Conflict and the Elephant

There is an interesting exchange between Board Members Lucy Mathiak and Ed Hughes in the comments of the School Information System blog, revealing some conflict among Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education members.  I don’t want to get into the particulars or take sides, but I will say that although in the recent past I’ve thought that the Board has been too reluctant to express and explore disagreements in public — either among themselves or with the administration — I don’t think this instance is very healthy or productive.

What I think is even more unproductive is the is that the Board  has issued  no public documentation concerning the Superintendent’s evaluation.  Here it appears any disagreements or issues will not be aired in public.  Reviewing the exchange between Hughes and Mathiak, much of this is about Board/Superintendent/Administration relations.  This is the elephant in the room.

Some of the first steps of this overdue evaluation (Dan Nerad has been here for over two years, there was no evaluation the first year) were done in public, but once the actual evaluation started everything moved behind closed doors.  At Monday’s meeting Superintendent Nerad spoke of the evaluation in the past tense.  This is the first public indication that the evaluation has been completed.   I’ve been able to confirm that it is indeed finished.

I don’t have the time this morning to dig out all the statutes, policies and contracts that may be applicable to making all or part of the evaluation public and really don’t think these matter.  If both parties agree, any or all of the evaluation can be shared with the community.  That’s what matters.

Superintendent Nerad and the Board have spoken often about transparency and accountability.   Without a public evaluation of the Superintendent, this is all empty rhetoric.

There is a simple line of accountability that is broken when the evaluation is not made public.  The voters select the Board.  The Board selects the Superintendent, sets policy and evaluates the Superintendent’s performance in implementing those policies.  If the Board will not demonstrate to the public how they are holding the Superintendent accountable, then the voters have no basis for judging the performance of the Board in this most crucial area.  There is no transparency and no real accountability.

This idea is at least partially reflected in what I believe are the approved guidelines for the evaluation which call for a public summary (approved 9/21/2009, note the “draft stamp” but I can’t find any revisions anywhere):

I am waiting for that summary.  We all should be waiting and if it does not come we should be demanding.

Related links:

Previous AMPS post with more on this.

Superintendent Goals from MMSD Board of Education Progress Report – January, 2010.

Process for Evaluation from July 20, 2009.

Revised Process for Evaluation, August 17, 2009.

Minutes of meetings where this was discussed:  November 28, 2009September 21, 2009; September 14, 2009.

Thomas J. Mertz

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Filed under Accountability, Contracts, education, Local News

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