Board OKs goals for schools Supt. Hess: communication, visibility, innovation

Lebanon Community School District Board members approved superintendent goals for the 2017-18 school year at their Sept. 14 board meeting.

Superintendent Rob Hess presented goals he said were based on his last evaluation and feedback from the “360” survey. The “360” survey was distributed to staff, parents and community members in the spring; 725 people responded. Communication was one area of concern for respondents.

“I floated the idea of these goals at the (board’s) executive session (on Aug. 10),” Hess said. “These have to be public, so I brought them out for discussion and approval and feedback.”

The three goals he presented are in the areas of communication, visibility and innovation.

He said when it comes time for his evaluation, he would have documentation about the ways he progressed in each of the categories.

For the communication goal, Hess said he would communicate weekly with district staff, community members and the school board. Part of that communication would be through emails.

The visibility goal addresses Hess’ presence in school buildings and classrooms. In a memo to the board, he said wants to increase his visibility there to “support rigorous instruction, AVID implementation K-12, and high-quality work wherever it occurs.”

Hess said he can address some innovation goals through “Measure 98 funding and other funding opportunities.

“I want to explore innovative ways we can improve student outcomes and leverage additional resources from our community and beyond.”

The specific outcomes he is hoping to address are those of attendance and graduation rates.

There is a newly formed attendance team at Lebanon High School.

“It is my belief that doing these activities well will increase trust in the district and my leadership,” Hess said. “Trust is an outgrowth of communication and visibility. That’s my belief. So I think if these things I’m able to do, I think that we’ll see an end result in the ‘360’.”

Board member Russ McUne asked Hess if he would change his goals if there was no change in the “360” survey results next year.

“I think I should work on these things and then see what happens,” Hess said.

Board Chair Tom Oliver said he thinks they can clearly measure whether steps are being taken on each of the goals, though some goals are more quantifiable than others.

Part of the expectation of the goals is that, if they are worked on effectively, that work will be reflected in the next survey, Oliver said.

“That’s the theory,” Hess said. “If these are the wrong actions, then we’ll look at new ones to take.

In addition, I want to bring forward a strategic plan that will be a lot more detailed on more measurable items. What you’ll be able to see are my own personal goals weaved into that strategic plan.”

Board member Mike Martin said he thought it would be difficult to come up with a plan to evaluate progress on the goals.

“As far as communication and visibility, I think it’s going to be pretty difficult to come up with a system to evaluate them,” Martin said.

Regarding sending emails out, Martin said he did not know how effective that would be.

An article he read in “Psychology Today” said sending an email is only 7 percent as effective as talking to someone, he said.

Hess responded: “Emails don’t prove that someone’s listening. People swipe and delete emails all the time. That’s where being visible comes in, because that’s where those conversations happen.”

He said he has gotten a positive response from his efforts so far this school year.

“Just from sending out these emails, I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from staff,” Hess said. “It is a rigorous goal to send something to the staff every week and something to you every week.”

He offered to show those email responses to board members.

“If it’s not worth my time, let me know and I’ll scratch it off my list,” Hess said.

Email is an important tool to reach out to people, said board member Nick Brooks.

McUne said he prefers that method of communication.

“I appreciate email, it’s a more valuable use of your time so you can be at the schools.”

McUne said he didn’t think there would be much of a difference in “360” survey results in just one year.

Brooks said at some point, they need to revisit the 2020 Vision, a plan for the school district which was drafted in 2010 after eight months of community input.

Regarding revisiting the 2020 Vision, Hess said he thinks Brooks will be pleased with his strategic plan when he sees it.

“What I tried to pick for (goals are) things I can control,” Hess said. “(Executive secretary) Nicole (Hundley) and I came up with a visible way to track it – where every time I’m at a school, I’m marking my calendar and then I put notes on what I did when I was there.”

New Board meeting location?

The board discussed holding their board meetings at the Santiam Travel Station, the location where Lebanon City Council meetings are held.

Oliver said he had a discussion with Mayor Paul Aziz about using the location for school board meetings.

“The city has done a very good job streaming all the council meetings,” Oliver said.

The recording and microphones are good-quality, he said.

People can watch the meetings from home.

He also appreciated the way the table is set up. It would allow board members to sit at the same table with district staff.

In the board room at the district office, board members sit separately from staff and have an elevated seating area.

The board members agreed that they would prefer sitting around the same table.

“It gives us a more collaborative environment,” Oliver said. “You change the environment, you change the outcome.”

Oliver said he didn’t discuss any details about the possibility of having school board meetings at the Travel Station, such as if the district would need to pay for use of the building.

The equipment to record video and sound is already installed at the Travel Station.

“It’s expensive to put the type of equipment that they have put into that room,” Oliver said. “The community’s already paid for it.”

Board members agreed by consensus to have a meeting at that location. After that, they will better be able to determine if they want to pursue having board meetings at the Travel Station.