To the editor,
On Tuesday, 10 June 2014, I found posted on the front door of Hampstead Middle School the new Right-To-Know Request procedure, =
(http://tinyurl.com/o4hs8xy) prescribing a 50-cents/page charge by the SAU to obtain copies of public information in its custody.
The levy, legally sanctioned by RSA91-A:4,IV, creates an abhorrent monetary burden on taxpayers where none existed in the history of SAU 55.
Clearly, its purpose is to discourage taxpayers from nosing around the school establishment and make them pay a price, if they do.
The action was taken in spite of the “…SAU Board voting 1-9-1 against the creation of an RTK policy last Wednesday night…” as Dr. Metzler wrote on 5/24/14 in response to my emailed 5/12/14 inquiry on the genesis of the RTK policy. He further wrote that “…the procedure … is under my authority…” and “…is defended/supported by legal council (sic).”
Whoa! Dr. Metzler can do whatever he wants even if the SAU Board—his boss—says “no?”
So, what led to the creation of this procedure?
Surely, I asked, there must have been an avalanche of continuing requests that totally buried the SAU staff.
Dr. Metzler did not quantify. He merely cited “several” requests for financial information from some Sandown residents—School Board and BudCom members—who were forced to make the requests as private citizens when their boards stifled their official requests.
“Several” is hardly an avalanche, is not a valid reason and the procedure is clearly overkill.
What alarms me is not the SAU’s 50-cents/page charge. It is the continuing, growing pattern of information control over anything related to schools that has intensified since Dr. Metzler was hired as Superintendent.
Just last week, this paper provided extensive, in-depth narrative and editorial comment of its frustration trying to verify the events surrounding the resignation of the SAU Board chairman and the stonewalling that it encountered.
Is this the educational version of the proverbial mushroom farm?
I grew up in a country where dictators were commonplace. Their biggest weapon against the citizens was not the army or the police but ignorance: they controlled all information which, in turn, begat fear and intimidation.
The kicker is that SAUs have no legal power over school districts because their sole corporate purpose is to provide administrative services which would be too expensive for any one district to afford. Thus, every SAU employee is a vendor to the Timberlane and Hampstead School Districts, including Dr. Metzler.
But until such a time as Timberlane and Hampstead School Board members realize that they have statutory control over the Superintendent—not vice versa—and exercise it, this unfettered abuse of authority will continue.
For openers, the SAU Board should cancel this Right-to-Know Request procedure immediately.
In the meantime, be aware that RSA91-A:4,IV—the basis for the procedure—also grants anyone free access to documents. Simply request to inspect the documents and copy/photograph them with your cell phone.
Just don’t utter the words “RTK requests.” If you do, you’ll have to pay Metzler’s tax!