Unions announce no confidence in interim Timberlane superintendent 

Brian Cochrane

PLAISTOW — Several unions within the Timberlane Regional School District have no confidence in Interim Superintendent Brian Cochrane, they wrote in a letter to stakeholders this week.

The letter is signed by members of Teamsters Local 633, including the Timberlane Administrative Assistants Association, Timberlane Administrative Association, Timberlane Custodial Association and Timberlane Food Service.

It states, “Over the past 10 months, there have been growing concerns about Dr. Cochrane’s leadership, specifically concerning the severe absence of transparency, trust, collaboration, decision making, follow-through, and vision for future goals.”

Cochrane, a former public school teacher, administrator and superintendent, worked elsewhere in New Hampshire, the Midwest and over the Canadian border in Nova Scotia before being named to the interim School Administrative Unit 55 job in July 2020.

He did not respond when contacted Thursday by The Eagle-Tribune.

The position has put him at the helm of the regional school district, SAU 55, which currently includes Plaistow, Atkinson, Sandown, Danville and Hampstead.

It was announced in February that Cochrane he would be the first superintendent of the newly formed School Administrative Unit 106. The new four-town district excludes Hampstead, which voted to withdraw from the larger school administrative unit effective July 1.

This week’s letter from Timberlane unions expresses concern that Cochrane’s work does not prioritize students’ best interests.

“A superintendent’s main focus should be on students and what is best for them. To date, Dr. Cochrane’s focus has been on eliminating academic programming, reduction of staff and staff supports including facilities management, transportation, and food services," the letter reads. 

Those decisions “will have long term effects on our district’s climate and culture,” the letter goes on.

The unions write that Cochrane’s decisions impact each sector’s ability to provide a quality education.

Additionally, criticism is aimed at Cochrane’s “inability to create positive working relationships with district staff members.” They claim he has “created an environment of distrust, intimidation and retaliation that makes employees fearful to speak out.”

School board members responsible for managing the superintendent are being asked to “make the right decision for the future of our school district.”

Jeff Padellaro, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters 633, said the New Hampshire Public Employees Public Relations Board is considering several unfair labor practice claims against the district in the meantime.

“In essence, the district, with the superintendent as the head, is just not taking care of employees,” he said.

Padellaro pointed to a drastic departure of staff, leading to new principals in five of Timberlane’s seven schools in the fall.

Though not included in the vote of no confidence, the Timberlane Teachers Association has also expressed concern.

“The lack of clear direction from the superintendent and the School Board in regard to the education of our kids is starting to drive away our staff,” Coral Hampe, president of the Timberlane Teachers Association said recently. "(295 members) don't have a contract going into next year. I wouldn't be shocked if people were thinking of looking around."

This is not the first time Cochrane has been the subject of harsh criticism, including a vote of no confidence.

According to records, Cochrane stepped down as superintendent of Litchfield, New Hampshire, schools under similar circumstances in 2015. He was on the job for three years.

It was reported at the time that, “While several factors played a role in the (education) associ­ation’s decision, all reasons for the decision stem from the teachers’ belief that student needs are not be­ing served in the district.”

Chairwoman Kimberly Farah of the SAU 55 and Timberlane Regional school boards could not be reached for comment.

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