Saturday, March 8, 2008

[LCSD] What could the board done to justify a vote of nonrenewal?

Let's proceed from the following premises:

1. Rick, Josh and Debi want Jim Robinson gone. Others might disagree with their reasoning or their methods (or both), but I think it's fair to say no one can tell them what to think.

2. They need to follow established, accepted procedures. (Whether or not this happened is arguable. I don't particularly think they did, but that's largely irrelevant.)

Given the above, how can/could the three of them accomplish that?

For the sake of argument, I'm just going with the existing evaluation process as the 'how'.

Let's take as a given that a negative evaluation leads directly to a contract nonrenewal (we'll call this the best case for nonrenewal, since a more just process would likely involve at least two negative evals - one to establish that something is wrong and one to show a lack of improvement).

So what kind of evaluation could Robinson have received that would lead most directly to a nonrenewal?

I'm going to list the reasons I can remember hearing from the trio and their supporters:

--Academies - specifically, installing them without enough input from teachers.

--Bo Yates - not keeping him on as AD for LHS.

--'Poor community relations' - see many anecdotes of parents being treated poorly by Robinson (how true these are I have no idea)

Side note: I'm going to conveniently discount the fact that since Rick, at least, is known to talk trash about Robinson constantly, I have to question why folks in the community have a low opinion of him in the first place. It's a classic political tactic: smear someone, then ask why their approval rating is so low.

--Teacher transfers - though again, if this is going on an evaluation, I'd want to see specific transfers listed.

--The mysterious 'lightning rod' effect (again, I am skeptical; see the side note above)

-- custodian contract dispute

--The asbestos thing at LHS

Hm. (I'm sure I neglected to list plenty of stuff; feel free to flame me/add to the list in comments.)

Many of these things stretch back past the previous year. Of those that don't, they are not generally things that can be changed.

Given that proposing metrics for improvement is one part of an evaluation, what kind of metrics could the board have drawn up? I'll be charitable and suggest that the board could have drawn up incredibly difficult metrics to meet, and even that would have been more justified than what happened.

Hey - couldn't the board have given a very similar evaluation a year ago (or, at least, couldn't Rick and Josh have done so)?

And if they had, couldn't they be pointing to Robinson's failure to meet the established criteria as justification for nonrenewal now?

Sure they could have. But Rick and Josh sat out the evaluation process, which, in retrospect, should have been an indicator they weren't going to take it seriously this year, either.

So, say the board had developed very intense and difficult-to-meet metrics for improvement and/or goals for the coming year for Robinson. Say he failed to meet them by the next evaluation.

Then the board could vote to nonrenew and point to the documented process. Yes, the metrics might have been suspect (or maybe not - who knows?), but the whole process would have been defensible.

But noooooooo.... no, instead we are left with a precedent that allows any Superintendent to be nonrenewed for any reason (assuming the precedent stands).

Think about it: Robinson's contract was nonrenewed on the basis of decisions he made in good faith (years ago, in some cases) that the current board disagrees with. If that's the standard for nonrenewal, then the job security of the LCSD superintendent just went in the toilet.

As this commenter over at LT says, evaluations are designed to help an employee improve.

For the umpteenth time: What makes anyone think a single decent candidate is going to apply for Robinson's job, given how he is being shown the door? Will an anti-Robinson reader please address this question? I've yet to see or hear any evidence for the claim that good candidates will apply once Robinson is gone.

This whole process reveals - again - that it's barely, if at all, about policy or students for certain board members. If that was the case, they could have required Robinson to do what they wanted in terms of the issues in an insanely comprehensive way, and booted him if he failed (and if he succeeded, so what? They would have had their way on the issues, which should take precedence over any one person). Instead, by not using the evaluation as a way to create a guide to improving the district (or having a plan and then using the evaluation to measure Robinson's success at carrying out that plan), Rick, Josh and Debi showed that running Robinson out of town is more important to them than anything else, including overseeing a school district.

I started this post intending to be charitable towards the terrible trio. I end it having convinced myself - not for the first time - that at least two of the tree have no business being on a school board.

Interestingly, I am also convinced that all the infighting has really prevented the district from developing a unified, comprehensive plan that addresses both current shortcomings and future needs. This is not a good thing.


Anonymous said...

How about this scenario---
For the Evaluation Period of: from this point back until we say so.
1. Description of employee's accomplishments.
Ummm, he has, ummm, well, there was one time he....wait, no, maybe it's just me but I can't think of anything.
2. Detailed examples of employee's improvements.
He has so many faults that I can't begin to put them down on paper when we are trying to save trees...and um, no, I personally haven't seen any improvements in my long list of his problems which I just can't be specific about.
3. Specific areas needing improvement.
Wait a sec, I need to ask what our position is...oh, got it...Aren't you listening? Please see number 2!
4. Detailed reasons why on areas listed in number 3.
Sigh, you really are dense. I don't have the time to waste on your nitpicking, nor do I think it is worthwhile to give any reasons. That is really not my job. He should just KNOW what to improve.
5. Special training recommendations/requirements.
There just aren't any classes to help him with our district. Besides, we don't want to pay to help him improve. We may need that money for the lawyers we don't listen to. What are you thinking?
6. Specific expectations for improvement between now and the next evaluation.
You mean I have to do this AGAIN??? Well, I guess I expect him to you know--improve. He could work on the communication thingy, if you know what I mean.
7. Employee response to this evaluation.
This evaluation makes me think what you really want is me gone.

Anonymous said...

That tongue-in-cheek post is sadly more true than not.
And for those who think it is disrespectful--certainly no more disrespectful than the majority on the current Board are about this whole situation.

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