It was a simple question. She followed the Scott County School Board’s own public comment policy to a tee so she could ask it. All the question required was a simple yes or no answer. Yet Board Chairman Roger Ward would not allow Carole Landry to ask it at last Tuesday evening’s Scott County School Board meeting.
Instead Roger sent Mrs. Landry to the hallway outside the Board room to ask the question in private of Board Attorney Bob Chenowith. This, mind you, at a “public” meeting. Nine full minutes were spent out in that hallway for what should have been a simple yes or no answer. And not one protest. Not one Board Member spoke up and defended Mrs. Landry’s right to ask her question in public. No protest from the newspaper, typically a defender of free speech. For nine whole minutes thumbs were twiddled, but no hint of a protest. When Mr. Chenowith and Mrs. Landry returned, the meeting continued as if nothing had happened.
Only Mrs. Landry knew what she wanted to ask, so why did Roger protest so? Because Roger’s policy requires anyone from the public wishing to comment, first sign up stating the agenda item about which they wish to comment. Mrs. Landry did just that, not knowing Roger could pick and choose what he would allow the public to discuss. Roger wasn’t about to allow any comment or question about this topic. And NO ONE protested!
The question? The simple question? Here it is. Is the Superintendent's evaluation mentioned in agenda item #32 a “summative” evaluation? WOAH!!! OUT OF BOUNDS!!!!! FOUL!!!!
We get it that Roger and Co. wanted to keep the evaluation secret, what with past debacles, and with no mention in the five News Graphics published since, it appears he has succeeded. Already past due and in violation of state law on this evaluation, Roger obviously was attempting to avoid giving the evaluation entirely, just as he recently attempted to avoid board redistricting. Too bad for him a citizen petition forced the latter and our previous post outed him on the former. The evaluation agenda item showed up on the Board Agenda mere hours after we posted about it Thursday before last.
But, other than for Roger’s deceit, there should have been no need for Mrs. Landry’s question in the first place. The agenda should have denoted whether or not the evaluation was to be “summative”. But instead Roger hid mention of it almost entirely among the legalese of the Board retiring to “executive session” with no mention of the evaluation being “summative”. Why is it important? Why does it matter? Because the process the law provides for intends the public be made aware of a Superintendent's evaluation. It's entirely possible the newspaper reporter didn't even know of the Board's intention to conduct a summative evaluation, explaining his leaving the meeting at 8pm.
State law allows school boards to go into “executive session” (i.e. “meet in private”) for only a few reasons, one being to discuss the evaluation of their Superintendent. Now you wouldn’t know it from the behavior of the Scott County School Board, but all other business outside executive session is to be conducted before the public in a public meeting. Our Board, even after our electing two new “agents of change” in November 2012, continues to conduct much of the public’s business privately. Any business this Board doesn’t want before the public is simply approved without any public discussion. Since the public hasn’t access to the materials the Board has before them and are not allowed to comment once the Board gets into its agenda, many items are approved as the public sits in the dark.
After any executive session intended only for "preliminary" discussion of the Superintendent’s evaluation, the Board must, upon return from that executive session ( unless otherwise listed on the meeting agenda) adjourn and conduct no other business. Boards may go into executive session for “preliminary” discussions of their Superintendent’s evaluation as often as they deem necessary but eventually must wrap up the process with a Board Meeting for a “summative” evaluation. The law regarding summative evaluations requires that when the Board comes out of a summative executive session, the public be apprised of their summative finding. This is why Mrs. Landry’s question was critical. Mrs. Landry wanted to know whether to remain for the unknown duration of the executive session. If the evaluation were to be "preliminay" with no summative component, she would have preferred to go home.
Who can know the Board Attorney’s nine minute response to Mrs. Landry’s simple question out in that hallway? Only a lawyer can obfuscate a simple yes or no answer into nine minutes. What we do know is that Mrs. Landry returned to the meeting somewhat confused but pretty sure he said there was to be no summative evaluation.
We also know a couple of other things about the diminutive, white haired, 70 something Carole Landry. 1 - she has more courage than our School Board members possess in sum total. Recall the district’s lilliputian Human Resource Director removing her from a meeting earlier this spring for her demanding the truth be told. And 2 - SHE’S NOBODY’S FOOL! When the Board left the public meeting room last Tuesday night at 8pm to go to their executive session room, Mrs. Landry and her husband Brad didn’t take a chance on that nine minutes of lawyer speak. Rather, she and Brad set up camp, along with their video camera, just in case the Board did come back and serve up a summative surprise.
AND THAT THEY DID! Realizing at 11:15pm that the Landrys were prepared to stay the night if necessary, the Board returned - WITH A SUMMATIVE STATEMENT! Maybe 15 seconds in total (Roger even suggested the Board Members not bother sitting down) Roger finished by saying “The Board is pleased with the success of Scott County Schools and the success of its students under the leadership of Mrs. Putty”. As if rehearsed and almost before the last syllable left Roger’s mouth, his Vice Chair Jo Anna Fryman moved to adjourn and her motion was seconded by Haley Conway. Meeting over! The public can only presume any vote was unanimous.
There has since been five Georgetown News Graphic newspaper editions published, with two separate articles concerning that Board meeting, neither with any mention whatsoever that a Superintendent evaluation was even conducted, much less the summations of the evaluation. The district has also published its slanted “Board Meeting Summary”, also with absolutely no mention of the evaluation or executive session.
Had the Landry’s left the meeting from Carole’s understanding of the 9 minute hallway response to her question, the summative evaluation would have been the Board’s own little secret to be discreetly hidden in the minutes of the meeting published weeks later. This blog site appreciates the Landrys filming of School Board meetings. The community should too.
Check back in soon as we delve deeper in to what all this deceit means and what the provocative title of this post means. Oh, and we don't know whether or not a raise was granted. Just so the newspaper knows, the law provides for you to receive upon request a full written report of the evaluation, which might tell us. But remember, just as the law provides that school districts must provide newspapers records of school district employee's salaries, the newspaper must first request it. Just sayin'....