Saturday, March 31, 2012

ORCSD Monthly Roundup: March 2012

People still seem to be checking in here, so I thought I might try a monthly summary of Oyster River Cooperative School District related news.   I go to the meetings and read the minutes so you don't have to.

Obviously the major news this month was the election.  In a resounding defeat, incumbents Jim Kach and Henry Brackett lost their bid for reelection by 40% each.   New board members Maria Barth, Al Howland, and Ed Charle were elected to three year terms.    New board member Tom Newkirk was elected to serve out the remaining year of Ann Wright's term (she resigned in January).    Both Tom and existing board member Krista Butts's terms are up in March, 2013.   Existing board members Ann Lane and Megan Turnbull's terms are up March, 2014.  John Parsons is the newly elected student representative.  I wish all the members of the board well as they attempt to tackle the district's problems.
Dr. James Morse

The old board authorized Chairman Brackett to negotiate the contract for the new superintendent, Dr. James Morse. This resulted in a bit of controversy as Dr. Morse seems to have gotten a very good deal.   Soon he'll be on our side of the table, and if he negotiates as well for us as he did for himself, he'll be worth it. Good luck, Dr. Morse.

The old board also gave interim superintendent Lee Levesque his evaluation in a non-public session.   I have no idea what was said in the meeting, but I think most people agree that the Mr. Levesque has done an excellent job for the district under very trying circumstances.   I for one will miss him when he takes his well-deserved retirement next year.

Board member Jocelyn O'Quinn chose not to run for reelection, and was given a fond farewell (and a terrarium) by the board at the March 7th meeting.   It was also the last meeting of student member Cody Jacobsen, which seemed to come as a surprise to some board members.   It turned out to be Messrs. Kach and Brackett's last meeting as well.  I thank all four of them for their service to our district.

The March 7th meeting included Andrea Tran's moving report and proposed policy on dealing with deadbeat lunch accounts.  Apparently we don't allow a middle school or high school student to charge lunch when he has insufficient funds in his account.  Instead when he tries to pay, his lunch is confiscated and thrown away.   The proposed policy allows for a Santa fund to which parents can donate unused balances upon graduation.

The NECAP results for No Child Left Behind testing were also presented at the March 7th meeting.  It appears that as a whole the district made great improvements.   We don't find out if the district has made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) until April.

The March 21st meeting was the first of the newly elected board.   The superintendent straightened out some issues with the new superintendent's contract and some old minutes.   The first difficult moment came when it was time to elect the new chair.   Both Maria Barth and Tom Newkirk were nominated.   Ann Lane deftly resolved the issue by pointing out that Mr. Newkirk would be in a better position to contribute ideas if he were not chair (as the chair must focus on running the meeting).   Maria Barth was elected chair, and Tom Newkirk, vice-chair.

Acting upon superintedent Levesque's suggestion as to what to do with the funds added to the budget at the deliberative session and approved on election day, the board voted to reinstate the high school assistant principal position and restore the remaining funds to the computer replacement budget.    They also approved continuing with the current district clerk, school physician, DCAT representative, and district treasurer.  There was some concern that the process for filling these positions could be improved, and the board approved a motion asking the superintendent to look into it.

Todd Allen announced that the high school came in first place in the medium-sized division of the New Hampshire High School Mathematics Competition.   Congratulations!   Also, the high school is now on facebook -- please "like" them.  Principal Allen also reported on the rain garden project at the high school.   A rain garden gracefully absorbs into the ground the initial runoff of a rainfall.  This greatly reduces pollution flowing into the Great Bay.  Due to the efforts of Jon Bromley, Dave Cedarholm, Kim Mosher and others, there is no cost to the district.

The board moved public comments to the start of the meeting.  The bulk of them were congratulations to the newly elected members.    A couple of people who showed up late seemed frustrated and surprised when they had no opportunity to comment.   I like the idea of public comments at both the beginning and the end -- we'll see what happens next meeting.

Chairman Barth wrapped the meeting up at 9:01pm.  It was nice to get most of my Wednesday night back.

I should mention that the candidate who did not get the treasurer's job (the board kept the current treasurer) has accused the board of violating the RTK law in a "back room deal".   I don't want to wade too deeply into this one, but it seems clear these accusations are false, and I would urge anyone who thinks the board acted illegally to carefully research the law before making accusations which could lead to the board being found in contempt of court.

The board received their Right-To-Know training on March 26th.   I still don't know how the district goes about getting the injunction lifted.

What do candidates do with their campaign signs after the election is over?   Apparently, if you're a farmer like Chairman Barth, you use them to build a house for your ducks.

Next regular board meeting: April 4th.

- Dean

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Congratulations ORCSD on the 2011 NECAPs

Did anybody else see newly elected board member Dr. Ed Charle's face about 4 feet high on the side of a COAST bus?    Perhaps I've just been thinking about the election way too much.

