From today’s Republican-American Reply

The Board of Finance agreed to let the Board of Selectmen take legal action if necessary on a proposal to make structural changes to the governance of the Region 1 school district.

During a recent meeting, finance board member Louis G. Timolat asked that the selectmen be given the discretion and flexibility to incur legal fees if a proposal being considered is approved. The Region 1 Board of Education and the All Board Chair Committee, on advice of their attorney Gary Brochu, are recommending that a joint employment agreement between the district and the superintendent be signed to comply with state statutes.

They also are seeking to have the procedure for how the superintendent is paid be equally divided among the region’s seven school boards rather than the current proportional basis determined by student enrollment. That suggestion came from Ned Gow, Canaan’s representative to the Region 1 board, who said such an arrangement would help save that town money. Canaan currently pays the largest share.

Timolat said he is uncertain whether the decision can be made by those two entities without unanimous town meeting approval from the six communities. He said Region 1, created under a special act of the legislature in 1939, would be substantially changed if these measures were adopted. Altering the way the superintendent is paid would be contrary to how it’s done when resources are provided to groups of people. Normally that’s on a percapita basis.

He described the proposed initiatives “inappropriate and harmful to our interests.”

He’s hired his own attorney, who has said that if an attempt is made to put these actions into play, it would be necessary to file a civil complaint in opposition. While he said he hopes they won’t have to pursue the matter legally, it’s bad practice to wait until something happens before beginning preparations.

FIRST SELECTMAN PATRICIA A. MECHARE said she and Timolat have done extensive research on the matter.

“What is being suggested might even affect the local elementary schools, with one attorney referring to the proposal as ‘creeping regionalization.’ We need to be thinking about this,” she said. “It may never happen, but if it does happen, the Board of Selectmen has to have the flexibility to be ready to go to court to get an injunction.”

Mechare said sometimes Falls Village is criticized for being outspoken on issues.

“But our feeling is we try to keep ourselves informed with what is going on,” she said. “If we see things we don’t think are right, we are going to question them and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

There is currently $6,000 in a line item for litigation in the town’s budget, which will be put toward court action if needed.

Mechare said at a recent meeting it was announced the process would take a long time. She noted the Region 1 board is still in charge and that the ABC Committee is advisory only.

It has no power to act, has no budget and no power to spend money unless the school board gives it “those advantages.”

Mechare encouraged the finance board members to take the matter seriously.

“We think what the region’s attorney has put forth so far regarding this matter is very faulty in terms of his arguments,” she said. “We have researched this with our attorney and another attorney, and feel we’re on firm ground.”

strongly favored the idea, noting that if the one-seventh proposal passes, Falls Village would end up paying $14,000 more for the superintendent’s salary. He said if they’re against the recommendation, it’s money well-spent.

“Somebody needs to stand up and say you’re not doing things correctly,” Allyn said. “You need to go back to first base.”

Alternate Henry Todd said, “It’s really important to prevent precedent from being set. I agree with taking any action proactively rather than after the fact. It can get out of control if we’re not ready to react.”

See video of Falls Village BOF meeting

One Board Member’s View Regarding Shared Services and Joint Employment Agreements By Claude Rolo Guest Opinion to be printed in Lakeville Journal,February 25, 2015 2

One Board Member’s View Regarding

Shared Services and Joint Employment Agreements

By Claude Rolo


Guest Opinion to be printed in Lakeville Journal,February 25, 2015


I would like to share my personal perspective as board chair for the Salisbury Board of Education and thus a member of the All Boards Chairs (ABC) Committee as to why the Region One Board of Education (R1) and the ABC are working on evaluating our current governance policy, the 7000 Series and how each school district employs a superintendent.


Although steps have been taken in the past to fine tune school governance in our region, issues clearly remain. The desire to further improve how our region’s school districts work with one another was most recently spurred by the seven budget referenda in 2013. Out of that tumultuous time, it became apparent that the role of the ABC was not clear and was rejected by some. The 7000 Series Policy, the template for how the seven school districts in our region are meant to work together, did not, as some have said, serve us well. Also, over time, direct accountability from the R1 to each town’s elected Board of Education has shifted as several towns have changed that governance structure to electing rather than appointing their R1 representatives. R1 has fine-tuned regional budgets sometimes at the expense of regional initiatives put forth by local school boards, The interests of the elementary and middle schools are no longer adequately represented.  Does six school districts that have no direct budgetary authority over the regional services they share and pay for make sense?


