School Board member berates taxpayer

At the May 19th, 2016 School Board Meeting, I asked the school board to provide an update on what the School Board had done over the last several years to investigate alternatives to the building renovations which are part of the current $5.5 million Russell School capital improvement plan.

The school board representatives responded by making reference to a study done back in May 1988.   The study was titled “Feasibility study on the establishment of a Cooperative School District on an area plan for grades 9-12 in SAU #48 with and without Ashland.” The study had nothing to do with addressing the educational needs of Rumney for grades K-8.  So why is the school board referencing a 28 year old study which is obsolete and totally irrelevant to the circumstances which exist in Rumney today?

I requested access to that study and reviewed it.  The only information I found applicable to today’s circumstances was the following quote:

“Two reasons for the school districts in SAU #48 to stay together under a cooperative plan:

EDUCATION: It is not possible for any one district to provide the range of educational opportunities required by students today in order for them to be prepared for the world of tomorrow.

FINANCIAL:  By combining resources, the Taxpayers will be better served.”

Those two reasons ring more true today than they did back in May 1988.

Studies done with Wentworth were also cited by school board representatives at the May 19th meeting.  However, when I asked if these studies were in written form so that I could review them,  Jerry Thibodeau, school board vice chair, rudely interrupted me, and said:

“You’re really going over the edge right now”

“Are you the only person in this town?”

When I did not respond, Jerry Thibodeau repeated in a louder voice

“Are you the only person in this town?”

“You’re calling us all liars”

Clearly, Jerry Thibodeau thinks the taxpayers should take his word for anything he says even if its going to cost the taxpayers $5.5 million dollars. Apparently, Jerry Thibodeau believes that asking for documentation which details their analysis and due diligence to investigate alternatives to the building renovations amounts to calling them liars.

I didn’t answer his question then, but I will answer it now.

I am a Rumney taxpayer.  As a taxpayer and a concerned citizen, I, along with everyone else, has a right to know what public officials are doing on our behalf.    When a school board claims that ‘studies’ have been done, they should be willing to put forth, for public review, the documented results of those studies.   And they should be able to substantiate their conclusions and recommendations.  After all, we’re talking about the future education of Rumney’s schoolchildren and at least $5.5 million dollars of taxpayers money.

I may be the only one asking these questions now.  But when the taxpayers are asked to raise an additional $5.5 million in taxes,  some other concerned taxpayers may start asking similar questions.  Will Jerry Thibodeau be asking them: “Are you the only person in this town”?