First, I would like to urge the board to finalize Superintendent Murley’s evaluation and share those results with the community. As we enter a new school year, this should be something addressed, since this has been an ongoing agenda item for the last few board meetings. I’m sure there are many facets to his evaluation, but I believe that the community has a right to be informed of his overall performance from the eyes of our elected board. The community is looking forward for all of you to share any concerns or praises that you may have. Additionally, the board may benefit from offering an opportunity for feedback from the school community related to his performance. If the directors are contemplating ending his contract, the board should take into account that a potential search for a new superintendent will cost the district several thousands of dollars, time, effort, that would take away from other pressing issues. I feel that he and the school community deserves to have a resolution to what appears to be a very lengthy evaluation period.(Emphasis added. Full recording here.)
The superintendent evaluation process is ongoing throughout the year, and the board doesn’t make the evaluation itself public. But to the extent that Malone was urging the board to make a decision about whether to extend the superintendent’s contract (technically a separate process, voted on publicly), it was a perfectly defensible issue to raise.
So what are my concerns? In my experience, board candidates all talk about holding the administration accountable for the district’s performance, but once they’re on the board—working constantly with the administration and depending largely on the administration for its information—there’s not much follow-through. I was disappointed last year when, just two months after Malone’s comment, the board chose to extend the superintendent’s contract from two years to three and to give him not one but two large pay increases. To me, that doesn’t reflect meaningful oversight, especially given some of the problems we had with legal compliance in the preceding year. (See this post.) One of the rationales offered for that decision was the same point Malone raised here—that it would cost a lot of money to conduct a superintendent search.
In my view, the board’s failure to engage in meaningful oversight of the superintendent plays a big part in many of the problems in our district—including some of those that Malone raised in the rest of her comment. Of course the board can’t fire the superintendent every time it’s dissatisfied with something, but somehow the idea that a superintendent search would be expensive led to extending his contract out to three years and giving him the biggest raise in the district.
Maybe I’m reading too much into Malone’s comment; you should reach your own conclusion. Unfortunately, voters often have to rely on educated guesses about which candidates will actually follow through on holding the administration accountable for the district’s performance. That Malone would devote part of her only community comment to arguing that a superintendent search would be expensive—and this before she’s even on the board—just makes me concerned about how assertively she would exercise the board’s oversight responsibility if she’s elected.