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Monday, October 13, 2014

Editorial: Spin won't solve Timberlane board's communications problem

The Eagle Tribune

The Timberlane Regional School Board has correctly assessed that it has a problem with communication. But that problem won't be solved by hiring a public relations consultant.
The board would be better served by simply being open and honest with parents in the school district and with the voters who elected them to office.
The board last week agreed to begin the process of hiring a public relations consultant by approving a request for proposals. The board has yet to work out the details of the request or discuss how much it would be willing to spend on the part-time position.
School Board Chairman Nancy Steenson said the consultant would provide an honest and positive voice for the district, which serves students from Atkinson, Danville, Plaistow and Sandown.
"If we have an opportunity through someone who does this well, then we can present our story correctly," she said, as reported by James Niedzinski. "We don't have the control to make sure everything is accurate all the time."
The two key words in Steenson's statement are "control" and "accurate." They are the obsession of Steenson, the like-minded members of the board, and Timberlane Superintendent Earl Metzler.
The board's primary concern is its inability to control dissident member Donna Green, who represents Sandown, and whether every statement she makes at meetings or on her private blog is "accurate."
Reduced to its core principle, Green's complaint is that the pressure for increasing spending in the district is relentless, even as enrollment declines. The district's spending places a heavy tax burden on member communities, Green argues.
Green, whose campaign for fiscal responsibility won her election by Sandown voters, can be determined and demanding in her pursuit of district financial information. This is generally considered a positive quality in an elected representative. But to Steenson and Metzler, it is a source of irritation.
Green, like many others who question school spending, frequently faces the accusation that she is anti-education. Her quest for information often takes the form of demands under the state's Right-To-Know Law. She writes emails to the board requesting financial documents or that items of concern to her be placed on meeting agendas. She is unafraid to express her opinions on the board's actions during meetings or on her blog.
In response, the board on Aug. 28 issued a formal letter of censure to Green. The letter said Green's actions had "undermined the integrity and credibility of the Timberlane Regional School District and eroded the trust between TRSD and the community."
The letter further cited Green for the "inaccurate, disrespectful and/or inappropriate" comments made on her blog. The letter states that Green disseminated this false and inaccurate information "without contrition" and that she has "never shown any remorse for her actions."
Green has been banned from visiting administrative offices without an appointment while police conduct an investigation into whether she harassed a district employee.
"It's disturbing, the truth is the truth, there is no need to make things up," Metzler told Niedzinski. "We're trying to do the best for our kids here."
All this conflict generates a lot of news coverage. The board wants to be sure that the good news coming out of Timberlane isn't lost in the shuffle. A public relations consultant who knows members of the media could "grease the skids," board member Rob Collins said last week.
Our skids don't need greasing. We have and will continue to report all the good things that the Timberlane district's students are doing.
But we'll also continue to report on the doings of the Timberlane board, asking questions about things like how it came to pass that the consultant hired for $50,000 to implement a Spanish language program for kindergartners was Elizabeth Metzler -- Dr. Metzler's wife. It was a deal that Green's lawyer Richard Lehmann said "was done under the cover of darkness and hidden from public view."
These are also the kind of questions Donna Green finds so interesting.
Rather than attempting to control public perceptions of its actions by greasing the skids with a hired flack, the Timberlane board might try just answering some questions openly and honestly.


Anonymous said...

With the Budget Committee and School board members refusing to do their legal requirements, and Metzler "pulling their strings" it's no wonder his budget goes up 2 million every year. His budget gets passed with no "checks & balances" in place and he spends it. Why would Metzler want to change the "Status Quo"?

Metzler, all budget committee and school board members except the Green's have to go, before any sort of reason can be put back into place.

Metzler has to be FIRED! It's that simple.

Anonymous said...

His wife too.

Anonymous said...

Great editorial -- couldn't have said it better myself...

Dr. Metzler has changed the academic culture for the better, for sure...a breath of fresh air compared to the last guy...

Transparency and accountability are all that are asked... This district will support quality education, whatever it costs, but results will tell how much "quality" we're getting....

Jack --- vote against a PR firm --- as Mrs. green stated, the best
PR reps are the students...

Anonymous said...

I don't understand your comment about Metzler. He gave his wife a contract in a most questionable way. He is not being accountable or transparent.

And to make matters worse, Sapia is back.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

if Jack is in fact on the board, how did this come about? just curious....thx

Anonymous said...

Billy and Phil had to pay back past debts. Jack is as clueless as the two of them, watch Jack begin his assault on Timberlane Athletics immediately.

