Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Granite Grok - Don't Give in to the Bullies.

GraniteGrok  Click here to listen to the Granite Grok podcast.
The Bullies in the AG’s office are prepared to take a small town to court even though the law is against them. We talk more about the intimidation factor, the press, and the likely costs to go to court to defend School Choice.

Croydon School Board Ignores AG’s Private Tuition Deadline | Valley News

Croydon School Board Ignores AG’s Private Tuition Deadline | Valley News

I am very grateful to Chuck Douglas, a former state Supreme Court justice. 

It is my hope that the bullies in Newport, Croydon, and at
the state level trying to stop what is best for these five children,
will not win.  The following piece appears in full on the Valley News website.


Croydon School Board Ignores AG’s Private Tuition Deadline

By Rob Wolfe
Croydon — School Board members on Monday defied the state’s deadline to stop paying
private-school tuition with tax money, gearing up instead for what they
say is a likely court battle.

“I don’t think the state should be telling a local board where they should be finding the best education for their students,” Chuck Douglas, a former state Supreme Court justice who
serves as the board’s attorney, said on Monday. “They should keep their
hands off of Croydon at this point.”

Five Croydon students this year are attending the Newport Montessori School and the families receive reimbursement for tuition from public funds. Since the practice began last school year,
the state has been objecting to it, and Croydon school officials now
believe the disagreement is headed to court.

The School Board has scheduled a meeting on Wednesday night to vote on whether to retain Douglas for the litigation it says is coming from the state. Douglas said the Attorney General’s
Office told him it would likely seek an injunction in Superior Court
this week.

“We feel bad that we have to do this so quickly,” School Board Chairwoman Jody Underwood said in a telephone interview Monday, “but according to our lawyer, we do.”

Assistant Attorney General Anne Edwards signed the Sept. 8 cease-and-desist letter that set Monday’s deadline. Messages for her were not returned.

If the two sides seek a legal resolution, Douglas said, the process could take up to a year and half, potentially involving hearings and appeals in Superior Court and the state Supreme

For Croydon, with a population was 764 in the last census, that could prove expensive.

Underwood has launched a crowdfunding campaign
to support legal costs, which in two days has raised about $2,500 of its
$20,000 goal.
“I’m very excited,” Underwood said of the support, which mostly has come through small donations. “Of course, we’ll have to keep going.”

Other residents have made significant pledges, and some have asked to pay using the digital currency Bitcoin, Underwood said.

The board’s page on the crowdfunding website YouCaring says, “In the unlikely event that the state does not take us to court, we will donate whatever money we raise to a charity or
organization supporting school choice.”

At a meeting last week, the board estimated it would cost about $10,000 to retain a lawyer; Douglas, for his part, said he hadn’t given a firm number, but his retainer could be “several
thousand dollars.”

“They’re a small town,” he said. “We’re not going to charge them anything other than the minimum we can charge to handle the case.”

School Board members  last week estimated that they had up to $18,000 available for legal
fees, though they had also contemplated spending some of that money on
improvements to the Croydon Village School’s playground.

The Croydon Selectboard last week backed the School Board and informed the
Attorney General’s Office that the town government could not legally comply with requests to send municipal checks to SAU 43, not to the School Board.

“We do not do what the attorney general says,” Selectman Steve Cunningham said in an interview last week. “We do what the law says, and I don’t see how they can do anything to us when we’re
obeying the law.”

As the School Board makes what it sees as a defense of school choice, it may end up setting a statewide precedent, Underwood said.

“I’ve gotten calls from all different school boards, because they’re interested in how we’re able to do this,” she said, “but they’re afraid.”

“I think we need to challenge what they tell us,” Underwood said of the state. “We have to keep them on their toes, in my opinion.”
Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Former Plymouth superintendent pleads guilty to larceny - The Bristol Press: Bristol Press

Former Plymouth superintendent pleads guilty to larceny - The Bristol Press: Bristol Press

Add another to the superintendents gone bad list.   Over sight of superintendents is a must.  There is too much blind trust in superintendents.  The following piece appears full on the Bristol Press website. Be sure to click the link to see pictures associated with the story.


PLYMOUTH — Former Superintendent Eleanor Cruz
pleaded guilty to stealing about $15,000 from her previous employer, the
Hebron school district.

Cruz, 64, of Essex, entered her plea to the
single felony charge of first-degree larceny in Superior Court in
Rockville Thursday.

She was accused of using a Hebron school system
credit card at high-end restaurants and online retailers, as well as to
buy groceries, gasoline and gardening supplies. She left Hebron in
December of 2012 to become superintendent in Plymouth.

Tolland County State’s Attorney Matthew Gedansky says he’s seeking a three-year sentence suspended after one year.

Cruz’s lawyer John Gesmonde says he’s confident
she would have been exonerated, but that the financial cost and possible
imprisonment of up to 20 years were too risky.

She is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday, Dec. 3.