Anyway, the election is over.   We won.  Why are you people still reading?

Actually, I'm surprised and happy people are still tuning in.  I guess I had better write something new.   I chose the snooze-inducing topic of the NECAPs.    Those are the tests we do for No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Fun factoid:  Measured Progress in Dover coordinates production, administration, scoring and reporting for the NECAPs all over New England.  I've been wondering about that Orwellian sounding name for years.

At the March 7th school board meeting there was a presentation on this year's NECAP results.  The district overall showed a very impressive improvement.  The students, teachers, and administrators all need to be congratulated for what appears to be a very impressive year.

We don't know yet whether we've made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) or are still are District in Need of Improvement (DINI) with Schools in Need of Improvement (SINI).  They have to crunch the data and we find out next month.

I don't want to get too deep into NCLB here.   Most of what was reported at the meeting was the percentage of kids Proficient with Distinction or Proficient.    These are the top two grades -- if a kid gets either one he is considered proficient in that subject, in other words, not left behind.   Each kid tested gets a separate grade for reading and math, and for older kids, writing too.

Let's go right to the charts.  I got these from the PDF of the meeting agenda PDF of the report.  Now that I loaded all this in it occurs to me you should just watch the video of Prinipal Gallo, Director of Instruction Bolduc and Director of Instruction Schlicter, who (unlike me) all actually know what they're talking about and gave an excellent presentation.   Here's the video -- the talk starts about 36 minutes in.  Unfortunately the quality of the image makes it difficult to read the graphs.  The speakers also directed people to the state's education website for more graphs.

Let's look at school by school.   At the talk Principal Gallo warned about just looking at the improvement over last year, but that's what I'm going to focus on anyway.  First Mast Way:

That's an 8% increase in math and a 10% increase in reading.  That is huge -- congratulations Mast Way!

The lags are such that the results we just got in March 2012 are the 2011 NECAPs; testing was October 2011, so the test reflects teaching in the 2010-2011 school year.  So there's a two year lag and a three year cycle -- we presumably got 2009 results (reflecting 2008-2009 teaching) in March 2010, which the teachers and administration used to change how they taught in 2010-2011, which then gets reflected in the results we see in March 2012.  Any steps we take now based on the 2011 test will affect the 2012-2013 teaching year and we won't see the results until 2014.   I  think 2009-2010 was Principal Gallo's first year at Mast Way, which makes these results the first NECAP report that measures planning and teaching that occurred under her guidance.    Very impressive, Principal Gallo.

Here's Moharimet:

Moharimet, starting from a higher level than Mast Way, rose  3% in math and 6% in reading -- way to go!

Here's Middle School:

Middle School is up 5% in math, 8% in reading, and 14% in writing.   Incredible!

Probably here is a good place to point out the the tests are given in grades 3 through 8, and grade 11, early in the school year, so mostly reflect the previous year's teaching.   In particular, the middle school hasn't really had much time with the grade 5 kids being tested, and there's some indication those results are included in the elementary school averages.  But that would require knowing which school each student attended the previous year, which seems overly complicated, so I'm not sure.  At this point, my best guess is the elementary school score measures teaching in second, third, and fourth grades, the middle school score, fifth, sixth and seventh, and the high school score measures tenth grade.

High school:

I suppose this is the sad news.  In the high school we went down 6% in math, up 5% in reading, and down 6% in writing.  The overall level on math (58%) is worrisome -- apparently this is (at least) a statewide problem they're looking into.   For the HS, there are a few mitigating factors.   First, each year tests a different sets of kids, so they're not necessarily comparable.  There's only one year of data for high school compared to three for middle school and three for elementary, so the high school average is going to be more volatile.   You can see that in the series for math and writing.   The mediocre results could be just the luck of the draw.

Of course, these are all averages across entire grades (entire schools, really) and those numbers look good for us.  What made Mast Way a SINI is what's called the educationally disabled cohort - kids with IEPs - they failed to make AYP twice.   (A test monitor made a mistake that caused three MW kids with IEPs to officially score zero on the math NECAP, so we may have difficulty this year too.)  This doesn't affect a lot of other schools because there's a rule that if any cohort has fewer than 10 kids it doesn't count.  Mast Way had more, so tickled one of the more ridiculous aspects of NCLB, that the special education population had better perform as well as any other group, or you're leaving them behind and you need improvement.   By 2014 we'll have reached the obvious conclusion that either we're still leaving kids behind, or we're measuring the wrong things.   The answer: both.

If anybody actually reads this I'll write more when the AYP results come out.

Great job on the NECAPs, Oyster River.

