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Observation plan riles educators

March 17, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

Washington County - Dozens of teachers packed Tuesday's Washington County Board of Education meeting to shout down a proposed change in how they would be officially observed while at work.

School Board member Bernadette Wagner's request to pass the new policy hit a wall when Washington County Teachers Association President Claude Sasse criticized it as a "flawed document" that was substantially changed "by the Central Office."

Rows of teachers clapped vigorously - first from their chairs, then on their feet.

At other points - particularly as Wagner spoke in favor of the policy - teachers in unison called out, "No! No!"

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Board President W. Edward Forrest asked the audience to let her speak.

After much debate, the proposal was sent back to a committee for further review. That committee then will forward the proposal to a policy committee for its recommendation.

A phrase added to an early draft appeared to be a main root of the dispute.

The draft before the School Board Tuesday said "qualified observers" were among those who could observe teachers.

Sasse said that was not in the proposal created by a joint committee of teachers and administrators and it didn't belong.

Teachers were worried that it could lead to teachers evaluating each other, he said.

But after the meeting, Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said that was never the case.

"We do not have a peer evaluation system and I'm not recommending a peer evaluation system," she said.

Morgan said supervisors are being asked to do "superhuman" work since two or three hours may go into each observation. One supervisor has 74 observations to do, she said.

Each semester, nontenured teachers are observed twice and evaluated once, she said. Principals and assistant principals do the bulk of the work.

Morgan said the school system wanted more people - possibly retired principals - to help cut into a big backlog in the evaluation process.

Sasse said teachers have no problem with "certified administrators" observing them, as an earlier draft called for, but the latest draft didn't say that.

Wagner suggested adopting the latest draft as a "stopgap" until the policy could be rewritten, but teachers shouted at the idea and the board backed away from it.

Board member Jacqueline Fischer recommended a couple of changes, including omitting a clause that would have allowed "other certified administrators" to do observations.

Board member Roxanne Ober said the board usually doesn't allow substantial changes to proposed policies right before a vote.

The board unanimously approved Ober's motion to send the policy back to the joint committee, then to the policy committee to be returned to the board "in a timely manner."

Forrest said he wants a policy ready for the next school year.

Morgan said she will assign current administrators to do some of the backlogged observations.

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