One needs only look at the 2013-14 Region One budget to see that the cost-saving regional technology initiative (not the iPad initiative) supported by the ABC was eliminated. I would hazard a guess that most of our region’s principals are still feeling the financial burden of losing that initiative. Let’s not forget the discussion over who had authority over the superintendent’s contract. How do we deal with declining enrollment throughout our region without having a governance structure that allows for the hard decision-making ahead? This lack of clarity and accountability is why the ABC and R1 are taking on both a joint employment agreement and Region One’s governance.


One might question why if governance is the bigger issue, why then change how the seven school districts share paying for a superintendent’s compensation? The simple answer is that there was agreement amongst the R1/ABC that a joint employment agreement was needed and thus we should tackle that first. As part of that agreement, the ABC/R1 discussed at great length cost-sharing methods for the superintendent and how that should be handled in the budgetary process. Well I am certainly not the first ABC member to question why we have an equal vs. a weighted vote on the ABC, some have advocated over the years to apportion the vote. This would mean that some school districts like Region One would have more power than the six other school districts representing the elementary and middle schools. Well if I want that equal vote, why then would I think it fair to handle apportioning a superintendent’s compensation any differently since we seem to utilize that position fairly equitably? Over several ABC/R1 meetings, this was discussed and the consensus was to go back to each of our local boards to discuss the recommendation of sharing equally the superintendent’s compensation.


Although all but one school board supported this method, I feel it is unfortunate for some to have focused on this part of the discussion as much as they have, in that solving how our seven school districts govern ourselves has far more significance for both tax dollars and influence. I question the apparent appetite some have for suggesting litigation or threatening to vote down budgets over the “1/7” option. Will continuing to have a threatening environment for school board members to evaluate these matters really serve our region’s interests or will it skew the decision-making to avoid any conflict? Wasting over $48,000 on referenda as we did in 2013 certainly should not be our MO going forward.

I do not see this being in the best interest of anyone, especially our students or taxpayers.


Some worry that sharing a superintendent’s compensation equally is a slippery slope. Let’s be clear, our school districts and thus our taxpayers could never pay equally for anything other than a superintendent. State statute requires everything other than the position of superintendent to be allocated such that each town pays an apportioned amount based on their enrollment. One reason the position of superintendent is singled out in statute is because a superintendent’s job is to oversee and collaborate with administrators and boards of education. Because a superintendent does not interact directly with students, the job then is not affected by the size of the student population.


When I look at the winners and losers using the “1/7” method, I see that $15,500 is how much more the smallest school district would have to pay this year representing about 0.50% of that district’s budget.  The largest school district would save nearly $14,000 representing 0.17% of their budget. Although these dollars are important to each of these schools, the percentages are not quite as significant, nor will they dramatically change year to year. The larger concern might be, what would changing each school district’s equal vote on the ABC mean? The ability to equally determine regional programming and thus control the district’s expenditures seems a far greater benefit. Might this trade-off potentially be worthwhile, especially if one looks at pupil services or shared services whose budgets this year are over $5 million?

I urge community members to understand why our Boards of Education are taking these matters on and see that change, although challenging, is advisable. Go to our joint meetings on these matters, and share your thoughts not just at the beginning and leave, but listen to the ensuing conversation and then give your input in the 2nd public comment period. Do it again, when these matters are before your local boards as well. Again, these are my views alone; I am only a volunteer trying to see the forest through the trees.

