Board OKs new eval process for Supt. Hess

The Lebanon Community School District Board approved the terms of superintendent Rob Hess’ evaluation process at its monthly meeting on Thursday, Nov. 17.

At the October meeting, board members decided to examine the Oregon School Boards Association multi-part evaluation, which includes a “360-degree” evaluation – an online survey which would potentially be available to staff, students, and community members.

There was little discussion or disagreement about the first component of the evaluation, which is based on results in the areas of graduation, attendance, assessment, and opportunities.

Board members Mike Martin and Jerry Williams, along with district human resources staff, met with Oregon School Boards Association staff to discuss the different parts of the evaluation.

They met five times, Martin said.

One of the things that will change is how the ratings are calculated.

In previous evaluations, the superintendent’s ratings in each category were averaged, then those total numbers were averaged.

“When I explained what we did in the past,” Martin said. “They said, at the OSBA, that they didn’t know anybody in the state that did it that way.”

Keeping the numbers separate will help board members and the superintendent more clearly identify where progress is being made.

Another change is that the board members, rather than submitting separate numbers to the superintendent, will come to a consensus.

“The superintendent comes in toward the end of the process and then we develop a final report,” Martin said.

In order for the evaluation to be meaningful, board members should have common definitions for the ratings, he said.

Martin used the term “exceptional” as an example. If they directed someone to paint a picture and that person did it, is that exceptional? he asked. If the person went back the next day and framed it and rehung it, would that make it exceptional?

In the discussions the group had about the 360, OSBA recommended participation be anonymous so the answers would be honest, Martin said.

The survey would go to all staff, businesses and other community stakeholders.

The benefit of getting feedback from people outside of the district is to see a bigger picture – what the community is thinking, Martin said.

“We can only see what we can see,” he added.

Board chair Russ McUne said he had a problem with the 360 that was included in the board packet. While a lot of teachers could answer the questions, the general public could not, he said.

“Too many of these questions are not helpful as far as the public goes,” McUne said.

One question asks if the “superintendent collects and uses data to identify goals, assess organizational effectiveness, and promote organizational learning?”

Others ask about relationships between the school and community, and communication skills.

McUne suggested the board postpone the 360 portion of the evaluation and have a public work session to prepare one to be used after this year’s evaluation.

McUne also was opposed to the survey responses being anonymous.

Board member Kellie Weber agreed.

“In my work I would be opposed to anonymous evaluations of me,” Weber said. “It comes to the board. It’s not going to be public information anyway.”

Weber did say she thinks board members need information from teachers, students, and staff before doing an evaluation.

She said she attended an open house at the high school during which the principal said their goal is that every student have an adult who is their advocate.

The next day Weber spoke with a parent whose daughter is struggling with anxiety and doesn’t feel that there is anyone at the school she can turn to.

“There are teachers that are having all of their needs met and then there are teachers with their resume in other districts,” Weber said.

Hess said he supports the idea of a 360 but not the particular questions.

“Let’s ask the right questions,” he said. “If it’s going to be attached to my evaluation, I want it done right.”

In other business, The school board approved the sale of the Crowfoot property to the city of Lebanon for $80,000, pending City Council approval. Ron Whitlatch, Lebanon engineering services director, included information in the Nov. 9 city manager’s update.

Whitlatch said the property would be used in future intersection realignment at Crowfoot and Cascade Drive, likely a round-about.

If both parties agree, they would take the proposal to the Linn County Commissioners for approval. Board members agreed the money from the sale would go towards Career and Technical Education programs.