're beginning to implement. There were some great ideas about critical commitments essential to improving student achievement, which is what Pollard School needs to do."

Neither Lovett nor Auger would identify the two colleagues who accompanied them.

"I feel like there's a bus driving around and I don't want to throw anyone under the bus," Auger said.

She defended the trip and the money the district spent on it.

"The only thing the district paid for was the conference itself, which was about $500," she said. "We paid for the flight, our hotel and the food."

From what little information has been made public, it doesn't appear the district invested a lot of money in the trip. But officials and School Board members refused to respond to repeated requests for information.

Numerous telephone calls were made late last week to all nine School Board members. Only one board member — Louis Porcelli — responded. But Porcelli said he had never heard a word about the trip.

Superintendent Richard La Salle and School Board Chairman Elizabeth Kosta did not return repeated phone messages.

Approached before the Timberlane School Board meeting Thursday, board members and La Salle refused to comment on the trip.

When asked directly Thursday evening, La Salle deferred to Kosta.

She initially refused comment, saying there wasn't a story.

When pressed, Kosta would only say the School Board does not approve travel expenses for the district.

At least one parent is less than pleased. Peter Bealo of Plaistow has two children at Timberlane and said at first, he couldn't believe the administration had really gone to Vegas.

"I had heard of one or more members of administration attending a conference," Bealo said in an e-mail. "I assumed it was a New Hampshire statewide conference, not some trip across the country."

He said it just isn't right to spend money on this type of trip, even if the administrators paid for some of it themselves.

"In this time of cutbacks all around, and with plenty of taxpayers out of work, such a trip would be a very bad choice," Bealo said.

But Lovett defended the conference trip.

"I don't believe we're wasting money at all," she said. "There were colleagues from all over the U.S. and Canada that attended this conference. These are experts in education."

Lovett said she invites anyone with questions or criticisms about the trip to call her directly.

The Eagle-Tribune Friday filed Freedom of Information Act requests for the names of the school employees who took the trip, the amount of money the district paid and who approved the expense. The request is still pending.


Anonymous said...

Well, yes they will say whether taxpayer dollars funded the trip.

If they felt they were justified there would be no attempt to hide the facts.

Sound familiar?

Anonymous said...

Why does this district always try to hide info from the public? remember the sealing of meeting minutes for 99 years? Thank you Lt. Baldwin for that one.

Anonymous said...

As one of the school's principal said, "They know what's best for our children, more than the parent." With that mentality, do you really believe that they would treat with the public with respect and share "what's best for the children"! Isn't all this information, especially regarding spending, open to the public? I don't understand why the taxpayers keep putting up with the SAU's arrogance and disrespect.

Henry said...

Las Vegas flip-flops with Orlando as the busiest convention city in the US.

It costs less to fly to, stay in and eat in Las Vegas than any other major city; unless you call Des Moines or Nashville a major city.

I have attended conventions in Las Vegas perhaps 10 times, and compared to San Francisco, L.A., New York, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, New Orleans and other popular convention venues, Las Vegas is cheaper than all; significantly. Only Orlando compares cost-wise amongst the major venues.

I cannot attest to the merits of this meeting for those who attended, but the inflammatory headline about taking a Vegas trip on taxpayers dime may be very misleading. A great deal of legitimate business gets done in Las Vegas.

I am not a big fan of the way the district is run, but fussing over how a few dimes are spent when we have problems in the millions really misses the big-picture issue.

If the blog wants to do a taxpayer service, how about an analysis of the top 10 money-wasters in the proposed SAU budget? I guarantee you 4 people to Vegas for a convention would not make the top 100.

Anonymous said...

I agree, but the fact that they won't own up to the cost of the trip and how many went, shows the ARROGANTS of all of them. They don't deserve our trust.

Henry said...

I agree they need close oversight.

But consider that they would be very happy to have you focus your energy on their "Arrogance" over a trivial Vegas conference and take your eye off the big money pork that may reside in that budget proposal.

Don't waste energy getting charged up over dimes... focus on the Dollars.

Anonymous said...

Agree, now need to focus on getting a majority at the school deliberative session to vote the budget down.

MAcciard said...

Believe it or not, it is not so much pork in the budget as it is the fact that we get so little result for our money. The issue can be summed up in Mr. LaSalle's response to my question posed below;

Q: Will this new $80,000,000.00 school improve the educational outcomes for our kids?

A: "We know we have to change what we teach, and how we teach it!"

My Follow up question:

"Then is it too much to ask that you make those changes BFORE we build you the $80Million palace?"

No answer

Anonymous said...

A couple things. First, these people attended the conference during the school year, so the district was deprived of their services. Second, at least one of the attendees is routinely out of district on business. Third the lack of candor on the part of the school board and superintendent STINKS.

Anonymous said...