- Dean

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dean apologizes to Jim Kach

[Late Tuesday when I posted the election results, I changed the banner of my site to one which included a fabricated picture of a newspaper with an article and photo of Jim Kach in jail for RTK violations.   It was my childish attempt to tie to together the dual themes of "Mr. Kach's fake news website" and "Keep Mr. Kach out of jail."  I was forwarded an email Mr. Kach sent in which he makes it clear he was offended by the picture.   I don't have permission to post the email, so I'll summarize it by saying that it included the banner as an example of the incivility of FORE and its members.   Here is the apology I immediately sent to Mr. Kach.] 

Dear Mr. Kach,

Someone forwarded me this email in which I see you object to the banner on my site.   I am terribly sorry that it hurt you.   I genuinely thought you might actually enjoy it, but I can see I was seriously mistaken.   I certainly understand how it can be perceived as uncivil.  I have removed the offending photo from the banner.

The fabricated photo was originally a response to your fake news website.   For a while I thought the best way to respond to your fake news was to make some fake news of my own.   But I decided that it wouldn't be right to use it during the campaign so I shelved it until after the election was over.  I should have kept it on the shelf.

I am solely responsible for the photo.   I am not a member of FORE.   FORE and its members had nothing to do with the picture.   They have nothing to do with running my blog either, though some members have commented on posts, and I did post JoAnn P.'s letter to Foster's.   It is unfair and inaccurate to blame FORE or its members for what was solely my doing.

Please feel free to distribute this apology as you see fit.  I will post it on my blog by tomorrow.  Again, I am truly sorry.

Very truly yours,
Dean Rubine

A couple of people have pointed out to me that the picture reflects badly on FORE and the candidates.   Of course, neither FORE nor any of the candidates had anything to do with it.   Allow me here to extend my apology.   Members of FORE and newly elected board members,  I am sorry that a picture of my own creation has reflected poorly on you.   This was never my intention.   I will continue to make clear that none of you had anything to do with its creation or publication.   I live on High Road -- I should have taken it.

- Dean

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Election Results - We Win!

I am thrilled to report the results of today's election.    We won everything.  The results are exactly what we've been working for these past few weeks.   Everyone on the T.E.A.M. won, and all the articles passed.   Congratulations Tom, Ed, Al and Maria.  

I want to thank all the people who worked so hard to get them elected.   For me, getting to know the people in the district has definitely been the best part of getting involved.    I also want to thank my beautiful wife Ruth, who got me started on all this, who's been working very hard in her own way for the T.E.A.M., and who bravely woke us all up in a way that ultimately led to today's victory. And I especially want to thank my readers and the entire community for overwhelmingly confirming my faith in the essential decency of our district.

It seems we are a vocal minority no longer.   We are now a vocal majority by a landslide!

I have shamelessly copied the election results from  Thanks, Stephanie.   You can also find the results on the district's site.  [Text continued below, after the results]

ORCSD Election Results

Moderator – 1 year term
Richard Laughton – 2345
School Board  
Durham – 3 year term
Al Howland – 2448
Lee – 3 year term
Maria Barth – 2020
Henry Brackett – 835
Madbury – 3 year term
Ed Charle – 1953
Jim Kach – 822
At Large – 1 year term 
Tom Newkirk – 2241
Peter Macdonald – 413
ARTICLE 3:  To approve the collective bargaining agreement for the Oyster River Paraprofessionals and Support staff (ORPaSS). 
YES 2072 passed
NO 1024
ARTICLE 4:  To approve the collective bargaining agreement for the Oyster River Bus Drivers’ Association (ORBDA).
YES 2309 passed
NO 797
ARTICLE 5:  To appropriate the sum of $47,000, requested by the Oyster River Sustainability Committee.
YES 1972 passed
NO 1089
ARTICLE 6: To continue the ORCSD Sustainability Committee, established in Mar. 2011.
YES 2147 passed
NO 900
ARTICLE 7:  To approve the operating budget, totaling $38,360,788.  Should this article be defeated, the operating budget shall be $38,257,079 (Default Budget).
YES 1675 passed
NO 1332

These are not just wins -- this is a major landslide.  Here are the results of the school board races as percentages:

At Large:     Tom Newkirk      84%           Peter Macdonald    16%
Madbury:     Ed Charle            70%           Jim Kach                 30%
Durham:       Al Howland       100%
Lee:             Maria Barth          71%          Henry Brackett        29%

That's some T.E.A.M!  Ed Charle was our slacker, winning only 70% of the electorate.  Al actually got a lot more votes than the moderator.

I would venture to say such a resounding defeat of incumbents is extremely rare.   Mitt Romney sure isn't going to win by 40% like Ed and Maria did.  It's all the more incredible when you recall that a month ago very few in the district even knew the names Maria Barth and Ed Charle.   I think we can safely call this a mandate for change.

The community has spoken loud and clear. I am hopeful that everyone will join me in supporting our new board as they tackle the tough problems we face.  This is our opportunity  to unite as a community, and to heal our district.  Let's not screw it up.

