On Tuesday, March 8, 2016, please exercise your Right to vote at Windham High School between the hours of 7am and 8pm. There are several important decisions that will impact the town and district for years to come, including a construction project that is estimated to exceed $57M. Due to years of neglect, the buildings and crowding issues in the district have not been properly planned for or addressed. This year, the Windham School District has Warrant Article #2 on the ballot that will solve the district’s problems at a cost that is more than what we paid for the Windham High School: the WHS bond plus interest, minus state aid totaled over $55M. This time around, the bond plus interest is over $57M — and the state will not provide any building aid. It’s a difficult decision, and therefore, the WTC strongly requests that you do your own research and cast a vote that represents what you feel is best for you, your family and your community.
Please review this 2-page flier that shows the cost impacts to Windham Taxpayers and a list of pros/cons for approving the Warrant Article. Then please go to the polls on March 8th and vote!
The following letter was sent to the Windham School Board on August 12, 2015.
To the Windham School Board:
The school district’s contract with the teacher’s union will be expiring at the end of the 2015-16 school year. As a member of the school board you have a statutory and fiduciary duty to negotiate a contract that is in the best interests of the taxpayers while at the same time do your best to provide a fair compensation package to the employees.
I worked over 25 years in the insurance and benefits area and hold the REBC, RHU, CLU (Registered Employee Benefits Consultant, Registered Health Underwriter, and Chartered Life Underwriter) designations. In the last two decades, the richness and types of benefits in the private sector has changed dramatically. When I first started my career, employer paid pension plans, employee profit sharing plans and indemnity health plans with low deductibles that were 100% employer paid were the norm. Through the years pensions have been replaced with 401(k) Plans; profit sharing plans changed to stock options; and indemnity health plans were replaced with HMO’s and PPO’s. Employees are now expected to pay 30-50% of their health insurance premiums, and deductibles exceeding $6,000 for singles and $10,000 for families are becoming the norm.
The current teacher contract should be reviewed carefully to determine if certain benefits that may have been common in the past need to be updated to meet current circumstances. Windham took a small first step in its last contract, abandoning the practice of paying for 100% of its health insurance premiums. This year the district will pay 94%, and employees will pay 6% of health insurance premiums. In comparison, our town currently pays 75% and employees pay 25% of their health insurance premiums. There should more steps taken for school district employees to take on more of their fair share of the health insurance costs.
The contract should also be compared with the contracts of several other districts to determine if there are components or language that need to be adjusted. For example:
• Windham has a sick pay bank in which employees contribute 1 sick day to the bank each year, and can apply to use sick days in the case of a longer illness. In Windham participation is mandatory, while in other districts participation is voluntary. Several other districts have contract language that will provide full pay without charging sick days for any employee injured while at work. Windham’s contract does not appear to address this issue. It only seems reasonable someone should not have to use their sick days while recovering from a work related injury.
• The district reimburses teachers for higher education courses. Unlike other districts, the contract does not have a minimum passing grade requirement. There is in fact no contract language that states a teacher even has to pass the course. On the town side, our Firefighters are required to achieve a C grade before they are reimbursed.
• In the private sector automatic raises and raises of 3%, are a thing of the past. Several other school districts have reexamined its practice of automatic 3% step increases. At least one district instituted half steps (1 ½% raises), other districts no longer guarantee automatic yearly step increases.
The Windham taxpayers have experienced huge school tax increases the past decade. At some point there will be a tipping point in which taxpayers will find that the burden of high taxes outweighs the benefits of staying in Windham for its quality of life. In looking at real estate trends, I see that all sectors of Windham’s housing market have recovered from the last crash, except two bedroom homes. Assuming that a majority of those in two bedroom homes do not have children, I fear we are either very near or already at that tipping point. Once we reach that point, a tax death spiral will be created when childless residents sell their homes and are replaced with families with children, making the crowding and school tax situation worse. Higher taxes than other towns will ultimately result in lower home values. The School Board members who are negotiating this contract should recognize the precarious situation we are in. We simply cannot afford for the contract offer to the teachers union to be more than the taxpayers can bear.
The following letter was submitted by Eileen Mashimo, Candidate for the Windham School Board.
I became concerned while reviewing Windham School Board’s January 6, 2015 meeting packet on the proposed contract with Cenergistic (formerly Energy Education Inc “EEI”). The presentation touted “too good to be true” benefits, without ever providing any details on HOW the benefits would be achieved. A quick internet search also raised questions about this company’s business practices.
In May 2008 then “Energy Education Inc.” gave a presentation to the Fitchburg, MA School board. A newspaper article described a very enthusiastic reference from Londonderry, NH building operations manager Chuck Zappala. Later that year the MA Inspector General received a complaint from Fitchburg about EEI’s marketing practices and contract. The IG’s investigation led the office to release an 18 page special advisory to all MA school districts concerning EEI’s business practices.
Cenergistic,(ie.: EEI), hires numerous current and former Superintendents and other educational professionals around the country as “Marketing Consultants.” There have been many instances where educational professionals’ employment with Cenergistic was not disclosed to client school districts.
A Houston area school Superintendent retired after it was revealed she was being paid $500 for each meeting she arranged between EEI and other school districts. The Polk County, FL Asst. Superintendent was fired after he was found to have been paid by vendors,including “$70,000 in financial payments (from EEI) while doing business with Polk County.”
