About a year ago, we began speaking with our new superintendent Dr. William Harbron about the treatments used on the seven athletic fields that the school district is responsible for maintaining. These sites are under the supervision of the school district’s management company, C & W Services and the sub contractor of the last 10 years Boston Co.
After a conference call with the superintendent and the now former facilities director, C & W employee Jeffrey White, a letter was received to follow up on that conversation. In one letter dated August 24, 2017 the Superintendent assured us that…
“the district is treating the areas much differently than in the past and making strides in the implementation of natural turf management.” and “…Mr. White continues to make strides in this area with the natural turf management combined with other measures.”
A report in the local news from last year states, “Harbron and White wrote that city and school officials invited Chip Osborne from Osborne Organics to speak with them at a seminar held at City Hall. They are using most of his suggested procedures and are moving away from synthetic products.”
The Superintendent is quoted as saying, “Any chemicals used are used on a limited and restricted basis to help support the organic process. The district’s facility manager is making the safety of the fields a high priority. The facility manager continues to monitor and make modifications in order to restrict the overuse of any chemical applications and to effectively integrate the organic process.”
Is this all true? Do documents from the school district actually reflect the statement that they are using suggested procedures from an organic expert and that they are moving away from synthetic products?
What do they mean by, ‘combined with other measures?’
Are the products being used by the school district’s subcontractor really helping support or integrate the organic process?
Upon looking through the school districts documentation, including invoices and the former facilities director’s own records, we have evidence that the statements being made by the school district regarding their turf management practices are demonstratively false. Conventional toxic pesticides for crabgrass, broadleaf weeds, and grubs are being used on the school district’s athletic fields.
The turf vendors proposal from this Spring promises a “100% natural organic program and services.” However, the pesticide applications will continue just the same. This does not support or integrate any type of organic process. This is not an organic program. An organic program is about far more than just using some organic fertilizer. The school district has been 100% greenwashed.
And if that alone isn’t enough of an outrage, the price of this greenwashing program is thousands of dollars more than we need to spend! The city put out a bid this spring for the school district sites. We received several submissions, two of them from accredited organic vendors. These were the two lowest and only organic bids overall.
We were informed by school district staff back in May that “The school district did not enter into an agreement from the bid that the City solicited. The school district will continue its services with Boston Company with plans to go to 100% organic in the 2019 season. Boston Company is the vendor that has been taking care of the schools since 2008…”
So as discussed earlier, not only has the district been fooled into thinking that the vendor that their management company has been favoring for the last decade is giving them a 100% organic program next season, they ignored the bid that the city solicited, thereby passing up the opportunity to have a real organic program from an accredited vendor, and to have that organic program for thousands of dollars less than we are spending on what amounts to nothing but a scam. This is outrageous.
Since learning about this, the school board has been notified on multiple occasions that they have been duped into paying for a conventional program dressed up as organic at an inflated price, in addition to being asked in numerous phone calls, emails and a submitted written statement to August’s school board meeting, what it is they intend to do about the lack of direct internal oversight that led to this issue in the first place. We have yet to receive any satisfactory answer to our questions and concerns.
The school district has also been made fully aware of an offer from a nonprofit group, to have one of the top experts in the country put together a multi year organic plan at no cost just as they are doing for the city. Last summer the superintendent even indicated in an email that he would contact this expert for advice when updating school policy. No such thing as ever occurred. And this offer for a free plan has been rebuffed. For what reason?
One would assume that it is the intention of the school board to put student health as a priority when making decisions. Should grounds maintenance be any different? After a full year of being informed again and again of a problem right under their nose, this lack of action on the part of the school district has now crossed the line into pure negligence.
Do you think Dover’s students and athletes deserve to play on fields that are managed according to our organic city policy which is intended to be protective of their health as well as that of the surrounding environment they will inherit? Do you want the school district to stop wasting thousands of tax dollars on an expensive pretend organic program? Do you think there should be a mechanism for internal accountability and oversight for our grounds maintenance? Contact the school board and let them know how you feel. The more residents they hear from, the sooner this issue will be resolved.