Monday, November 30, 2009

Host of schools support fight to keep superintendent evaluations private

OK...but shouldn't the education groups really be pushing for new legislation? Isn't it the language in the law, rather than the ruling, that needs fixing?

This from the Courier-Journal:

The Kentucky Department of Education, its board and a host of school boards from around the state are seeking permission to file a brief in support of the Jefferson County school board’s fight to keep superintendent performance evaluation discussions out of the public eye.

“Our main thing is that there was never any intent in the legislation to require one individual in a school district to be evaluated in public. Everybody else has their evaluations done in private,” said Brad Hughes, spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association, one of the entities that have filed the motion.

The Jefferson County Public Schools Board of Education is appealing a state Attorney General opinion that the board violated state law when it evaluated Superintendent Sheldon Berman in closed session July 29. The Courier-Journal contested that action, seeking the attorney general opinion. The case is pending in Jefferson County Circuit Court.

Jefferson County board Chairwoman Debbie Wesslund...

...gave a lame excuse that ought to be ignored. If board's can simply circumvent the law by stating the mere potential for discipline or dismissal, then everybody would do it and the law would be meaningless. Such possibilities - absent specific actions - do not qualify as exceptions to the Open Meetings law.

Sheldon Berman already announced that his evaluation contained nothing negative. But that's another topic.

Why go to the court? A lower court, correctly in my view, held that “The exceptions to the Open Meetings Act are to be strictly construed in light of the decided preference that the public’s business be performed before the eyes of the public.” It's hard to imagine the basic principle of a strict test being overturned on appeal.

If there is to be an exception made for school superintendents - and perhaps there should be - it ought to be specifically stated in the law.

I wonder. Is it possible that school administrators have already had conversations with legislators? If so, is the idea of an exception in the law getting any traction?

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