Finally, I want to thank outgoing board member Jim Kach and outgoing chairman Henry Brackett for their service.   I've been hard on them this past month, but that's over now.  I know they've worked tirelessly for our district.   I know they have always had the best interests of the district at heart.   And they have accomplished plenty of admirable things: the ORDBA and ORPaSS deals are very good, the interim superintendent Lee Levesque is great, and we have high hopes for the new superintendent, Dr. James Morse.  I could go on.  I have no doubt that Jim and Henry will continue to contribute positively to our district.  I wish them well.

- Dean

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It's Election Day!

Today is Tuesday, March 13th. It's Election Day in the Oyster River Cooperative School District.   With your help our long nightmare will soon be over.

I'm a busy voter; tell me what to do.  Vote today at your regular polling place for the T.E.A.M. - Tom, Ed, Al, and Maria.  Vote YES on all the YES/NO school district questions.

Well, I have a little time to read.  See a copy of the ballot and familiarize yourself with the issues by reading the Voting Instructions for the 2012 Oyster River Cooperative School District Election.

Why should I believe you when you tell me to vote against the incumbents?   Pretty much every post on this blog is another answer that question.   My article about Mr. Kach's Faux News Website is the most popular, maybe because I actually break news.  Next popular is my essay on Chairman Brackett's misdeeds, Regarding Henry.   I think Jim Kach's Tweets are the best reason not to vote for him.   In Mr. Kach's Flyer I refute his claimed accomplishments point by point.  I sum it all up in An Open Letter to ORCSD Voters.

Are the candidates running against them any good?   They're great.  Maria Barth is a farmer in Lee, with 11 successful years as chairman of the Kittery school board under her belt.   Dr. Ed Charlé has been a family physician in Somersworth for the last 25 years, and has served with distinction on several boards.  His specialty is listening.

Roger Speidel says his taxes are too damn high.  Yeah, mine too.  And the school tax is going up again, despite promises from the incumbents.   The budget the school board approved raises the school tax 2.8% in Durham, 3.0% in Madbury, and 3.4% in Lee, according to the Annual Report of the District (PDF).   The extra $156K added by the voters at the deliberative session adds about 0.4% more.  Or as Roger would call it, 1000% more.   I'm kidding about the 1000%, but I take a serious look at Roger's math in Roger Speidel's Numbers.

Why do you care so much?    
My wife discovered Mr. Kach's tweets, which I thought were so unworthy of an elected official with the awesome responsibility for educating my children, that I have temporarily put aside my apathy and taken up the cause.   You can read my story in my first post, ORCSD School Board Election.

But I like Henry and Jim.  I like them too, believe it or not.  The judge in the second lawsuit issued an injunction, and if Mr. Brackett and Mr. Kach  violate the Right-to-Know law again, they could end up in jail.  Let's do them a big favor and keep them out of jail by electing Maria Barth and Dr. Ed Charlé.

What's next?  The results of the election should be announced around 9pm tonight.  I'll post them here when I get them.   After that, I take a long vacation from blogging, maybe even until the next election or beyond.  And regardless of the outcome of this election, I never type anything about Jim Kach's noxious tweets or the board's run-ins with the law ever again.

Are there any other websites for information?   This is really the only one you need. Actually, I'm very grateful to for publishing my post.  You can also check out the T.E.A.M.'s sites:  Tom Newkirk, Ed Charlé, Al Howland and Maria Barth.  You'd think would highlight the election, but I didn't see anything on their home page.

Anything else?   Yes.  Lee voters, recommends you vote NO on article 5 of the Lee ballot to keep SB-2.  I found this on page 80 of the Lee Annual Report (PDF).
Happy Election Day.   Go vote.   Bring some friends.

Dean Rubine, Lee

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Regarding Henry

A couple of people have mentioned that I've been easier on Chairman Henry Brackett than I have on Board Member Jim Kach.   Believe it or not, I genuinely like Mr. Brackett, and we get along pretty well.   His granddaughter is in the same first grade class as my son.   As a concerned and loving grandfather, he's great.  I just think he's made a hash of things as chairman of the school board .   I don't really agree I've gone easy so far, but I thought I should write something that focuses on the chairman.   It's no secret that I want people to vote this Tuesday against the incumbents, and for the T.E.A.M. - Tom, Ed, Al, and Maria.

Maria Barth, who's running against Chairman Brackett for the Lee seat, is by far the superior candidate.  She served 11 successful years as Chairman of the Kittery, ME school board.   Her record is unblemished.  When she moved back to our district, the good people of Kittery were very sorry to see her go.

Mr. Brackett has served two tumultuous years as chairman, and has twice been found to have violated the law (and, in each case, in multiple ways).  Along the way, he's managed and to get half the community seriously fed up with the board, and the other half seriously fed up with the first half.   As far as I can tell, he hasn't gotten it together enough to make a website for his campaign -- so much for communicating with the community .  But more importantly, it's remarkable how Chairman Brackett, whenever he was presented with an opportunity to unite the community, consistently chose to divide.

