Think students don’t care…think again, here are three posts from H.V.R.H.S students over the past week…. 5

The concerned Housy students comments over the past week…

 

1) What happened to Dr. Foster and Dr. Buchanan won’t happen to Mr. Harnett and Mr. Striever, they are very strong, brilliant people who are great for Housy. They connect with the students and they have the interest of the students at heart, not the politics. I will say however, that what did happen to Dr. Foster and Dr. Buchanan is still happening to teachers within the building and even to students. This needs to stop. I am a concerned student at Housy and the politics need to stop. This is an educational system for the STUDENTS, not for power hungry “teachers” who only care about themselves and their so called authority. Trust me, the students have noticed what actually goes on within the Housy walls and we are tired of it. Its such a shame that just those few faculty members within the building have given our school such a negative reputation. I do not represent any particular group or organization, I am just a concerned student who thinks that thsese political games within Housy and Region One need to stop.

 

2) I am also an upperclassman at Housy and I completely agree with the statement about the political nonsense at Housatonic Valley Regional High School. Many things in the “great” Northwest Corner are kept in closets because almost everyone is afraid to talk about them. The problems here in regards to the department chairs is something that needs to be adressed. Obviously since they are deeply rooted in the walls here at HVRHS it would be an interesting process to say the least. However for the future of the school’s students this issue needs to be tackled head on. Many teachers here feel that from the moment we walk in, we owe them something. Please let it be known that schools in general are for the students and teachers just work at them.

3) ImageAs well as the two above responses, I am also an upperclassmen at Housy. I completely agree with the above statements. The political nonsense and political games that go on within that school are ridiculous. The students are paying attention to it and we have had enough. It is not fair to the teachers who actually do care about the students and it certainly isn’t fair to the students. Teachers should be teachers so they can have a positive impact on students and their lives. They should be preparing us for the future, and most of the teachers at Housy are great and they truly do care about the students but those few teachers who care just about their power trips make the students not like Housy that much at all. It is a shame that the few teachers who don’t seem to care about the students are the ones who have a lot of “authority” within the school. The fact that they are focusing more on politics than actual education is a complete disgrace towards the entire educational profession and community and they should be deeply ashamed of themselves for acting like immature little children. Housy belongs to us the students, the teachers are there to teach US, not belittle us like those few teachers have been to not only us but other teachers in the building as well. Don’t get me wrong, the majority of the teachers at Housy are great and they want nothing to do with the politics that have consumed our school. In fact, there are even teachers at Housy who care enough to try and fight the politics at the school and I am very appreciative of those teachers, but those teachers also get bullied and shut down by those teachers who simply don’t care about doing the right thing for the school and for the students. This issue needs to be brought more to the public, because maybe then, this problem will finally be fixed.

Letter to the editor Lakeville Journal from Patricia Allyn Mechare Reply

Brain Kavanuagh’s letter of April 12th was right on. When you vote May 8th on the Region 1 proposed spending plan consider the following:

1. Over the last three fiscal years Central Office administrators have had salary increases of 6-7%
2. With the exception of the director of special education who has had 20 days added to her work year every other Central Office administrator has been given more days off with the superintendent and assistant superintendent leading the pack
3. The assistant superintendent has been given the additional benefit of a $2500 annuity
4. The superintendent’s annuity is tied to her salary (6%) giving her an additional increase
5. The unusual wording in the superintendent’s contract allows her to take any graduate level courses at a 100% reimbursement with no limit on the number of courses she can take annually, no limit on the cost per credit and no reporting system regarding the successful completion of the course. Over the last 3 fiscal years the cost to the taxpayer for course reimbursement has been $26,600. The spending plan does not specifically account for this expenditure

The Board’s majority has refused to revisit these contracts to level the playing field. They fail to realize that annual renewal of these contracts so that there is always a term of 3 years costs the Board plenty. Should a future Board decide that they no longer want the services of an administrator their hands will be tied. That means employing someone who no longer fits the bill until the contract finally ends or using taxpayers’ money for a buyout. Neither alternative is acceptable. That the Board’s attorney allowed so many of these contract conditions to stand, despite the obvious detriments and the lack of the best interest of the Region and/or the taxpayer, is astounding. There doesn’t appear to have been any negotiation at all, but an immediate acquiescence to administrators’ demands without any thought or consideration of the financial impact to students and taxpayers. These folks are the highest paid public officials in the area. Our local communities have been holding the line on all kinds of expenses including salary and benefits for a number of years. That this small group is treated as if it has some entitlement is an insult to all those other public employees who have been asked to sacrifice, to say nothing of those in the private and non-profit sectors. Here is a breakdown of the four top administrators’ financial packages NOT including vacation, personal, sick and other time off: superintendent: $168,798 (plus $12,000 budgeted for tuition reimbursement); assistant superintendent: $151,746; director of pupil services: $143,070; business manager $136,107. All are working fewer days than in 2009-2010 for more pay and benefits.

