Should the public have role in Ann Arbor school superintendent's evaluation?
The Ann Arbor Board of Education is talking about possible changes to how it conducts its annual review of the superintendent, including allowing parents and others to weigh in.
The board will evaluate Superintendent Patricia Green for the first time in June, almost a year after she joined the district.
One of the changes the board is considering is adding a component for public input.
Unlike other districts, Ann Arbor Public Schools
Amy Osinski, the board's assistant, said the board sends out annual evaluation forms to about 70 key community stakeholders, such as leaders of the district’s bargaining units, parent associations, principals and five to seven individuals hand-picked by each school board member.
In the past, the board also has asked the superintendent to provide a few names of people he or she has spoken with and would like to receive feedback from, said President Deb Mexicotte.
“What is the downside of opening up a broad, survey-style evaluation to our parents — all of our parents?” Trustee Simone Lightfoot asked.
Board Secretary Andy Thomas said that surveys of this nature tend to skew negative because those who take the time to fill them out often have an axe to grind.
Stead suggested the board consider some criteria for determining which parents and community members are allowed to take the survey, such as only those who have met the superintendent.
“I would rather us look at ways to address dealing with that skewed view than not allowing them to provide input,” Lightfoot said.
Baskett agreed, adding one complaint of Green, whether real or perceived, has been that she is not accessible to the community.
Asking the entire district to participate in a favorability rating of the superintendent, similar to how politicians are given a nationwide approval rating, is different than asking them to partake in a performance review of an employee, Stead said. She said personnel matters are always handled confidentially within the district.
“We could probably spend a lot of money hiring somebody to do that for us, but an evaluation is specifically evaluating how she carries out her roles and responsibilities in the district and should be based on a broad spectrum of people’s experience with her,” Stead said. “Is is not necessarily ethical to have a polling or favorability rater drive our superintendent’s evaluation.”
Stead said her experience as a consultant in the private sector, and seeing how schools are being asked to more frequently conduct their business like private sector businesses, suggest that people who had not worked with an individual would not be asked to provide feedback on his or her review.
But Lightfoot said she thinks the board is “adult enough” and “intelligent enough” to wade through the negative responses. She said perception is important and if the public’s perception of the superintendent is positive or negative, that should be known to the board.
“We as a district get accused of controlling information quite a lot and I think (not offering the chance to provide feedback) to all would fall into that category yet again,” Lightfoot said. “We asked all citizens to weigh in and give us $45 million (in the recent election over a technology bond) but yet we only want people who have met the superintendent to fill out an evaluation.”
Board members have said they will continue this conversation during the summer months to decide whether they would like to change their process for evaluating the superintendent in the future.
Thomas said the board should remember that hiring, directing and reviewing the superintendent is one of the primary responsibilities of a school board in Michigan, per state law.
“This (evaluation) is based on how well the superintendent fulfills the goals and missions that we have set forth so we can certainly solicit public comments, but this is ultimately our evaluation,” he said.