For example, when Ann Wright resigned from the board, she did so on January 24th, 2012, the last day she could and still ensure that Tuesday's election decides who serves out her term.  Any later and the board, not the public, would choose who finishes her term.  Ann Wright was often the lone voice on the board representing people like me.  It was suggested at public comments that the board appoint Ann Wright herself as interim member to serve until the election.  This would have allowed her to continue to participate in the superintendent search.  It really would have cost the board nothing to appoint her, and it would have truly been a welcome gesture that would have united the community. But Chairman Brackett could not bring himself to do it.    Instead, he chose to leave the seat empty, to silence the one opposing voice.

I first came into contact with the Chairman at the 7/20/2011 board meeting, where the public first got up to voice concern about Mr. Kach's tweets.   Chairman Brackett wasn't there, but he participated by speakerphone.   He seemed unaware of the rules for participating by speakerphone (roll call votes are required) so most of the votes taken were invalid and had to be redone.   The moment at the meeting that is emblematic of how much the chairman respects the public came during an early comment.   A dial tone emerges from the speakerphone and the board scrambles to turn it off.   Chairman Brackett had literally hung up on the public.   Don't believe me?  Here it is.

By the next meeting it was clear that Mr. Kach would not resign over the tweets, and the issue became whether the board and its members would condone or condemn the tweets.   I think board members Krista Butts and Ann Wright did the honorable thing and spoke out against the tweets.  Chairman Brackett could have easily said "Jim, I think many of the tweets are deplorable, and not worthy of a representative of our district.  I am going to work to change our policies so that we board members are held to at least as high a standard as we hold our administrators, teachers, staff, and students."   This would have gone a long way toward uniting the community.  Instead, Chairman Brackett stated the board had no power to censure one of its members.  I think he just made this up; it was easy to find this example of a New Hampshire school board censuring a member.  In any case, nothing stopped individual board members from speaking out against the tweets, which Chairman Brackett never did.

The tweets were so vile, and so contrary to the values that I would want in someone with the awesome responsibility of educating my children, that I felt strongly that Mr. Kach did not represent me and should resign.  The reaction my neighbors indicated they largely concurred.   When Mr. Kach did not resign, the onus was on the board to condemn the tweets.   They did not, and by tacitly condoning the tweets, they took the shame Mr. Kach had brought upon himself and spread it upon the entire board.   The only recourse left to the community was public comments, and this Tuesday's election.   The community needs to come together regardless of political party or stance on other issues and say these tweets are unacceptable, that the board condoning them is unacceptable, and thus Mr. Kach and Chairman Brackett should not be reelected.   If the voters do reelect Mr. Kach and the chairman, we will have brought the shame of those tweets upon the entire community.   That would make me very sad.

But I think even worse behavior on the chairman's part was uncovered by the lawsuits.   I've seen Mr. Kach try to spin the whole affair as Mr. Brackett failing to turn over a few emails in a timely fashion.    The court documents reveal that this was just the tip of the iceberg.    For example. here's an invoice from a law firm:

Note this is obviously school board business ("RE: Termination of Howard Colter") but for some reason the invoice was sent to Mr. Brackett's home address.   The firm and the attorney appear to have no specialty in education law or with governing boards.  Note that the date on the item that first refers to the superintendent is April 15th, a full two months before the board took any official action to authorize work on a superintendent transition.  If you believe the title of the invoice, the March 24th call was also in regards to the "Termination of Howard Colter".  This plot was brewing for almost three months.  Actually, on January 18th Mr. Kach tweeted:  SAU#5-NH needs new Supt.;New HS Principal&New Food Ser. Manager.   This plan seems to have been in the works at least six months before becoming public. 

What's exasperating about all this is that the board has full authority to legally change superintendents and most of the other things they wanted to do.   All they had to do is follow the well-established procedures.   Apparently Mr. Colter was willing to discuss his separation from the district in public; it was the chairman and Mr. Kach that acted to keep it secret.   They could have legally held the deliberations in non-public session, but instead Mr. Brackett chose to hold illegal, secret meetings, including two in the Durham Police station, one of which was discovered by former Director of Instruction Dr. Meredith Nadeau.   Here's the relevant section of the judge's ruling:

The board claims that the Right-to-Know law is difficult to understand, and they were given bad council.    And they were -- under the chairman's leadership they didn't use the district's education lawyer, instead relying on outside council without the relevant experience.   But they really only needed the lawyer because they were trying to skirt the public meeting requirements.   Had they relied on the well-known rules for public and non-public sessions they could have accomplished their goals without violating any laws.