Forget about the conference.

We have:

1. SAU leadership more interested in the "business" of education than quality of education. And they show little regard for the electorate.

2. Generally poor in-school educational leadership. The answer to low academic performance is not reduced rigor (doing away with exams); it is imposing heightened academic rigor and personal accountability. And not expecting more from just students... having put my own kids through TRHS over the past 10 years, there are some truly dreadful teachers in there (and some fine ones too).

3. A School Board, charged with oversight, that may be well-intentioned but is clearly ineffective. I would be OK with their "get along" approach if the SAU and Principals were delivering... but we're not achieving the academic outcomes our demographics and spending should produce.

I think Mark's questions are spot-on... give us better academic outcomes as job 1. The facilities are adequate.

Peter B. said...

I like the last sentence. So who's up for running in Atkinson?? If we get a good candidate from Plaistow as well (Jack Paone is not running again...) we could get a team to campaign together.

November 26, 2010

Editorial: School officials' travel should not be secret
The Eagle Tribune Fri Nov 26, 2010, 12:53 AM EST

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

And that is ironic, since the Timberlane School District is presumably in the business of teaching young people how to communicate better.

District officials turned what shouldn't have been a problem into a problem by their refusal to communicate information that the public has a right to know — how taxpayers' money is being spent.

Four of the district's administrators flew to Las Vegas for a two-day school-improvement conference at the Bally's hotel earlier this month. The district paid $1,725 in registration fees for the conference, and the administrators paid for their travel and other expenses.

That wouldn't have been a big deal if Superintendent Richard La Salle or School Board Chairwoman Elizabeth Costa had simply responded to questions about who went and what it cost.

Instead, they refused to answer any questions about it.

Director of Pupil Personnel Services Edwina Lovett and Pollard School principal Michelle Auger did tell reporter Cara Hogan that they had attended, and which expenses they had covered. Lovett said she applied for a grant that covered her registration for the conference.

But it took a Freedom of Information request to pry out what the district had spent and who else had attended. The other two were Atkinson Academy principal Kathie Dayotis and Pollard School assistant principal Sharon Joyce.

This is absurd. Obviously the fact that the district was forced to release the information meant it should have been released in the first place. La Salle, the highest-paid superintendent in the region, ought to have known as much.

If the conference was really worthwhile — and perhaps it was — administrators should have been vocally forthcoming about it instead of treating it like a secret junket.

The problem is not the amount of money involved, which is relatively trivial in regard to the entire budget. It is the attitude from both the superintendent and School Board members that taxpayers are expected to pay the bills but have no right to know how their money is being spent.

That is an insult that ought to be sanctioned. Perhaps, at least when it comes to the School Board, the ballot box would be a good place to start.

MAcciard said...

The problem here is two fold, a school board that steadfastly refuses to do their job, instead of supervising the superintendent and administrators preferring to be lead by them, and a budget committee whose chair claims ignorance and inability to be able to prepare a budget as the law requires. Until we get good people of character willing to do the job necessary, the budget will continue to rise even as enrollment continues to drop, as more and more parents seek out private school options, or continue to move out of the district.

Peter B. said...

OK, so are you running then???

Anonymous said...

Acciard's kids attend Pinkerton, why would he care about Timberlane students?

Anonymous said...

Maybe he'd like his kids to be able to attend the school he went to? Maybe he's just a guy who would like schools to be better? I don't think he's running for office or trying to secure a job. What's your beef?

MAcciard said...

Peter, my wife would kill me. After the vandalism to my house and car, she made me promise not to run for anything again. And for the next poster, that is also why she moved out of Atkinson. However, if she still lived with me in Atkinson, I would STILL make every effort, like so many other Atkinson parents that I know, to afford to send my kids to Pinkerton, because my kids are getting a much more stringent academic experience.

This does not mean that I want the school that i graduated from and pay for currently to continue it's slow slide into academic irrelevancy. There is NO REASON that Timberlane can not be the best high and middle schools in NH! The problems are leadership, administration, curriculum, low expectations, excuses, endless chances to hand in late work without penalty, discipline, and last but foremost; ACADEMIC RIGOR! or lack thereof.

Add in a school board that acts as bobble heads for their employees, and a budget committee whose chair thinks it's job is to "sell the superintendent's budget to the voters".

I suppose you could also add in the Teachers and PTSA parents who attended last years meeting to verbally bash anyone who asked prudent questions as "against education".

It is the lack of voter oversight that has allowed this situation to fester.

Peter B. said...

I don't know about the elementary school PTSA parents, but as the ONLY dad to regularly attend HS PTSA meetings I can tell you that a number of those parents, including some in leadership positions, are very unhappy about state of the art...

Peter B.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Mr Acciard is confusing PTSA parents with parents who work for the school district.

Anonymous said...

No difference to me!

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