Wednesday, March 5, 2008

[LCSD] The Superintendent's Evaluation Process

I want to try and address in a more coherent way how the Superintendent's evaluation process (which was touched on in the and DH and Express stories) looks from the public eye, or at least a public perspective.

My understanding of the normal process is that every year, the board sits down and evaluates the super in five areas, giving him a score of 0-4 in each category. The evaluation covers the previous year.

Then the board sits down with the superintendent and explains (one might say 'justifies' if one is not feeling particularly charitable, and I am not) the evaluation and starts to plan the next year in light of it. The overall results of the evaluation are also made public.

It's also my understanding that this evaluation process is set into the super's contract. (Which is not online – will someone over at the D.O please take care of that? There's no justification for putting both the licensed and classified CBAs up there but not the administrator contracts.)

That's the formal outline of the thing. But it's a shell – it only gains meaning when it's taken seriously. and imbued with relevant content. From where I'm sitting, it sure looks like the Terrible Trio did not take the evaluation process seriously.

If the goal is to improve the district, then an evaluation is useful when it's constructive. It's constructive when it points to specific events and actions and decisions, identifies the fault with them, and proposes solutions. I don't consider canning the Superintendent after a single year's bad review a reasonable solution - would you like that standard applied to you?

As far as I can tell, this is what happened here:

1. Rick has previously announced his intent to see Robinson gone. I suspect it has also long been Josh's intent to see Robinson gone. Shimmin, I think, had not decided by the time she ran for the board. Certainly, however, all three decided before the evaluation process actually occurred what she thought the outcome should be, which makes it much harder to take their evaluation seriously – I no longer trust that they were being honest or fair. It destroys the credibility of the evaluator to telegraph the results before the process even takes place.

2. One or more board members took into account things that happened more than a year ago. I'm not sure how legal this is, but it certainly violates the spirit of the evaluation. I wonder if it's OK for the board to evaluate Robinson multiple times for the same thing? It certainly isn't fair – note that one cannot be tried twice for the same crime under U.S. law, and for good reason.

As a result of the above, the evaluation process almost certainly did not include either a) the requisite level of specificity necessary to justify such low scores or b) meaningful constructive criticism.

Given those two lacks, I wouldn't have any interest in taking this evaluation seriously; the process has long been compromised.

What does that mean?

It means that even if Robinson is a total f*ck-up, the board has nowhere credible left to stand to make that claim.

That's why I harp on process so much; it is foundational to credibility, which cannot and should not flow merely from the position one takes on issues, but on the use of evidence and logic that one uses to get there.

Blah blah blah small town yeah yeah whatever: If we concede that because it's a small town things like logic, reason and evidence shouldn't be expected, then we're in worse shape than I thought. There's a strain of elitism in there that will only poison the discourse.

The bottom line: Even if you like the result and want Robinson gone, it should scare the bejesus out of you that this is how it's going down. It's a bad precedent to set, period.

The enemy of my enemy is not my friend. The world's more complicated than that.


Anonymous said...

I think the board members were running for office and elected to office on the promises of change, including changing administrators. That was their goal, and why they joined the board. Many of us (dare I say a majority?) voted for them for that reason. The contract for Robinson was strange, in it was an automatically renewing contract. It was difficult to break. Even now, he has a job for 2 more years. I'd love to lose my employment contract and still work at my job for 2 more years. Josh said at the meeting that he was told by his attorney to not evaluate the superintendent last year because of the ongoing litigation. Debi wasn't there long enough to make an informed evaluation. So only Rick made negative comments last time around. He was outvoted by the majority TWO that were left. If Josh would have opined last year, as he said at the meeting, last years evaluation woulf not have been good. A very reasonable argument. We voted them in to assist with change. It took awhile, but we may be finally getting the change a lot of us have wanted for a long time.

Anonymous said...

Debi Shimmin said on the May 15, 2007 Voter Pamphlet:
"If elected, I will use my work ethic, experience and professionalism to foster a positive environment with board members, teachers and parents. [Notice she DIDN'T include the Administration--we naively took that for granted.] I will be fair, listen to ALL sides, promote good communication, and conduct myself in a respectful manner. Together we can build a better and stronger school system, which in turn will create a strong and vibrant community. It's time to move forward!"

Bold emphasis added.
Oh hindsight!
Looking at that statement in retrospect, I see that Debi was indeed set on a course to where we are now. She was/is subtle though and, except for those who knew of her personal agenda, people wouldn't have guessed that behind that smile and "meek" manner she was planning to unhinge this community.

Anonymous said...

Josh W. chose not to evaluate the Superintendent last year. He says: "on the advice of my attorney (would love to see that in writing--since it was advising him not to do a MAJOR portion of his responsibility while serving on the School Board....) since I was being sued by Mr. Robinson."
What he ALWAYS fails to mention is the reason why he was being sued. Because he had--back then--breached Dr. Robinson's contract.
The only sad thing is that Dr. Robinson dropped that suit against him and Rick A. on a good faith effort to work things out. Those two did not deserve such consideration, based on their behavior since it was dropped!

Lebanon Truth said...

Rick also refused to participate in the Robinson evaluation last year.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @1:29pm

Why the issue with Debi? She is not the only one who voted against your wishes?? Have you ever thought that perhaps she voted as she felt necessary for this community? It seems you are reading into things to make you feel better that things aren't going the way you hoped. Don't be so narrow minded to think that she had some sort of hidden agenda. If you think Debi Shimmin planned to "unhinge" this community you are a fool she loves this community and wants what is best for seem to be sitting snug in Jim Robinson's pocket...I predict that with JR gone this community will be greatly improve. Don't be scared of change.

Dennis said...

"The contract for Robinson was strange, in it was an automatically renewing contract."

I've looked into this, and from what I can tell, a rolling contract is actually pretty standard for a school district Superintendent.

Many of the contracts I found were two-year rolling, not three, but the fact remains: It's really not that uncommon to have a multi-year rolling contract.

Remember, what the board did was not renew Robinson's contract for the third year out. He did not "lose his employment contract."


"I think the board members were running for office and elected to office on the promises of change, including changing administrators."

Changing administrators is, arguably, a defensible position. The process that's been used in this case is not, and I really wish people would start paying attention to that fact.

The precedent that sets is important.

Finally, for what it's worth, I think Debi is largely voting her conscience. I think she's wrong on issues, but it seems like she arrived at her positions honestly. I can't say I think the same of Rick and Josh.

Eye in the sky said...

What Debi hasn't disclosed is the deep personal relationship between her and Bo Yates.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.