Maybe instead of asking a lawyer if it's OK to have secret meetings in police stations, just don't have secret meetings in police stations.  Instead of hiring a new lawyer to do a secret deal and have the lawyer send the bills to the chairman's house, how about using the regular lawyer, having the meetings according the rules, and have the bills sent to the SAU office?  The only reason I can see for not following the law is that following the law may have alerted the public to what they were up to, which apparently Chairman Brackett wanted to avoid.  I will point out that the T.E.A.M. - Tom, Ed, Al, and Maria - have all campaigned on scrupulously obeying all applicable laws.

I don't know about anybody else, but when I find out my elected representatives have acted to keep public business from the public, I get the feeling they might not have the public's best interests at heart.  We're lucky to live in a state and a country where it's actually the law that they're not allowed to this.   Two judges found Chairman Brackett violated this law, and the second imposed the harshest penalty available, an injunction.  This means if he violates the law again he risks contempt of court.  I'm asking the voters to do Henry Brackett the biggest favor of his life by voting for Maria Barth and getting Mr. Brackett off the board before he ends up in jail.  The same goes for the Madbury seat: Keep Mr. Kach out of jail by electing Dr. Ed. Charle.

- Dean Rubine, Lee

Friday, March 9, 2012

JoAnn P. makes our case

[JoAnn Portalupi cc'd me on this letter she sent this Foster's.   I don't know if they'll get to it before the election, so I'm happy to post it here.  It gives a great first hand account of recent board history.  Thanks, JoAnn.   - Dean]

The Facts Speak for Themselves

I was on the Oyster River School Board in August of 2010, when Jim Kach was appointed to fill a vacated seat. I voted to appoint Jim based on his easy going, friendly demeanor and his claim that he had no agenda other than to serve his community. He thought he could help heal tensions that were rumbling in the district.

At his second meeting he voted against a nomination put forth by then Superintendent Howard Colter. This was a clear vote of no confidence, which struck me as odd coming from someone without an agenda who additionally claimed to know little about the school system. 

At the Candidates Forum in February of 2011 Mr. Kach told voters he was in support of hiring a permanent principal for the high school. But on April 14th, shortly after his election, he voted NO on the nomination that came as a result of a long and thorough search process, a vote that directly led to the need to hire an interim.

In June of 2011 Mr. Kach stated at a public board meeting that he believed every dollar of the unreserved fund balance should be returned to the voters. And yet at the very next meeting (June 30th), he voted to spend $185K to buy out the last year of Superintendent Howard Colter’s contract. The money came from the unreserved fund balance.

Mr. Kach includes support for technology on his list of accomplishments and yet on December 7, 2011, after already approving cuts in technology hardware for our teachers and students, he voted to cut further. 

A clearer picture of the real Jim Kach has emerged.

I’ve also observed that Mr. Kach does not follow the will of the voters. On September 21st, 2012, he voted NO on a motion to expend the $15K that voters approved to help heal the tension in the district. (Henry Brackett, also up for re-election, voted NO as well.)

I’ve watched Mr. Kach minimize issues when confronted with concerns about his or the Board’s behavior.

About a string of personal tweets that offended many in the community, Jim claims they were attempts at humor and that he didn’t mean to offend. And of the first of two lawsuits against the Board, Jim claims this was merely a matter of 3000 emails. When asked what he would do to prevent this from happening in the future? He quipped, “Hire a better lawyer.”

Such attempts at humor are fine for shooting the breeze over a cup of coffee, but they are not the response one seeks from an elected school official. They reveal an inability to look reflectively at, and take responsibility for, actions that have wronged or hurt others.

Voters in all three communities will be allowed to cast a vote for the Madbury race between Jim Kach and Ed Charle. We need school board members whose words are backed by actions and who respect constituents enough to own up to mistakes when they are made. Eighteen months ago I gave Jim Kach my vote. This time around my vote will go to Ed Charle, a Madbury resident and civic-minded individual who sees the facts and knows our community deserves better.

JoAnn Portalupi
Lee, NH

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mr. Kach's Faux News Website

I run a biased blog here, and I don't try to hide that fact.   Practically every other sentence  is something like: Vote Tuesday for the TEAM - Tom, Ed, Al, and Maria!

But incumbent board member Jim Kach appears to really be trying to lure people to his site by deliberately conflating it with the official district site, and to further the ruse by calling his propaganda "NEWS".   This is low even by the standards of the current board.

You may know that the district's website is  Mr. Kach's website is, incredibly,    This seems a blatant attempt to confuse voters into thinking that they're looking at the official district site, when what they're really getting is Mr. Kach's propaganda.

But it's even more deceptive than that.    The banner on the site (reproduced below) reads "Oyster River School Board ELECTION NEWS."    It's not news -- it's his campaign's website.   I can't help but be reminded of Mr. Kach's deceptions that brought us illegal secret meetings and secret ballots, and his claims like he's supporting technology when he's really cutting technology.   After all the trouble he's gotten into with the New Hampshire courts, it's unbelievable that he is once again trying to deceive the community.   He's demonstrated once again he thinks transparency is optional, and that misleading the community is an OK way to get reelected, and to govern. 

