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Washington County school board to discuss self-appraisal

The Policy Committee will review and possibly recommend whether to change or rescind it

September 02, 2013|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education Tuesday is scheduled to discuss whether the board should have a formal annual self-appraisal, after a committee voted last month to recommend rescinding the policy, panel members said.

School board member Melissa Williams brought up the policy during the board’s July 23 meeting, asking that it have a discussion soon about how it was going to do the self-appraisal, which is due by Oct. 1 under current board policy.

At an Aug. 6 meeting, the school board voted 5-2 on member Wayne Ridenour’s motion to suspend the policy and send it to the board’s Policy Committee for review and to possibly recommend whether to change or rescind it.

Several board members have said past retreats, in which the board essentially evaluates itself, have not benefited board member relations.

Board member Jacqueline Fischer, who chairs the three-member Policy Committee, said she was one of the two votes on Aug. 27 to recommend that the board rescind the policy, but that’s not exactly what she wants.

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“I finally voted to rescind it, because, I guess, the whole board is going to have to hash it out,” Fischer said.

Fischer said she tried a couple of times to get her colleagues to compromise.

But Fischer said she didn’t think she would accomplish a compromise at the committee level, deciding that there might be a better chance for compromise if the issue were taken to the full seven-member board.

The other two Policy Committee members are board President Justin Hartings and board member Karen Harshman.

Harshman reiterated that the board should have an annual self-appraisal, and she would not vote to rescind the policy.

Harshman and Williams were the only board members to vote against Ridenour’s Aug. 6 motion to suspend the policy and send it to the committee for review.

“I can’t imagine any group not wanting to look at (themselves) and not see what they can do better,” Harshman said.

“As a teacher, I was required to set goals for me for the year. So, apparently, the school system thinks it’s important to have goals,” she said.

Harshman said she wasn’t sure why school system leaders don’t think it’s important to reflect and set goals for themselves.

Some board members have said they do their own reflection and self-evaluation.

Hartings said his first choice would be to rescind the policy.

The board could still meet without a policy to discuss anything it wants within the boundary of the law, and could evaluate its own performance, he said.

Fischer said she thinks there’s some value in having an annual self-appraisal.

In general, it’s good for any board to sit down once a year and talk about what it has accomplished, to refresh everyone’s memories about its general practices, and — if something isn’t working — to discuss change, Fischer said.

“There has been contention at some of those kind of meetings in the past, and some of my fellow board members ... they don’t want to get into that contention again,” Fischer said.

Williams, who said she attended the Aug. 27 Policy Committee meeting, said she was surprised by the lack of time and discussion devoted to the self-appraisal policy.

“There was no discussion as to the merit of conducting a board self-appraisal. There was no discussion of what other boards in other counties do, or how they address the process,” Williams said.

“The discussion all centered around the terrible things that had happened in the past when they had board retreats,” she said.

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