Cruz started as Plymouth’s superintendent Dec.
17, 2012. She was arrested Aug. 7, 2014, on a charge of first-degree
larceny for alleged misappropriation of funds in connection with her
previous job at K-6 superintendent in Hebron.

After her arrest, she was on administrative leave with pay, which totaled $162,000 in salary and benefits.

The Board of Education paid for an independent
forensic accountant to review school expenditures from the time Cruz was
hired, which ultimately found nothing improper during her short time
heading Plymouth schools.

She officially resigned Sept. 11, 2014, after reaching a severance agreement that cost the district over $70,000 more.

Cruz had taken over as Plymouth superintendent
three days after Anthony Distasio officially ended his 11 year tenure in
the job. After her arrest, former district business manager Michael
Santogatta was acting superintendent until her resignation, when Mark
Winzler took over as interim superintendent. Martin Semmel was named to
the position as of last March.

Before coming to Plymouth, for almost eight years
Cruz headed Hebron’s K-6 portion of the RHAM regional school district,
which also covers Andover and Marlboro.

In 2012, state police received a complaint from
Hebron officials about some $15,000 in possible misappropriated town
funds after Cruz left the job.

The Hebron Board of Education reviewed both
Cruz’s use of the district credit card and some payments made to her
throughout 2012. The review concluded at least $5,905 in charges or
payments were personal in nature and/or made by Cruz in error, and
$9,113 in charges were unauthorized, lacked supporting documentation,
and/or not for district-related purposes.

For many of the charges, receipts were either not
provided, lacked details of the items purchased or were cut to
eliminate the details, the review said.

The Hebron board alleged:
∎ An overpayment of $100 for Cruz’s insurance expenses, with no reimbursement to board for the overpayment identified.

∎ She received a $2,400 travel advance in July
2012, which her new employment agreement negotiated weeks later and
applied retroactively did not cover, but she did not reimburse the board
for the advance.

∎ Cruz used the district credit card to make 10
fuel purchases totaling some $390, although her contract did not contain
any provisions allowing fuel to be charged to board.

∎ She charged two personal purchases at Nordstrom
Rack department store and Wegmans supermarket in Maryland, in November
2012, for about $352.

∎ In the fall of 2012, she used Hebron funds to
pay $2,375 in consulting fees to Kim M. Bennett, of Northeast
Consulting, for interpreting data and information about the Plymouth
school district.

∎ The district credit card was used for two
Federal Express home deliveries, totaling $198.07, which appeared to be
domestic home deliveries.

∎ Cruz authorized 23 charges at Ted’s Foods, a
supermarket in Hebron, totaling about $960. The charges were made to a
house account at Ted’s in the name of Gilead Hill School and include a
charge of $89.72 on Dec. 15, 2012, the day after Cruz’s last day of

∎ She used the district credit card 23 times to pay gardening and landscaping vendors, totaling about $1,406.

∎ The district credit card was used 12 times at Colonial Supermarket in Essex, where Cruz lives, totaling $790.

Additional charges were made, totaling $6,066, at
restaurants, gift and/or jewelry shops or boutiques, pharmacies, food
stores, farm markets, florists, online retailers, a toy store and a car

Susan Corica can be reached at 860-584-0501 ext. 1802 or scorica@bristolpress.com.

Education Department Bullies Croydon Children

Education Department Bullies Croydon Children
The United States spends more than other countries on K-12 education. New Hampshire spends more than most states, and we are proud to do so. For the 2014-2015 school year, NH taxpayers spent $17,233.48 for every student in public elementary and secondary education. (http://education.nh.gov/data/documents/est_exp14_15.pdf)

This is more than most private schools in NH charge. So the obvious question is: why should education choice be restricted to the wealthy? Why shouldn’t small town families have access to the best schools for their children… when it would cost less? Authors from Milton Friedman to Elizabeth Warren have asked this question.

The parents and school board of Croydon found a simple win-win answer.

Croydon uses tuition money to send their children to different schools after they attend the local elementary school. Most use public middle and high school in nearby Newport, but five students attend a private Montessori school. The cost is $8200 per Montessori student. The students are doing well, and property taxpayers suffering less.

Education Commissioner Virginia Barry has had the Attorney General hit the town’s children with an injunction. But not in spring, back when Croydon notified the state of the plan. No, she bided her time until now, after the children had already settled in to their school. Our tax dollars are being used to bully children out of school in the middle of a term.

Precedent and statute are clear; many towns in NH already send their students to private school. There is no statute mandating mediocre education. Croydon Board of Education’s lawyer, ex-State Supreme Court Justice Charles Douglas, will have a solid case.

I have contributed to the Croydon legal defense crowdfunding site (https://www.youcaring.com/croydon-nh-school-district-440036 ). I hope you will do so as well. The only way to end bureaucratic bullying is to stand up to the bullies.

Bill Walker 
Bill Walker lives in Plainfield. His mother was a public-school teacher who sent him to private school.