Superintendent's 2007-08 Evaluation
By Alex Saitta
September 23, 2008
At Monday night's school board meeting the board evaluated Superintendent Lee D'Andrea, voted on extending her contract and also voted on a potential pay raise.
In the evaluation, there were three possible ratings of Exemplarily, Satisfactory and Needing Improvement. Evidently, 77% of the board gave the Superintendent an Exemplarily or Satisfactory rating overall. That's 7 of 9 board members. Two gave her an Needing Improvement rating.
Overall, I rated the Superindent as Needing Improvement. I gave her a satisfactory rating on academics, but the lowest rating on financial management, personnel management, the management of the building plan, and openness with the public and the press.
Concerning academics, there has been improvement in PACT scores, and that is due to scope and sequence management and MAP testing. Good job by the Superintendent, her staff, principals and teachers.
Concerning financial management, I cited the Greenville Plan or D'Andrea's plan to borrow $336 million without voter approval, the growth in spending and debt and all the wasteful spending like new logos, giving everyone Pro-Boards and administrative trips around the county.
Concerning personnel management, I think there have been too many changes, the district leadership is micromanaging the schools and what goes on in the classroom, and their has been a purging of district management.
Concerning the building program, I cited the lack of a construction plan and how this is all being made up on the fly, how major issues like Gettys having too many students isn't being addressed or the plan to move the vocational school away from the center of the county to Norris.
Concerning communication, the board is given very little information, the press is generally shut out from what goes on inside the district office and the district makes it difficult for citizens to get public information.
The fact of the matter is, my opinion is in a minority on this board. It doesn't mean my opinion is wrong or baseless, it is in a minority and majority rules. Given that reality, as a board member, what I can do it limited. I can vote, argue my points and inform the public, but what happens is determined by the majority of board members.
The Superintendent's contract isn't a standard contract as you and I know it. Typically, with a two-year contract, after two years, the contract ends, and it is then either renewed or not.
This is like a perpetual contract. It starts as a two year contract, but each year, if the board does nothing, the contract automatically extents another year. That's one of the reasons I voted against the contract initially and voted against its extension last year and this year as well.
Going into Monday's meeting, this is what we faced. The contract was supposed to end in two years at 2010, and if the board did nothing, it would automatically extend to 2011. I think this automatic clause needs to be taken out of the contract or the board needs to put a halt to the automatic extensions. I don't think the board of 2008 can now make a judgment to allow the Superintendent's contract to extent from 2010 to 2011, not knowing how she'll perform in 2009 or 2010.
It was my clear impression the majority wanted to do nothing, and just let the contract automatically extend without a public vote. It was my feeling this needed to go to a vote, because without a vote, there is no way to know what the board really wanted. Also, reaching such a consensus needed to be done in front of the public, and via the public voting process.
The public session of the meeting started with Herbert Cooper making a motion to extend the contract from 2010 to 2011. I immediately made a subsitute motion, striking his motion completely, and put forth my motion to not allow the contract to extend and to have it end in 2010.
I argued how could the board of 2008 make a decision to extend her contract from 2010 to 2011, when they have no idea how the Superintendent's plans will pan-out in 2009 and 2010? That was debated, and Shelton and Brice voiced opposition against the extension. Shirley Jones was the big supporter of the extension. Only Dr. James Brice, Jim Shelton and myself voted not to extend the contract. Six of the nine board members voted to extend the contract.
Some said the Superintendent's contract should be ended now. Well, she is under contract until 2010. There is an out clause, but six of the nine board members have to vote for terminating her contract now. My guess is you would have gotten 1 maybe 2 votes for that. There was no point to go there, when 7 of the 9 board members reviewed her job positively.
Herbert Cooper made a motion to give the Superintendent a 3.85% pay raise or about $4,500. The Superindent's total compensation is $138,000 a year, and I argued against, because $138,000 was more than ample for any government employee in this county, the district is running a $1.5 million deficit this year, and likely the district will see more state funding cuts later in the year. Finally, the Superintendent was given a $18,000 pay raise and a 2 year contract last year. She and the board should stick to the pay rate that was agreed on for that 2 year contract. Shirley Jones voiced her support for the pay raise two times during the debate. That failed in a 5 to 4 vote. I voted against the pay raise, Shelton, Thorsland, Brice and Kay voted against. Jones, Cooper and Hay voted for it. I am not sure if Skelton, the chairman, voted or not.
It is what it is. I get the negative feedback from employees and the pubic concerning the job the Superintendent is doing. Myself, I voted against her initial contract, and voted against extending it two times. I have written public op-eds opposing the management changes, the lack of openess, there have been too many changes and all the spending. My opinion is clear.
Those that support the Superintendent, you are in a majority with this board. Those that don't, you are in the minority. It is a board structure and majority rules.