Let me start by saying that this is not meant to be a condemnation, or personal attack, on Superintendent, Karl Bruchhaus. The purpose is to raise public awareness about the actions of their elected board members, and to facilitate a discussion about whether, or not, they are acting in the best interest of our children.
I was out of town when this meeting took place, and I had great difficulty watching the video stream that was provided by someone in attendance. Two weeks in advance of this meeting, a request was made for a copy of the contract that was being considered. Once received, the contract was forwarded to a number of people who write about education issues, including myself. I read through the contract and made notes of the things that stood out. I then emailed all of the school board members and copied the superintendent. I expressed my concerns with some of the language in the contract which, if corrected, I felt, would be in the superintendent’s favor. I’ve still not seen the final contract, but from what I am hearing, these concerns weren’t addressed, excluding one attempt made by board member, Mack Dellafosse. Some were questioned, but attempts to address them were squelched.
These were my major concerns:
- The language in the targets effectively delays taking action on the superintendent’s performance until the end of the four year contract. This essentially means that the district score can plummet for four years, but the superintendent can’t be removed short of a criminal act, or “buying out” his contract, which could be in excess of 1/4 million dollars.
- The targets are expressed in “percentage points” instead of “percentages.” This is the very language that had teachers across the district crying at the end of the year, because they didn’t meet their SLT goals. When you score a 40% on a pretest and your goal is an increase of 20 “percentage points,” you have to score a 60% to meet your goal. That is actually a 50% increase, and a somewhat unachievable goal. If the goal is a 20% increase, then scoring 48% would make your goal.
- The “saving clause” effectively removes all accountability for the construction of the contract by saying that if any clause of the contract doesn’t fall within the law, it doesn’t make the contract invalid. This is total BS to save the attorney’s butt instead of doing his homework. The law in Act 1 clearly states that if any provisions of a contract don’t meet the requirements of Act 1; the contract is null and void.
In the interview, the superintendent says,
The sole measure of success, I’m here to tell you, is not the letter grade, but the evaluation is based on the objectives.”
I have to agree with this statement, in general. If the objectives aren’t met, the letter grade will reflect that. Most people would agree that the letter grade isn’t anywhere near representative of a school’s success; however, the letter grade is the State’s sole indicator of success, or failure; the indicator by which educators are held accountable. The letter grade is a direct reflection of test performance. An educator can lose tenure, be put on an “intensive assistance plan,” and even be terminated for poor test scores, yet the superintendent is safe from this accountability as long as the board thinks he is trying hard. Here is a fact that they are missing. TRYING HARD, BUT NOT GETTING IT DONE=INEFFECTIVE.
I make no secret about how I feel about the academic leader of a district never setting foot in a classroom. The superintendent knows how I feel, and to an extent, understands why I, or anyone else, would have the same problem. There are board members who think that there are things that need to be accomplished that can only be done with a “business minded” person in the seat, and the CAO can handle the academics of the district. Think about that for a moment. That means that the board’s priority is money, and that academics are secondary.
Here is what I say to the board. If you truly believe that the person in the seat is the right person, regardless of professional background, then hold him accountable for the performance of the district. Period. Not for some other vague, or “nonexistent” goal that clearly needs to be discussed, publicly.
What we hear repeatedly from board members is that they are acting on behalf of their constituents, and they aren’t getting complaints. Being as involved in things as I have, lately, I can see where those might be true statements. It is difficult to get people involved. They may be unhappy, but don’t want to rock the boat. Many people fear retaliation for speaking out. These are elected officials, and by all rights, should be held accountable by the people they represent. I want this blog to be a locale for those comments. Feel free to share and comment on social media, but if you want to express your feelings about how your school board member voted, please do it below in the comments. Please use your real name, and the name of your board member, in the event there is any question about the validity of your existence.