BLOG: School Board says Thompson mostly effective needs some improvement

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3:25 p.m.

The review is done and the Collier County School Board is coming to a consensus about Superintendent Dennis Thompson's review. While Board members came to a consensus on 2.75, Board member Julie Sprague said she would like to compromise on something other than a number.

"I would like to see something along the lines of Dr. Thompson meets expectations in most categories, but he needs improvement in some," she said.

Sprague said she didn't mean the comment to be negative or personal, it just reflected that Thompson needed to do things differently.

Board member Richard Calabrese disagreed, saying he thought Thompson needs improvements in most of the categories.

"Based on the total scores, most of them were under 2," he said.

2:50 p.m.

When discussing leadership and culture in the district, School Board member Julie Sprague said she would like Superintendent Dennis Thompson to address the issue of staff morale.

Board Chairwoman Pat Carroll agreed, reiterating her position that Thompson's leadership has created "a culture of fear, intimidation, and harassment for staff."

Thompson addressed that issue, saying he believes the district has operated for a long time with high expectations for children, but that the district did not have those expectations for adults.

"Part of the district culture has been putting up with ineffective people," he said. "If we are going to change the culture, we have to change the expectations of adults."

Thompson said he has heard the criticism that the district is hard on young teachers, but said he has asked principals to consider that they are giving teachers a 30-year, multi-million dollar contract when they agree to give them a professional services contract, which is available to teachers with three years completed in the district.

2:35 p.m.

After failing to reach a consensus on ratings for two of the three superintendent's goals, Board Chairwoman Pat Carroll suggested that each member's rating be reflected in the final evaluation.

The board has moved on to discuss Thompson's professional standards. First up, leadership and culture.

2:10 p.m.

Board members are now discussing Thompson's three goals for the 2008-09 school year and how they evaluated them.

Under the first goal, improving student achievement and development, the board decided that Thompson would receive a 3, which means he is meeting expectations.

Board Vice Chairwoman Kathleen Curatolo said she was pleased with the gains the district was making.

"I would like to see bigger gains made with our lowest performing students," she said. "The next time we visit this, I am going to want to look at how the freshmen academies, the sheltered model are performing."

When it came to the second goal, which is effectively managing resources to support student achievement and development, the board could not reach a consensus.

The average was a 3.2, but Board member Julie Sprague thought that number should be a whole number because Board members could not vote in fractions. She was joined by Curatolo.

Board Chairwoman Pat Carroll didn't agree, adding that the 3.2 score was a better reflection of the actual board score, which included 4s form Carroll and Board member Steve Donovan.

Board member Richard Calabrese stood behind his score of 2.

1:45 p.m.

Board members seem to agree with Board Chairwoman Pat Carroll's assertion that at least some of Board member Richard Calabrese's comments be removed from the evaluation.

Board member Julie Sprague said she agreed with a lot of what Calabrese had to say, but said the manner in which he said it made him lose credibility.

Board member Steve Donovan was more critical, saying he thought Calabrese had an axe to grind.

"You didn't come with an open mind," he said. "This was a PR event for you. It was detrimental for this board. You are saying you are bigger than this board, bigger than the district."

Calabrese disagreed.

"I put my political career on the line to bring Dr. Thompson here," he said. "That does not mean I can't evaluate that decision."

1:35 p.m.

Calabrese wrote in his evaluation that he supported bringing Thompson to Collier County because he believed there needed to be a change in leadership to take the county from an average school system to “world class.”

“Unfortunately, after two years and the expenditure of several hundreds of thousands of dollars more than we spent in the past, I see little or no improvement in our students’ performance,” he wrote. “In addition, Dr. Thompson’s authoritarian, ‘my way or the highway’ leadership style has created a gulf between his leadership team and many teachers, the very professionals we must depend upon to improve our district to where we rightfully belong.”

Calabrese further alleges that teachers who criticize Thompson and the administration are “summoned to their principal’s office or to central administration and threatened with the loss of their job.”

He also wrote Thompson has “favored relatives and friends of top administrators in hiring them for positions in administration with some allegations that new, high salary positions were created for some of them and that district procedures were not followed in hiring them.”

Calabrese said those statements were not violations of the board's code of conduct, but his right to freedom of speech.

"By having that kind of situation on hand, you are telling the public, 'I don't want you to know what a board member thinks,'" he said.

Board Vice Chairwoman Kathleen Curatolo said the board is trying to focus on the superintendent's evaluation in terms of governance.

"We want to move forward. We have waited a long time to focus on this evaluation," she said. "But, we need to talk about those things in terms of the man sitting at this table and not votes that took place. Generically, we can still talk about those issues you have concerns about."

Curatolo said the board is not asking Calabrese to negate his opinion, but to remain a level of professionalism in the district and not attack people who are not being evaluated.

1:30 p.m.

Board Chairwoman Pat Carroll has criticized Board member Richard Calabrese for leaking a copy of his evaluation to the media. She said his attacking of staff in a public forum was "inappropriate." She also said Calabrese's decision to question the school board's decision to outsource custodial services, a decision he was not part of, went against board policy.

She has suggested that his numeric rating not be questioned, but has suggested that his comments not be included in the consensus report.

Board Attorney Jon Fishbane said Calabrese's comments undermine board policy as well as state regulation by the Department of Education. He said he was also concerned about what he called individual attacks Calabrese made in his review, including a criticism of Chief Academic Officer Martha Hayes, who is not being evaluated.

1:10 p.m.

School Board members will evaluate Thompson on six standards: Leadership and district culture; policy and governance; communications and community relations; resource management; instructional and curriculum leadership; and values and ethics of leadership.

Each of the standards has performance indicators, such as promoting the engagement of stakeholders and develops curriculum based upon best standards and practices. School Board members are then asked to evaluate whether Thompson’s performance exceeds expectations/criteria, meets expectations, needs improvement or is unsatisfactory.

In looking at the tabulated reviews, Thompson received no mean score higher than 3.0 on a four-point scale. However, individual board members did give Thompson 4.0 scores on certain pieces of the evaluation.

In some of her comments, Board Chairwoman Pat Carroll said Thompson seems to represent the board's involvement and oversight. She also echoed Board member Richard Calabrese's comments that Thompson's leadership leaves something to be desired.

"The administration promotes academic rigor and monitors classroom instruction. However, the way this is accomplished reflects Dr. Thompson's leadership style and has promotes a culture of fear, intimidation, and harassment for staff," she wrote.

12:55 p.m.

The meeting is just about to get under way. School Board members are arriving and Joe Abalos, executive director of planning and accountability with the district, has passed out copies of Superintendent Dennis Thompson's 2008-09 evaluation. The 37-page document includes evaluations from all five board members and Thompson's annual report for the board. That report includes the superintendent's goals.

About 30 people are in the audience, most of them principals or members of the district's staff.

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