These items and others of a crucial and important nature both at HVRHS and Central Office need to be addressed. So far the majority has refused to do so on the advice of the superintendent and board chairman. Keep that in mind when you vote.

Patricia Allyn Mechare

Gale Courey Toensing Letter To The Editor Reply

 Friday, April 27, 2012 9:11:21 PM
Subject: Letter to the editor:

There are multiple inaccuracies in the 4/26 issue. I’ll begin with the editorial. Neither the Sharon representative nor I voted against the budget on March 28. We voted against giving the “central office” administrators raises and contract extensions.  I voted against them this year as I did last year because — in my opinion and according to my conscience — giving these pay raises and extensions would express a lack of consideration for the taxpayers of Region 1. We are still living in a time of economic uncertainty. The majority of people here are not wealthy business-owners, they are hardworking employees, some of whom have lost their jobs, some of whom have lost their homes, many of whom make well below the middle class median household income of around $50,000 for a family of four, and most of whom have not had raises for the past few years. The administrators’ present compensation packages range from over $100,000 to around $180,000 for the superintendent. Taxpayers will be asked to bear an additional tax burden for necessary and mandated repairs to the high school building. To ask them to pay for raises for people who already earn so much money is – in my opinion and according to my conscience – untimely. Any budget increases at this point should be to improve student learning.

 

The editorial says that I didn’t attend the April meeting “when the budget and bond issue were voted unanimously to be sent to referendum by the board,” perhaps leaving readers wondering if I didn’t attend in order to avoid that vote. In fact, I was away on assignment as I have been every April at that time for the past three years.

 

The superintendent, chairman and Becky Hurlburt in the Cornwall Board of Education story and Irene Hurlburt in her letter are wrong in claiming the contracts can’t be changed if the budget is defeated. Of course they can. The raises are included in the proposed budget and if the proposed budget goes down, the raises don’t magically remain in place — they go down too. The chairman’s claim that if the budget is defeated programs will be cut is also nonsense. If the budget is defeated the region continues to operate and bill the towns based on the current 2011-2012 appropriations. If the budget is defeated, the board needs only to eliminate the contract extensions and raises of the administrators – with the exception of the principal and assistant principal whose contracts expire June 30, 2012. Contracts extensions and raises for the “central office” administrators are what people object to. Get rid of them and the budget will pass easily.

 

As for Irene Hurlburt’s claims about “innuendos,” if she’s referring to me she should know that my objections to the questionable actions of the board and superintendent over the past three years have not been by innuendo, but rather in clearly articulated written statements that are part of the public record and available to any citizen.

 

Gale Courey Toensing

Falls Village, Connecticut

Marshall Miles Letter To The Editor Register Citizen, Litchfiled County Times and The Lakeville Journal Reply

Contrary to what some people believe, when one opposes the Region One Budget on the grounds of administrative contracts, it does NOT have to affect the education program of Region One. The reasons are simple and irrefutable:

1) The total dollar amounts spent on education programs will not change (the only change to the proposed budget would be that the new additional annuities, the new vacation days, and the new sick days for administrators would be eliminated).

2) Should the budget be defeated, the Region One Board would simply have to re-submit a budget that keeps the current administration contracts (which include already negotiated raises for all administrators) in place for the remainder of their current contract term.

New contracts can be negotiated when they enter the final year of their current THREE YEAR CONTRACTS, as specified in their current contracts.

I, along with many others, oppose the Region One budget for very simple reasons:

1) If one negotiates and signs a three-year contract, common business practice dictates that one honors that contract, and opens new negotiations as previously agreed upon, in the same way that the teachers do (the same way that is stated in their current contract).

2) It insults the collective intelligence to claim that contracts that are being renegotiated (additional vacation days, additional sick days, additional annuities …) are extensions. Extensions are just that, extending the current contract with no changes and no additions. It further strains credulity to the limit by claiming, as some have done, that the new contracts cost nothing. That is not true. “Extended” contracts that call for additional vacation days, additional sick days, additional annuities, etc. are by their very nature not free.

No one is asking for, or has asked for, anyone to lose their jobs of be laid off. No one is asking for, or has asked for, money for the education programs to be taken from the budget. What is being requested, as we have been requesting for two years, is that the administrators in Region One honor their three-year contracts, plain and simple. It’s not about personalities and it’s not about vendettas. It IS about honesty, it IS about a transparent, open administration of our school system, and it IS about one principle: Honoring your word, and your signature on a contract that you negotiated, and signed for a three-year commitment to educate our children.

