In the Bryan County School district, "everyone gets an evaluation."
That was how Superintendent Dr. Sallie Brewer summed it up when the Board of Education members worked through their board self-assessment instrument Monday afternoon.
The BoE self-assessment instrument was first instituted last year, as one of the requirements for being a "Board of Distinction."
"Last year, there were several areas the board felt needed to be worked on," Brewer said, noting each part of the assessment must be classified as ‘satisfactory,’ ‘needs improvement,’ or ‘don’t know.’ "The nature of the things the board found last year meant we had a consultant who came in and helped us with this."
Tony Arasi, director of Professional Development for Georgia School Boards Association, helped the BoE come up with a new list of board goals last year.
"The board evaluates itself, you evaluate me, I evaluate principals – everyone gets an evaluation under the Board of Distinction plan," Brewer said. "This is just for us to show we did it, it doesn’t go anywhere. After you go through it, the assessment includes an action plan for anything we think we need to improve on."
There were two things the board decided needed some improvement – and both were under the methods of communication portion of the assessment.
Board self-assessment indicator number eight was board, staff and community relations. This included respect and cooperation with each other, the staff and the community.
"That needs improvement, I think," Billy Mock said and Mary Warnell, Joe Pecenka and Jeff Morton agreed.
"I think we’re doing good things but there’s always room for improvement," Warnell said.
The other ‘needs improvement’ item was the board seeking input from citizens on matters relating to the school district.
"I’m going to go ahead and say that’s one where we need improvement," Board Chairman Eddie Warren said and Pecenka and Morton agreed.
"Apparently there’s something wrong, somewhere and it needs to be worked on," Mock added.
Warnell said she thought it was satisfactory and the community has many opportunities to give input. She noted that, during the first Carver PTSO meeting, only one parent showed up in addition to the officers and only two showed up at Bryan County Middle School.
"You can’t force them to attend," Warnell said.
But four board members said it needed improvement and these two items will now have action plans created to address their improvement.
There were two other items the board discussed, including protecting the chain of command and the board and superintendent getting staff input, but after a majority vote, they were both dubbed satisfactory.
Morton and Pecenka both said they felt staff communication with the board needs improvement, to make it better. Brewer went through several examples of how she already seeks input from the staff.
"The parent and staff committees are two of the best things I do," Brewer said. "Those nine teachers (on the staff committee) enjoy what they do…and I intend to meet with both committees more often this year."
Brewer noted the committees are made up of elected teachers, by a majority vote made by certified staff and parents, voted on by school councils.
"Everyone has a voice and it’s an anonymous voice," Brewer said. "But will everyone be happy? No. Is there room for improvement? Always."
Vice Chair Frances Meeks said she’s been in the district about 54 years and "there has been more done about school and parent and community input in the last few years than has been done in the last 50."
"People are still complaining," she said. "They need to tell us exactly what we can do to improve upon it. I’ve never heard of so much interaction and community input being listened to. I don’t think it takes place like this anyplace else."
Here are the other seven board self-assessment tools:
1 – The vision, philosophy and goals of the board, such as annually reviewing the district’s mission statement.
2 – Completion of board member training, evaluations, planning procedures and progress each year.
3 – The board’s organizational structure, including policies and procedures.
4 – The board operations and policy development, including having all policies meet state laws. "When policies are updated or changed on the state level, Dr. Brewer and the district attorney get together to match the local policy to the new guidelines," Warren noted.
5 – The board operations and board meetings, including a properly developed agenda posted for public review and meetings that follow open meeting laws.
6 – The board operations and personnel, including employing a superintendent who the board evaluates each year and the hiring and firing of personnel based on superintendent recommendations.
7 – The board operations and financial management, including board input to the superintendent on creating the annual budget and complying with budget requirements to meet state and local laws.
In other business:
- The district’s 2008-2009 system improvement plan draft was presented again Monday and will be reviewed. The July draft for the plan included 106 items, which Brewer said would be "so cumbersome," it would be unusable.
She suggested condensing the list and removing items they’ve regularly been doing already, which would bring the list down to 43 items.
Pecenka said it was important to focus on the things they were really going to work on improving.
Brewer said it "looked good" to have all the things they already do included in the list, but it was unnecessary to keep track of everything.
"Just because something isn’t on this list, doesn’t mean we’re not doing it," Morton added. "It should be what we need to work on and improve." A vote for the plan and the superintendent evaluation is slated to happen during Thursday’s regular meeting.
- The board discussed possibly raising the per diem, which is the money each board member makes per day of meeting to help cover travel expenses. "It’s been $50, I guess forever," Warnell said. Mock said the board member’s "shouldn’t do it for the money," but they also shouldn’t be losing money to rising gas prices. Warren recommended each board member bring a recommendation for a possible change to the per diem, which is funded by local tax dollars, to Thursday’s meeting for further discussion.