Anonymous said...

thanks, but isn't that a position that gets voted on??did someone leave the board? how was he appointed? thanks again

Anonymous said...

Time for a very serious look at outing all the board members except for Ms. Green with very few other exceptions. They just do not want to do the job they have in representing the taxpayers of the school district. --- At one time we were the envy of schooling accomplishments with great ratings of college acceptance. Where are we now and where will we be later on is the question? We aren't far from the bottom depths at this time. Don't believe that there is only one way but up in any quick way unless there is a real change w/i the administration and the board.

Anonymous said...

@9:28, Mike Mascola resigned, as he was moving out of town. The selectmen chose Sapia out of 4 citizens who expressed an interest. Sapia is serving out the remainder of Mascola's term, which expires in March 2015, so there will be an election for the seat next March.

Anonymous said...

@1:00, thanks and god help us! I'm sure the others were better qualified too.
Jack is a joke....the only one who likes to hear him talk is himself.

Anonymous said...

"Out Board members"?? You mean they're gay? Why does that matter?

Anonymous said...

Taxes are down and achievement is up...what more could we ask for? No need for private school anymore...

Anonymous said...

@3:55 Out as in not to let stay on the board. Out as in not to elect to the board. No one said any thing about ones sexual preference[s] on the board so knock off the cheap shots and stay on the subject with out being a real AH .

Anonymous said...

5:29 Enrollment is down so taxes could be lower. We could ask for them to do their jobs...unless you like to settle for just ok. Private schools turn out better students, they are accountable.

Anonymous said...

All questions and inquiries regarding the Request for Proposal specifications should be directed to
Rob Collins, Chair of the Community Relations Committee,

Anonymous said...

Why not just read the RFP at:

Anonymous said...

How many other schools have PR directors? None.

Anonymous said...

Actually: Lawrence Voc Tech has one, Pinkerton Academy has a full time one, Central Catholic has a full time one. I don't know about others...

This is not seem uncommon.

Anonymous said...

Pinkerton Academy is a private, non-profit corporation

Central Catholic High School is a tuition based Roman Catholic High School whose public relations role is to increase its Endowment Fund

Lawrence Voc has had one for 6 mths according to Mrs. Putnm Grosky's Linkedin who provides the service. She is wife of Jason Grosky Timberlane's Budget Committee .

Why does the RFP for this PR contact proposal incorrectly list Rob Collins the CHair of Timberlane Coommunity Relations Committee when he is NOT?
The Assistant Super is co- Chair.

Why is Rob Collins, a non employee of the district, listed as the contact person to answer questions in the posted RFP?

If you have concerns that your tax dollars maybe used for a PR contract, then contact the Super directly.

Anonymous said...

Timberlane not only needs a public relations intermediary to sell budget increases, we need the intermediary agent to sell the high cost of new hightec football helmets and year-long concussion treatment programs for students bashing their growing brains on AstroTurf. Atkinson Jack's AstroTurf will make for more head injuries but a good PR man will get the money for Jack no problem. As long as it's a hidden cost, explained away as a budgetary blip. Sandown/Danville pays but hide with smoke and mirrors the others. That's the PR bang for the buck we need.

Anonymous said...

Did Jack play football?

Anonymous said...

We may not like everything but Timberlane has become the top district in the area....ask around. Although we have some budget issues...our achievement levels have dramatically improved. I have children in the district and know first hand.

Anonymous said...

They've been down low in scores for years. Let's see if they continue the trend and shame on the other districts.

One pass does not make a TD.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jack,

As soon as everyone reads or watches the following NBC News reports you won't be able to find a turf field vendor. See you stock now!!!

Anonymous said...

The TSB does not want their athletes getting cancer, there will be no turf wars to watch.

Be sure to check out this article.

Anonymous said...

5:37 - Ask around. Right. Do I look so stupid as to take gossip as fact?

Timberlane has been a failure for a long time and if they are improving, that's great, but just because they may be headed in a better direction, doesn't mean they are a success.

I thought I explained this to you on the 14th.

Anonymous said...

George Wickson admitted that he held a knife to a man's throat and then violated his bail conditions by showing up at his chief's funeral in full uniform, even though he was suspended from the force.

Wickson's police certification was suspended after he was indicted, so authorities said showing up in uniform with a loaded pistol amounted to impersonating an officer.

Tuesday's hearing was originally planned to discuss whether to revoke Wickson's bail. Instead, Wickson agreed to a plea deal, admitting to two misdemeanors.

The latest charge stemmed from former Plaistow Chief Stephen Savage's July 15 funeral. Prosecutors said Wickson wore his full uniform to the funeral and even got a lieutenant to give him his service weapon.