For the record, all of these concerns were raised prior to last year’s budget vote, but were never addressed in this year’s hearings. In fact, any attempts to raise the issues were shut down by the Region One board before any discussion could take place. It is about time that the board acts as our representatives, rather than the administration’s rubber stamp. For these reasons, I will once again vote no on the Region One Budget May 8th. A no vote will send a message to the board to start acting like an independent entity that leads, oversees and interacts with the administration, instead of the other way around.

Marshall Miles

Salisbury

A letter to Marshall Miles from Gale Courey Toensing…… 2

To: Marshall Miles

From: Gale Courey Toensing

April 21, 2012

 

During the March meeting of the Region 1 Board of Education I tried to put a list of initiatives on the agenda, but my effort was shut down by the superintendent and Phil who advised the board to vote against adding my item to the agenda. At last Thursday’s community meeting, Lou Timolat asked Phil to put the initiatives on the agenda and Phil said, ”I have no problem with that. . .Anything that should be on the agenda will be on the agenda.”  Below is a copy of the initiatives that I asked to be put on the agenda for the board to take home and think about, so that we could have a discussion the next month. They are all based on the statutes, our policies and bylaws, and Connecticut Association of Boards of Education policies. I plan on re-introducing them next month:

 

From: Gale Courey Toensing, Falls Village representative

March 5, 2012

                                                                                             

Region 1 Board of Education

Meeting March 5, 2012

 

Suggested Initiatives:

 

1)      Series 3000/Business

       3160 Transfer of Funds between Categories:

“Transfer of funds to a new item or new position will be done only after full Board consideration and discussion.”

Action: Motion that the board is to review and approve transfer of funds before they are transferred.

 

       3170 Budget Administration:

“Over-expenditure of a budget category as these categories appeals on the one-page budget summary (see 3120), except as provided in 3171, will not be permitted except by formal action of the Board.”

Action: Motion that the board is to review and approve over-expenditure of a budget category before the category is over-expended.

 

       3326 Paying for Goods and Services and 3432 Budget & Expense Report/Annual financial Statement

The1990 version of policy 3326 says “payment of properly approved invoices will be made once a month, following approval by the Regional School Board at its regular meeting and upon recommendation of its designated officers or agents.” That policy was revised in 1993 and does not include that sentence. However, policy 3423 requires that the board reviews bills each month. It says, “A monthly report of disbursements and budget balances will be submitted each month at the board of education meeting.” We are receiving budget balances, but not disbursements.

Action: Motion that the board receives a monthly report of disbursements to include the names of payees and amounts.

 

2)      Board goals, board self assessment — from CABE Series 2400.

Attached is suggested CABE process for board self assessment. Obviously a board can’t fully assess itself if it doesn’t set goals for itself. Number 2 on the CABE assessment list is that the board sets annual goals. This board met in 2009 and set long range goals, which now appear on our agenda each month. Some of these ”goals” which should not be considered as annual goals because they are part of expected duties and responsibilities as a board (for example, “continue to maintain the building” and “support curriculum,  instruction, and assessment development.”  Setting annual goals will help focus our work and give us standards by which to measure our performance.

Action: Motion to set a special meeting before the end of June, 2012, to set board goals for school year 2012-2013.

 

3)      Superintendent’s goals and job evaluations from CABE Policy 2400

Clearly, it is inappropriate for an employee to devise his or her own evaluation instrument for his or her employer to use in evaluating the employee’s job performance. Equally clearly, it is inappropriate for an employer to use as an evaluation tool an employee’s self evaluation on how well he or she has performed against a set of goals he or she has set without consultation with the employer, although such a self evaluation can be a supplementary part of the superintendent’s job evaluation by the board. One of the key questions on CABE’s Superintendent’s Performance Evaluation – which was developed collaboratively by CABE and CAPSS – is “Does the Superintendent of Schools consistently meet or exceed the mutually established performance goals . . .?” in the various categories in the evaluation process. The board needs to develop ‘mutually established performance goals” with the superintendent and replace the superintendent’s job performance evaluation document.

Action: Motion that the board meet with the superintendent in public (as required) to discuss and develop district goals and objectives for the upcoming school year.

 

Board member explains opposition to Region 1 budget Reply

BY RUTH EPSTEIN Republican-American

FALLS VILLAGE — Gale Courey Toensing, Falls Village representative to the Region 1 Board of Education, told community members in an informal meeting Thursday why she is voting against the district’s proposed 2012-13 budget.

Toensing, an outspoken member who conducts community forums a few times a year, focused on the budget that will be considered during a daylong referendum May 8 in the region’s six towns — Canaan, Cornwall, Falls Village, Kent, Salisbury and Sharon.

She said she was speaking as an individual and wasn’t advising people how to vote.

The story link is below from The Republican-American

http://www.rep-am.com/articles/2012/04/20/news/local/636157.txt