Londonderry’s Chuck Zappala, has been listed as a reference in Cenergistic (EEI) marketing materials for many years. In last week’s SB meeting, Business Administrator Adam Steel said the Londonderry reference told him “you should sign the contract as soon as you can… they are worth every penny.” (@20:50 of WSB 1/6/15 meeting).
Windham needs to ask Cenergistic who their local Marketing Consultants are, and if any of their references are compensated for their endorsements.
Londonderry signed on with then EEI in 2004. A 2005 Boston Globe article entitled “Prince of Darkness saves cash for district” chronicled the district energy manager Bob Lees making rounds in each of the school buildings to make sure “each window is shut and the lights and computers are turned off for the night…in the beginning, he (Lees) left notes for faculty members who left computers on or who forgot to shut their windows.”
There are many articles which tout the “Behavior Modification” used by Cenergistic including “denying teachers’ requests to have ‘less energy saving’ temperature settings in their classrooms,” keeping vestibule doors closed in winter, limiting the hours school buildings are open, and complete shut down of buildings in the summer.
Several districts have disputed the accuracy of the savings reports generated from the required EnergyCAP (previously owned by Enron) software program. One District disagreed with an EnergyCAP report boasting over $600,000 in savings. The district’s numbers showed they had paid Cenergistic almost $200,000 more than they had saved. Some school districts have terminated their contracts at a very steep price. Greece, NY paid EEI $310,800 for an early contract termination. Sacramento, CA School District paid a $700,000 settlement after being sued by EEI for $1.5 million. The disagreement began when Sacramento questioned the accuracy of the EnergyCAP savings reports. Other districts that disputed their energy savings found they could not afford to pay the steep early termination fees.
Did Energy Education Inc., have to change its name due to its bad reputation? Are the EnergyCAP software savings reports inaccurate? What happens if the district does not want to implement their suggestions? Are some of Cenergistic’s business practices unethical? Who do they have on their payroll? How steep are the termination fees? Is it the best use of Windham Taxpayer money to limit the use of our buildings, and employ a “Prince of Darkness” to write notes to remind people to turn off lights?
Windham Taxpayers have suffered tremendously this past decade as the school board, at the behest of the administration,has repeatedly made hasty decisions with no due diligence,ultimately costing the taxpayers millions. I would implore the school board to refrain from signing this contract. We simply cannot afford another “Portables” fiasco.
Eileen A. Mashimo
The recently approved Windham School District budget included diesel fuel for the school buses that was projected to cost $4/gal. Before the May 5th Windham School Board (WSB) meeting, the price had been locked in at a rate of $2.01/gal – thereby producing an anticipated savings of $82K.
Three members of the WSB, Chairman Ken Eyring, Vice Chairman Tom Murray and School Board Member Daniel Popovici-Muller were proponents of freezing the surplus money because it was no longer needed “for the purpose that was approved by voters”. Without any action by the Board, the surplus funding would have been added to the General Fund, where it could have been expended for any other un-budgeted purpose.
Another example of fiscal responsibility and the fulfillment of campaign promises is related to Education Adequacy Aid. Over the past five years, the Windham School District has received nearly $12M less in Adequacy Aid than we should have from the State due to a flaw in the formula that short changes Windham Taxpayers. On May 7th, Chairman Eyring traveled to Concord to meet with Senate President Chuck Morse and Senator Nancy Stiles to discuss modifying the law to address the shortfall – which includes a whopping $3M for this year alone. He was joined by Windham Superintendent Winfried Feneberg, Bedford Superintendent Chip McGee and Bedford School Board Vice Chairman Scott Earnshaw.
Chairman Eyring reported the meeting went well, stating “Both Senators expressed their commitment and resolve to find a solution to remove the funding cap and provide the proper funding for the education of our children going forward.”
Windham Representative Dave Bates must also be recognized for fulfilling his campaign promise to spearhead this extremely important issue on behalf of Windham residents. His extensive efforts to reach out to many State Representatives and Senators towards finding an acceptable Adequacy Aid solution has been included into the House version of the State Budget. It is expected the Senate will also include a solution into the Senate version of the budget as well. There is still a lot of work to do, but there appears to be a commitment by a significant number of our State Legislators to find a solution to this issue.
The Windham Taxpayers Coalition applauds School Board Members Eyring, Murray and Popovici-Muller, as well as State Representative Bates for their excellent leadership and representation of Windham voters. Their commitment to fiscal responsibility is a fulfillment of their campaign promises to be good stewards of our taxpayer money.
Chairman, Windham Taxpayers Coalition
The following letter was submitted by Windham School Board Member Ken Eyring.
When I ran for the Windham School Board (WSB), I promised transparency. Sometimes, that puts me in an uncomfortable situation when I disagree with fellow Board Members. Such is the case now, as I provide my insights regarding what I feel was a rushed 3-1-1 decision (Rekart/Joanis/Senibaldi – yes, Eyring – no, Breton – abstain) to sign a no-bid, $577K contract with Cenergistic, a “behavior-based” energy conservation company during the 1/6/15 WSB meeting.
The Windham School District (WSD) spends more than $45M a year, but unfortunately, not all of it is spent wisely. Maintenance of our buildings should be a priority and have been neglected. Here are events that led to the closing of the Golden Brook modular building last week.