"It appears the defendant's bail conditions were unknown or weren't in the forefront of anybody's minds at the time," said Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Rose-Marie Balboni.

Wickson had been out on bail after being charged with criminal threatening for putting a knife up to a man's throat. That incident took place after a wedding. According to court paperwork, Wickson told the man, "Shut up or I will slice you."

Wickson now faces nine days in jail, as well as a suspended 12-month sentence. He will also live with another penalty for the rest of his life.

"(It's required) that you surrender your New Hampshire police officer certificate and agree not to seek employment as a law enforcement officer at any point from the time of sentencing forward," said Judge Marguerite Wageling.

Wickson was freed on bail, pending his sentencing next month. He has also been ordered to stay away from anyone involved in the incident after the wedding, and he has to take an anger management class.

Anonymous said...

Michael Dunn was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole on Friday for the 2012 Florida shooting death of unarmed black teenager Jordan Davis. The sentence, in what was deemed the “loud music trial,” Dunn, 47, who is white, fired 10 rounds at the 17-year-old African-American and his friends in November 2012 after fighting with them about loud music.

Anonymous said...

We may not like everything but Timberlane has become the top district in the area....ask around. Although we have some budget issues...our achievement levels have dramatically improved. I have children in the district and know first hand.

Ask around? Please provide links and data. Search US News high school then find timberlane and you will see some test scores. 27% below proficient in reading, 67% below proficient in math -- both scores are 'near' the new hampshire average. This is not the wizard of oz -- schools don't do better because someone prints a certificate of betterness for them.

Anonymous said...

The NH average is a thug.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget to vote tomorrow. Kick Obama's agendas to the curb.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the Greens were way off with their tax scare....we all should have known better. They don't represent us!

Anonymous said...

Vote them out! Better people in Sandown for sure!

Anonymous said...

Greens are out! Could not be more clear!

Anonymous said...

Your Sandown Representatives – Getting Results

Timberlane’s administration and school board are taking some mitigating action against rising taxes and taking some steps to improve financial transparency. We think that our efforts, together with our colleague Cathy Gorman, have been key to these results. This is what we’ve helped to accomplish so far:

Reduction of planned 2014 tax increase
Restraint of spending to build a 2014/15 surplus
School Board acknowledgement of taxpayer impacts and concerns
Improved transparency – staffing reports, enrollment forecasts, monthly financial statements are now being made available to the public on the District web site, after months of persistent Right to Know requests
Elimination of intrusive student surveys
Several important pieces of financial information emerged from the Sept. 18 School Board meeting that will lower the formerly anticipated tax increases.

Upon closing the books on the year which ended June 30, the administration has found an additional $350,000 to add to the surplus from that year.
This extra money is available either to be deposited in the Contingency Fund (“Fund Balance Retention”), as voted by the Board in June before the entire amount of surplus was known, or applied as revenue to the 2014/15 year to reduce taxes. The Board plans to discuss the options at the Oct. 2 meeting.
The LGC HealthTrust refund of surplus issue is producing a further $387,000 to Timberlane coffers over and above the amount previously anticipated and included in the 2014/15 revenue budget. About 20% of this money will be returned to employees and retirees, but the remainder, about $320,000, will be unexpected revenue to the district.
The administration stated that the LGC HealthTrust funds will be reported to the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration as part of current year revenue, and consequently will reduce the amount of taxes required from taxpayers in this current academic year (2014/15).
The financial summary presented by the administration showed revenue from Medicaid and Catastrophic Aid higher than the budget presented at deliberative, by $275,000
The administration reported that there are 12 unfilled staff positions.
The good news from these announcements is that up to $950,000 (round numbers) has become available to reduce the planned tax increase for the current year. The March vote which resulted in a default school board budget, a default SAU budget and approval of the support workers contract, resulted in an increased assessment to the district taxpayers of $2,100,000, or 4.6%. If the full $950,000 is applied to offset taxes, the anticipated increase of 4.6% would be reduced almost half, to $1,113,000, or about 2.4%. Town-by-town impacts vary significantly, but this would be welcome relief to all taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

Sandown School Taxes are up by 5.9%

Current tax rates: DRAFT TAX RATES

Town: $5.06 $4.49 (- 11.26%)
County: $1.12 $1.11 (-0.9%)
State school : $2.53 $2.53 (NO CHANGE)
Local School: $18.37 $19.45 (+5.9%)

Danville School Tax rate is up $1.35 or 6.8%

Anonymous said...