Stop the deception.   Do not let this man represent Oyster River anymore.  Do not let this man represent YOU anymore.  I've already debunked his flyer and reminded everyone of his vile tweets. Please vote for Dr. Ed Charle this Tuesday.

- Dean Rubine, Lee

Update: I just noticed (8pm Friday Mar 9) the banner on has changed.  Of course, it's still the deceptive  Mr. Kach has come half way back to not deceiving the voters.  Kudos.  There's still a form on the right where you give Mr. Kach your email address and "Get the latest news!" and "Subscribe Now."    Here's a screenshot:

Want to email Mr. Kach? (yet another of his campaign sites -- he seems to have a few) gives his address as   No, not misleading at all.

Voting Instructions for the 2012 Oyster River Cooperative School District Election

This is the 2012 guide.  Click here for the 2013 guide.

This is my very biased yet oddly informative voting guide to the upcoming ORCSD election.  If you just want to see the unadulterated ballot, skip to the end.

Election Day is this Tuesday, March 13th, 2012.   Vote at your regular polling place.   Depending on which town you live in, that's the Lee Public Safety Complex, Madbury Town Hall, or Oyster River High School in Durham.   Lee has a sign outside that says the polls are open 7am - 7pm; I'm not sure about the other towns. If you're not already registered, you can register at the polls on election day.   To register, bring proof of age (driver's license).   If you don't also bring proof of citizenship (birth certificate) and proof of address (utility bill) they'll ask you to sign something swearing you've told the truth about these.    I think it's still the case that voters who are already registered don't even need ID.   Here's FORE's voter information.

Voters in Madbury, Lee, and Durham will all see identical school district questions, including the four races for board seats.   Everyone gets to vote for all four seats.   I want to be clear: Lee and Durham voters vote for the Madbury seat on the board too.   For example, everyone in all three towns can vote for all four of Tom Newkirk (at large), Ed Charle (Madbury), Al Howland (Durham), and Maria Barth (Lee) (Remember their first initials spell TEAM.)  Or they can vote for any or all of their opponents.  When it comes to school district questions, including seats, each vote from any voter in the district always counts equally.   Some people complain that this gives Durham, with the largest population, more influence.  But it comes down to every voter in the district being treated equally.   My understanding is that this rule for cooperative school districts was decided by the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

Let's go through the ballot:

Article 1 elects the moderator, and there's only one person running.   Vote for him, write yourself in, I don't care.

Article 2 elects the school board members, and there are four races.   My recommendation is that you vote for the TEAM - Tom, Ed, Al, and Maria.   On this ballot the order is Tom, Al, Maria, Ed -- TAME !   Al  Howland's running unopposed but there's a rumor of a write-in campaign, so please fill in his oval.    If you don't want to take my word for who to vote for, here's a questionnaire the candidates all filled out.  Ed (whose full name is Dr. Edwin Charlé) has learned a lot since he's filled out this questionnaire, as you can tell from the interview on his website.

Article 3 is the ORPaSS contract  (paraprofessionals and support staff).  I would say that ORPaSS gave the district a good deal and I'm voting YES.    Thanks, ORPaSS.   At the March 7 meeting, the board clarified that the 2014-2015 number of $52,718 is the year-on-year increase, so represents an $86,258 increase above current levels.  I just spent a few minutes looking in the budget for how much in total we spend on paraprofessionals and support staff but I didn't find it,  though I seem to remember it's there.     At the last board meeting somebody suggested putting the total on the poster, but nobody knew offhand how much it was.  I didn't find the new contract, though the one from three years ago has the current pay rates.    Be nice to these people -- they work hard for our kids for not alot of money.

Article 4 is the ORBDA contract (bus drivers).   They too gave us a good deal, so I'm voting YES to take it.    Thanks, ORBDA.  I'm glad the board didn't outsource transportation.  Stephanie in a comment below says she checked and the real ballot contains an oval to fill in for for YES.

Article 5 raises $47,000 for Sustainability Committee initiatives, notably energy audits.  I'm voting YES.   If the energy audits of the other schools uncover a fraction of the problems that the one in the high school did, this money will pay for itself many times over.  For a board that's doing victory laps for finding out the high school heat is broken, why are they asking the voters whether to do energy audits for the other schools too?   They could just pay for them out of the general fund but they don't want to look like spenders, even when spending money would save money, not even just in the long run, but this budget year.  For the high school problems, spending $40,000 now saves around $70,000 in fuel annually.  Yet you'll note that, unlike many of the others, this article does not say "The school board recommends this appropriation." It was Mr. Kach, who touts as a major accomplishment "the completion of the district’s facilities report and an energy audit on the ORHS," who suggested the board's recommendation be omitted.

