NAPLES — Collier County Superintendent Dennis Thompson has a job until July 31, 2011.
Whether he will be working for the Collier County School District beyond that is still up in the air for at least another week.
The Collier County School Board did not make a formal recommendation on whether they will extend Thompson’s contract for another year following a discussion of the superintendent’s evaluation Thursday afternoon. Instead, board members agreed to make the recommendation and vote at the Thursday, Aug. 19 School Board meeting.
Board members came to the conclusion after discussion of the evaluation and after Board member Pat Carroll changed some of her responses from does not meet expectations to meets expectations. Carroll said the changes came after she received pertinent information from Thompson and other sources.
“Overall, my review is that he met expectations,” she said. “But I am not sure we have set the expectations high enough.”
Board members wanted those changes added into the final report so they could get a clear picture of how their fellow board members felt Thompson did this year.
Board Chairwoman Kathleen Curatolo said it was not the intention of the board to make a recommendation on Thompson’s contract Thursday evening.
“The purpose of this meeting was to get input and have discussion on the superintendent’s goals,” she said. “Now we have the opportunity to review the meeting, review the comments board members made and to get further public input before we make a final recommendation.
Thompson’s discussion with the board about the goals and their evaluation was mostly without fireworks.
The only time the discussion got a bit heated was when School Board Vice Chairwoman Julie Sprague said there was a climate in the district where staff morale was deteriorating and there was a lack of trust.
“Promotion of educators from outside the system over long time Collier County educators and the dismissal or transfer of long term, loyal employees, has produced a fearful and sometimes hostile work environment,” she wrote in her review.
Thompson disagreed with the assertion and said it was “inappropriate” for Sprague to make those comments without any “substantial evidence.”
Board members praised Thompson for his focus on staff development; his financial acumen; his implementation of “sheltered classrooms” for non-English speaking students, which give those students the opportunity for more individualized instruction; and his work with the district’s strategic plan.
But Thompson was criticized for his communication and community relations skills and the district culture.
While the board room was packed with staff members from the district and community members, few chose to speak.
Collier County resident Maryann Gracey said she didn’t believe the superintendent’s contract should be renewed.
“I don’t believe someone who has deceived parents and students about transferring (former Barron Collier High School band director) Kelly Parker should have his contract renewed,” she said.
In the end, School Board member Steve Donovan said he believed Thompson had earned another year in Collier County.
“In my view, he has achieved (his goals),” he said.
Carroll said her decision next week will take into consideration the two difficult years the district is facing financially.
“It is crucial this school district, this school board, shows that we are good stewards of taxpayer money,” she said. “In an economic downturn, this is a priority for me.”
Before the meeting, board members turned in their evaluations, though some were incomplete.
Overall, three board members found that the superintendent was performing unsatisfactorily or needed improvement. One board member said the superintendent met expectations, according to the evaluation documents.
Some board members didn’t rate individual objectives and/or give an overall summary rating, according to the documents.
According to Joe Abalos, executive director of planning and accountability, board Chairwoman Kathleen Curatolo didn’t give the superintendent an overall summary rating for the goals and Sprague didn’t give individual ratings for each goal/objective.
Sprague, who was probably the most critical School Board member during Thompson’s review, said she knows where she scored, but said that the superintendent’s contract extension will be based on how the entire board votes.
“If five people thought he met expectations, this would be easy,” she said. “But it seems to me there are three people who don’t think he met expectations.”
The Collier County School Board meeting will begin at 3 p.m. Thursday in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Administrative Center, 5775 Osceola Trail.