Everett School District job-review proposal criticized

  • Sat Feb 18th, 2012 10:58pm
  • News

By Sharon Salyer Herald Writer

EVERETT — The Everett School District board is considering naming three members to evaluate the school superintendent, instead of having all five elected members participate in the discussion.

A well-publicized scrap broke out last year when the board was planning to discuss Superintendent Gary Cohn’s annual performance evaluation. Police were called to quell the dispute over how the parameters for reviewing Cohn were arrived at and whether discussion of that topic could be videotaped.

If the new policy is approved, Jessica Olson, who is often at odds with fellow board members, believes it would likely mean she’ll be one of the two people excluded from the discussion.

“I think it’s denying people my elected representation,” she said. “What kind of message is this sending to the people? I think it’s an obvious ploy to make sure I’m not involved in the process, to prevent me from participating in the process.”

School board president Jeff Russell said the policy, which is to be discussed at the Feb. 28 meeting, is necessary because Olson continues to electronically record some of the board’s executive sessions.

Recording those violates another district policy requiring recording devices be turned off during executive sessions.

“It’s a simple matter of closing a computer, turning off the recorder, silencing the cell phones so we can have a confidential discussion about the performance of an employee without worry of the recording and distribution of the content of that meeting,” he said.

Rodman Reynolds, a candidate in last year’s school board election, was at Tuesday’s meeting when the proposal came up.

“The superintendent’s evaluation is something I think the public at large has an interest in knowing about,” he said.

The superintendent, who is paid more than $190,000 annually, runs the district, and the board is elected to supervise him on behalf of taxpayers, Reynolds said.

“If the only evidence we have of whether they approve or disapprove (of the superintendent’s performance) is whether or not they renew his contract, that’s not telling us very much,” he said.

Russell said the goals set for the superintendent will be discussed in public and the final document outlining those goals will be available to the public.

“What’s important about an executive session is for us to give clear feedback and direction to the superintendent,” Russell said.

Even with the three-member committee, the school board president ultimately is responsible for writing the superintendent’s annual review, unless the process is changed, he said.

“In a perfect world … all five board members would be able to (participate) in a confidential executive session,” Russell said. “We’re not going to have an executive session with a board member with a tape recorder or video camera threatening to turn it on when she decides something will be disclosed to the public.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com