Article 6 is a vote to sustain the Sustainability Committee another year.  I'm voting YES.

Article 7 is the vote to raise $38 million to pay for schools.  The important thing to understand about this question is that your vote affects only one quarter of one percent of the budget.  If YES wins, we raise about $104,000 more than if NO wins.  Either way we're raising north of $38 million. I'm voting YES and hoping the new board uses the extra money to reinstate the High School Assistant Principal, who'll we'll need if we want to carry out the plan for 100 more tuition students over the next four years resulting in a direct savings to the taxpayers of $1 million annually.   Inaccurately, this article states "the School Board recommends this appropriation" when the default budget (what we get if "NO" wins) is closer to the school board approved budget -- the voters at the deliberative session added around $156,000 to the school board's budget to arrive at the budget on this ballot.   There was some loose talk in the paper that this addition is why taxes are going up, but the school tax was going up about 3% even before this addition of 0.4%

I've been told that each individual town counts their own ballots, and brings the result to the high school where the Durham ballots are counted.  The results are announced at the high school, usually around 9pm on election day.  I'll post them as soon as I get them.

- Dean

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

An Open Letter to ORCSD Voters

[Note: This letter started out life as the script for a phone message to district parents, but I decided against doing that -- the message is too long, I wasn't sure if voters would view it as an unwanted intrusion, and I don't really have time to make all those calls anyway.]

Dear Oyster River School District Voters:

My name is Dean Rubine.  I live in Lee, and I have two children in the Oyster River School District.   I’d like a few minutes of your time to talk about the school board elections this Tuesday, March 13th.   I’m urging people to vote against those running for reelection, and to vote for Maria Barth and Dr. Ed Charle.  Maria was chairman of the Kittery school board for 11 years, and by all accounts they were sorry to see her go.   Ed founded Salmon Falls Family Health Care in Somersworth 25 years ago, still works there as family physician and medical director, and has experience on several boards.   They’ve both campaigned on trying to heal the district, being good listeners, improving education, and reducing taxes.

Running against them are board member Jim Kach and board chairman Henry Brackett.   There’s really not enough time in a short message to even just list all the ways they’ve caused turmoil in the district.   Mr. Kach, you may recall, is the infamous tweeter who refused to resign after his bigoted and hateful tweets embarrassed and divided the district last summer.   Most  are too vile to repeat here.   Tellingly, Mr. Kach tweeted:  “It starts now at the lowest level:  School board … cut the legs from the beast.”  

In two separate cases, the New Hampshire courts have declared that the board twice violated the right to know law, each time in multiple ways.   The first time the board had illegal secret meetings to avoid public scrutiny of their plan to pay superintendent Howard Colter $185,000 not to work this year.   The judge found "the Board and Brackett knew or should have known their conduct violated the Right-to-Know Law."    The second time a different judge imposed the harshest penalty available: He issued an injunction and now if members of the board again violate the law they face contempt of court and even risk jail time.

Mr. Kach and Chairman Brackett have had their chance.  Their reign over the last year and a half has resulted in an unprecedented loss of seven administrators and a principal candidate whose search was so botched by the board that it led to a student walkout.   The candidate denied by the board has since been hired as principal of Hanover High School, the number one rated high school in the state.  All this turnover costs us money for severance, for searches, and for lawyers.   Taxes are still going up, the new high school is falling apart, and this board still has no plan for the future. Let's start fresh with a law-abiding board.   On Tuesday, March 13th please vote for Maria Barth and  Dr. Ed Charlé

You can find out more about the candidates at their websites, and at my website   Thank you for your attention.

Very truly yours,

Dean Rubine

Tom Newkirk at the Candidate Forums (video)

I've been told my blog is boring because it's insufficiently multimedia -- it's nothing but text.  There are no pictures.  I even do math on it sometimes.  It's like I'm trying to drive people away.  So here goes.

I haven't written much about the at-large seat on the board that's up for election.   That race is between Tom Newkirk and Peter Macdonald.  Both would be new to the board, and I'm pretty focused on the races in which current board members are running.  The incumbents deserve to lose, and we happen to have excellent alternatives.   I urge everybody to vote for Dr. Ed Charle and Maria Barth on Tuesday, March 13th.

I also support Tom Newkirk.   I'll let these videos speak for themselves.

Cody Jacobsen is the student representative to the board.   I've observed him in meetings for months now, and I've come to see him as an impressive young man.   At times he has demonstrated much more maturity than some of the senior members.   Here he is asking a very important question, and getting woefully inadequate and dissembling answers from Mr. Kach and Mr. Brackett.  They can't even agree on whether the first lawsuit is done.   At the evening forum Chairman Brackett and Member Kach both blamed their lawyer -- the lament of convicts everywhere.

- Dean