A Letter To The Editor: There should be skepticism regarding Brochu’s advice. He’s been unsuccessful with FOI complaints. He failed to avoid two suits costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. He backed a “retirement package” for $150,000+ when the Board was not a party to an administrator’s suit and wouldn’t have been responsible for any monetary award. He was unsuccessful in a residency case in Kent. Other faulty advice has been equally as costly and problematic. Since 2010 there has been constant unrest with accompanying astronomical legal costs. His flawed advice has not been, nor does it continue to be, in the best interest of the District or in maintaining the 75 years of collegial cooperation among our towns. Reply

It’s unfortunate that at a January 21st combined ABC/Regional School District #1 meeting Attorney Gary Brochu didn’t offer all pertinent information regarding the history of governance by Regional School District #1’s Board of Education, particularly in hiring a superintendent and supervising regionally shared services for all seven boards of education.  The lack of transparency and an inaccurate account of previous legal opinions is unfortunate.


Someone asked if the State had ever weighed in regarding the District’s long-standing governance and structure. Brochu indicated that it hadn’t.  However, in a 1979 memorandum between Mr. Cashman and Mr. Dopp of the State Department of Education, Cashman concluded that the Services Center and what is now known as the ABC Committee were not validly authorized or created under statutes 10-158a or 10-66a. That was presumably because the Region was organized under a special act and amendments to that act, previous to the inception of these statutes. Given the circumstances Cashman believed that the local boards of education and the Region One Board followed the spirit of the law and should qualify under section 10-158a – the very statue of which Brochu insists the District is in violation.  Further, Attorney Craig Meuser in his 2006 legal analysis acknowledged, “in principle, the Series 7000 policies may be interpreted as to act as a10-158a agreement”.


Recommendations for modifications in the areas of  “Board Withdrawal From the Center and the Committee,” “Joint Employment of the Superintendent” and “Supervision and Employment of Center Personnel” were made.  Some recommendations were implemented, others weren’t.  In his final communication, Meuser provided no recommendation to change the governance from the Board to the ABC Committee, nor did he suggest any deviation from the proportional payment of the superintendent that now exists.  In fact, he recommended that the ABC Committee continue to be advisory.


Legal opinions regarding the 7000 series from 1964 through 2004 concluded that the adoption of the 7000 series by the six local boards of education and Regional Board of Education constituted an agreement by and between the local boards of education. Those opinions further concluded that the operation of the Services Center and the actions of the ABC Committee would be governed by the terms of the 7000 series policies.  That this information was not clearly shared with the Board and the public is unconscionable.


There should be skepticism regarding Brochu’s advice. He’s been unsuccessful with FOI complaints.  He failed to avoid two suits costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. He backed a “retirement package” for  $150,000+ when the Board was not a party to an administrator’s suit and wouldn’t have been responsible for any monetary award. He was unsuccessful in a residency case in Kent.  Other faulty advice has been equally as costly and problematic.  Since 2010 there has been constant unrest with accompanying astronomical legal costs.  His flawed advice has not been, nor does it continue to be, in the best interest of the District or in maintaining the 75 years of collegial cooperation among our towns.


Town of Canaan (Falls Village) Board of Selectmen

Patricia Allyn Mechare, First Selectman

Charles H. Lewis, Selectman

Greg D. Marlowe, Selectman

High school seeks additional 2.6% Principal discusses use of computers Reply

Full story on-line



FALLS VILLAGE — The first iteration of the proposed 2015-16 spending plan for Housatonic Valley Regional High School shows an increase of 2.6 percent.

During an initial workshop held Wednesday, Region 1 Business Manager Samuel Herrick gave a brief overview before turning the discussion over to Principal Jose Martinez.

Herrick said the gross total at this point is $8,925,096 and will reflect a per pupil cost of $26,333.

Martinez, noting that the school will be preparing for its 2017 New England School Development Council’s accreditation process, has categorized some objectives. He said some funding will be used toward improving the school’s curriculum to maintain its standards.

He will try to reduce textbook costs by using more electronics and has ideas about how to implement additional technology. Martinez plans a two-year phase in of having every student have his/her own electronic devise. He talked about three possibilities: have each child bring his own device; supply a device with an accompanying fee or provide a device without charge.

He favors charging an annual $25 fee and at the end of their senior year, students would own them. During the first year of the program, ninth graders would receive them and in year two, 12th graders would be the recipients.

Policies would have to be devised to spell out what happens if a device is lost or broken, but he said they would never deny access to a student. Estimating costs of the program would be challenging, since some students would be bringing their own.