The bad news is saheen won the good news she can't hurt my wallet for a while....Lame ducky for sure and it will be interesting now she has been named in the IRS scandal. When she is called before congress she will not have to travel very far.
More money to pay the administrators at Timberline.

Anonymous said...

Greens are out! Did you already hear who is running for the seats? Great Sandown family! We will finally have good representation!

Anonymous said...

Though Selectman Steve Brown questioned whether it was possible to adjust the numbers to keep the tax rate level.

“I just really want to keep the tax rate down and I’m concerned with what will happen at the school,” said Brown.

UPDATE 11/5/14: Sandown Board of Selectmen decided on Nov 3 that they would not be using the town’s Fund Balance to offset the school tax increase.

SANDOWN – The board of selectmen will hold an unscheduled meeting on Monday, Nov. 3, to determine the tax rate.

Town administrator Lynne Blaisdell presented draft numbers to the board on Monday, Oct. 27, but outstanding questions on those numbers prompted the board to schedule a special meeting to give Blaisdell time to obtain more information.

Every year the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) calculates how much towns need to raise by taxation to cover their financial obligations, and it was paperwork from the DRA that the selectmen reviewed Monday. Though some of the numbers are set, the board has the ability to manipulate a couple of key figures, the overlay and the amount retained for the unassigned fund balance, both which can have a significant impact on the tax rate.

The numbers presented Monday had the new rate going to $27.59 per thousand of assessed home value. This represents a 51 cent per thousand increase from the current $27.08.

The town’s draft rate is at $4.49, the county is at $1.11, the state school rate is $2.53 and the local school rate at $19.45.

Current rates are $5.06 for the town, $1.12 for the county, $2.53 for the state school rate and $18.37 for the local school rate.

The draft rates include a typical overlay of $30,000 and $158,716 retained for the fund balance.

The overlay is a tool municipalities use to prepare for potential tax abatements. The fund balance is like a municipal savings account, and one that the state requires be kept between 8 and 17 percent of a town’s value.

Currently Sandown has $946,016 in the unassigned fund balance and would need $816,705 to stay at 8 percent.

Selectman Steve Brown questioned whether it was possible to adjust the numbers to keep the tax rate level.

“I just really want to keep the tax rate down and I’m concerned with what will happen at the school,” said Brown.

Blaisdell said she would have to get more information on the numbers to see if they could be manipulated for that desired end, prompting the board to set up a subsequent meeting.

Anonymous said...

Update to:
"Editorial: Spin won't solve Timberlane board's communications problem"

Surprise! Cozy Low Bid for PR Contract
Four bids were received for the district’s proposed Public Relations services.

$50,400 (Massachusetts)
$46,800 (California)
$39,500 (Massachusetts)
$18,000 (New Hampshire)
The low bid is from SERESC, the organization where superintendents go off to their final taxpayer funded reward. About SERESC Our former superintendent, Mr. LaSalle, now heads this organization and Dr. Metzler is one of six fellow superintendents from neighboring SAUs who comprise the Executive Committee. You might remember SERESC as being the organization that gave us Mrs. Metzler as the Spanish consultant for kindergarten.

SERESC is quick footed, if nothing else. They recently managed to snag Jason Grosky’s wife, Gretchen Grosky, as a PR consultant and have proposed her as the service provider in their bid. Mr. Jason Grosky is chairman of the Timberlane Budget Committee.

The Community Relations Committee, which disgraced itself by opening these bids outside of the publicly announced time and place for the opening, will be deciding on their recommendations at their next meeting in early December. Then they will put their recommendation forward to the school board who will bless the committee’s hard work and thank them for finding such a marvelous consultant right in our own backyard! Actually we don’t look in backyards. We climb up on ladders and peer into bedrooms.

Mrs. Grosky is a former journalist and editor who registered her own PR company, GMG Strategies LLC, with the state of New Hampshire in August 2013.

I should stress that no decision has yet been made and no contract has yet been awarded, but I smell her name plate being printed.

Only five short years ago our policy KDCA (student communications) said this:

“The best possible community relations grow from a superior teaching job in the classroom. Enthusiastic pupils with serious intentions, well directed by sympathetic and capable teachers, are certain to communicate with the parents and the community. The School Board believes this is the cornerstone of good community relations.”

That earnest and encouraging paragraph can no longer be found in any of our policies.

See Dr. Metzler announcing that he had given Rob Collins of the Community Relations Committee Mrs. Grosky’s name at the May 29 School Board meeting: FORWARD TO 3: 24: 40 .

Should you be concerned about the independence of elected officials in the district or the SAU, let me reassure you that there is nothing to worry about. It’s business as usual. The wife of SAU board member, Jason Cipriano, was hired as a full-time teacher at Timberlane in August.

