Monday, November 16, 2015

Checking in on Board Behavior

Tomorrow night’s School Board Work Session is an opportunity for community members to judge for themselves how well or poorly the Board is functioning at the one-year anniversary of its five members’ service together as a Board. On the agenda:
  • Board Self-Evaluation
  • Governance Model
  • Accreditation

Board Self-Evaluation (Item C280)

The Board gave itself terrible marks on its first self-evaluation in June. See my post about it here. As the result of Board member Julie Sprague’s request at the time (“I worry about accreditation” – video clip here), the Board conducted another self-evaluation this month.

Sprague had hoped that some of the issues and concerns reflected in June would be addressed and that this one-year evaluation would show improvement.

Unfortunately, while there was some improvement in the ratings of 15 of the 34 indicators of Board performance, 11 of the indicators received their lowest scores in the seven-year history of the evaluation.

I encourage you to look at the evaluation itself. It paints a sorry picture in several areas of how our School Board is functioning.

In particular, I want to share the written comments of Board members regarding three specific indicators as reported here:

Indicator 7: The School Board and the Superintendent work together to create a climate of good faith and goodwill through team work and clear communication

Curatolo: The dysfunction and lack of teamwork has become more evident as time passed.

Lichter: The Superintendent is confused on board and Superintendent roles. She is under the false impression that she has authority over board members i.e. board briefings in her office where she sits at the head of her conference table, refuses to meet with certain members, is insubordinate, has lied to certain board members, refuses to respond to questions in writing, continues to give committee appointments and other titles to vitriolic and hateful community members that continue to publicly slander certain board members, and finally she works closely with her personal attorney, Jon Fishbane, to create policies and amend bylaws to strip power from the elected and the people they represent.

Sprague: This is an area of grave concern. There has been a continuous erosion of trust between members of the leadership team based on false allegations and lack of respect for employees and fellow Board members. Some Board members have undermined operational decisions made by the Superintendent and supported law suits filed against the District and Superintendent.

Terry: There is still a lack of trust between some Board members and the Superintendent. Some members did not even show up for the opening of schools meeting to start the school year.

Indicator 14: The School Board and the Superintendent work well together in the spirit of mutual trust and confidence.

Curatolo: This has not been the norm since November 2014.

Lichter: I don’t trust her, because she lies to me and treats me like her subordinate. She works with Jon Fishbane and others to script meetings, so it makes it difficult to trust her. I also have in my possession emails where she and other district personnel were actively targeting a specific charter school in our community for no real reason.

Sprague: Trust and confidence have deteriorated since our June evaluation. A Board member has issued public records requests for fellow Board member’s and staff emails without any evidence of wrong doing. The Superintendent and staff have been accused by some Board members of lies and conspiracy at public meetings. One Board member disregarded the publicly shared advice of the District General Counsel and Superintendent which resulted in a Cease and Desist letter addressed to the entire Board by the Florida Education Association.

Terry: The lack of trust by a few Board members and their group in the Superintendent and the rest of the Board is a problem. This causes a lot of extra work for the Superintendent and her staff.

Indicator 34: The School Board addresses issues before they come urgent to critical.

Lichter: My final comment: The real evaluation will take place at the ballot box. Time could have been better spent looking at academic performance data and seeking solutions, so that every child has access to the very best education.

Sprague: We as a Board need to seriously address our dysfunctional behavior. It sets a horrible example for students and causes distrust in the school district and community. With an AdvancED [accreditation] review looming in the near future, the time to rectify the situation is now before drastic action is imposed on us. Sadly, our behavior has become the topic of conversation throughout the community. It is up to us as a team to work together and focus on our vision and mission for the benefit of all 45,000 children in our District.
Only four of the 34 indicators were rated favorably by all Board members. That’s very bad.

Governance Model (Item B16)

The Governance Model sets forth the terms under which the School Board members agree to operate. It includes such things as behavioral norms, roles and responsibilities of the Board and the Superintendent, the expectation of “cooperative governance,” and more.

The current Governance Model has been in place since 2010. Sprague suggested, as a result of the Board’s self-evaluation in June, that it be revisited, as explained in a prior post. It was discussed during the Board’s August Work Session, and is on tomorrow’s agenda to finalize changes. See latest draft here.

The Board’s inability to reach agreement on something as basic as its Governance Model is simply appalling.

Accreditation (Item B15)

Many School Board observers, myself included, share Sprague’s concern that the hostility of certain Board members toward Superintendent Kamela Patton and, to varying degrees, other Board members, will affect the District’s accreditation.

Our concern is based on history: poor Board conduct almost caused the District to lose its accreditation in 2007/2008 (more here), and the Board’s conduct this past year has been even worse – as evidenced by its self-evaluations.

The last item on Tuesday’s Work Session agenda is a presentation on the accreditation process by a representative of accreditation agency AdvancED, followed by a presentation on how the District prepares for accreditation by its Executive Director responsible for overseeing the process. Click here for the PowerPoint to be used in the presentation.

Conclusion

We as a community should be extremely concerned and embarrassed by what this second Board self-evaluation says about us. I know I am.

I couldn’t agree with Licther more: in addition to the next accreditation review, an equally important evaluation will take place at the ballot box – not just in August, when the District 2 and 4 seats are on the ballot, but in 2018, when Districts 1, 3 and 5 will be up.

Tuesday’s Work Session will begin at 5:30 PM time certain, following the 4 PM Board Organizational meeting, at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Administrative Center, 5775 Osceola Trail, Naples.

If you wish to speak at the meeting concerning Work Session topics, register your intention online or in person before the 5:30 PM start. If you are unable to attend the meeting but want to give comments to the Board and/or Superintendent, email them at:

Kathleen Curatolo - curatoka@collierschools.com
Erika Donalds - donale@collierschools.com
Kelly Lichter - lichteke@collierschools.com
Julie Sprague - spraguju@collierschools.com
Roy Terry - terryro@collierschools.com
Superintendent Kamela Patton - patton@collierschools.com



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