Anonymous said...

Donna Green is a complete fool she constantly need to be corrected in the meetings,most peope in sandown are tired of her tired act.

Anonymous said...

Timberlane plans to hire public relations consultant still causiing a stir

By James Niedzinski | Posted: Sunday, November 9, 2014 12:15 am

PLAISTOW — The decision to look for a public relations consultant is progressing for the Timberlane Regional School Board, although there are still vocal dissenters.
A request for proposals seeking a public relations consultant was issued last month.
The public relations consultant, if hired, would help the district with media relations efforts, write and publish opinions for newspapers as needed, develop branding for the district, develop social media efforts as well as "develop and assist in crisis communication", according to the RFP.
Four companies responded to a request for proposals, according to Sandown School Board member Donna Green, the only school board member who opposed the new position.
Friday, she said the companies are the Southeastern Regional Education Service Center in New Hampshire, Skooline LLC in California as well as Callahan and Klein Communications and EDMark Collaborative, both of Massachusetts.
The school district includes Plaistow, Atkinson, Danville and Sandown.
But the way the bids were revealed only fueled the fires raging against the public relations consultant.
Officials said a notice mistakenly went out saying the bids would be unsealed at the Community Relations Committee meeting at 6:30 p.m.Thursday. The bids were actually opened earlier that day.
One Atkinson resident, Leon Artis, said he got a notice on Nov. 3 saying the bids for the position would be opened on Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m.
He then got another notice from the School Administrative Unit in Plaistow on Nov. 5 around 4:45 p.m. saying the bids were already opened at 3 p.m. that day.

The notices were a mistake, according to board member Robert Collins, who also chairs the Community Relations Committee.
"They were opened, it was in public," Collins said.
But Artis questioned how people would know about the bid openings, given the incorrect notices.
"There was a mistake in the notice that came out from the SAU," Timberlane Regional School Board chairman Nancy Steenson said. "But the original RFP had the correct date, and that's all there is to it."
It was clear from the start, Collins said, based on the RFP, the bids were meant to be unsealed at 3 p.m. on Nov. 5.
The RFP was issued in October, and said bids have to be submitted by 3 p.m. on Nov, 5 "and then opened and publicly read."
"That meeting notice may have mislead people, I apologize for that," Collins said.
Green, who has turbulent relationship with some of the other School Board members, continued to press the issue.
"How could such a calamitous mistake be made," she said.
Green has clashed with board members in the past, as others have called her blog posts inaccurate and misleading. She posts thoughts and concerns on her blog, mainly about reining in school spending and budgeting issues.
Green has also had run-ins with Superintendent Earl Metzler.
Metzler's wife, an employee of SERESC, was hired to develop a foreign language education program in the district.
Metzler previously said he made the Timberlane Regional School Board well aware his wife worked for the company.
He did not return calls for comment on the public relations consultant bids Friday.
Collins emphasized notice about the bids was a mistake, there was no intent to mislead anyone.
Green said it discredited the Community Relations Committee and compromised bidding process, but Collins was quick to disagree.
The subcommittee will delve into the bids in detail at a meeting on Dec.4, and likely make a recommendation to the School Board that night, Collins said.

Others have also been upset with the idea of hiring a public relations firm as well.

Anonymous said...

The 1st Public Meeting Notice sent from the SAU on Nov.3rd:

The Timberlane Regional School Board's Community Relations Committee will meet on Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 6:30 pm at the Superintendent's Office, 30 Greenough Road, Plaistow, The agenda will include the opening of public relations bids.

The Public is welcome to attend.

Kate Delfine, Co-Chair
Dr. Roxanne Wilson, Co-Chair
Community Relations Committee
November 3, 2014

(Notice the C0-Chair names)

Anonymous said...

The 2nd Public Meeting Notice sent from the SAU on Nov.5th at 4:45pm

The Timberlane Regional School Board's Community Relations Committee will meet on Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 6:30 pm at the Superintendent's Office, 30 Greenough Road, Plaistow, The agenda will include review of public relations bid that were opened at 3pm on NOvember 5, 2014 as indicated in the Request for Proposal.

The Public is welcome to attend.

Rob Collins, Co-Chair
Susan Rasicot, Co-Chair
Community Relations Committee
November 3, 2014

( Notice the C0-Chair names changed and the bids had been opened already)


Contact if you do not want tax dollars spent on a PR contract. Let him this means less educational money for the children.

Anonymous said...

They're corrupt and Green is exposing them for what they are. It's disturbing that so many wives of board members are being hired by the system.