Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bluewater update No. 15

As usual, a few days late on this one, and beaten as always to the punch by the folks over at MendEd. Bluewater District School Board director of education Mary Anne Alton faces her performance review before the board's trustees early in the new calendar year.
Board chair Jennifer Yenssen explained the review was delayed from its originally scheduled time in order to complete the education outreach, read: the Messrs. Fix-its review and surveys. Alton's name and reputation have certainly been the centre of much attention throughout this process. The entire process also provided an opportunity to see how some trustees don't understand their role in today's school board governance. Many trustees don't see their role as corporate governors, providing policy and financial approval to board business but doing so through the only employee they actually hire and supervise-- the director of education.
Trustees are prepared to shift the format of the director's performance review to one that uses feedback and data from those who work most closely with Alton, such as the senior administrative team, central office staff, principals and union heads, as was suggested by education consultant Geoff Williams.
Williams, who was dispatched to the Bluewater headquarters last year at the request of Education Minister Kathleen Wynne to help the board work through its problems, says trustees will find that data gathered year-round from staff reports and surveys will help them enormously in the evaluation process.
"They will absolutely be able to gauge whether the director is doing the things the director is supposed to be doing from this information. A 360-degree survey collects data the board is looking for on an ongoing basis from a variety of sources . . . they should be collecting evidence over a period of time as opposed to receiving it as part of a one-shot event," said Williams, adding that he doesn't see the delay in the review being problematic.
None of these evaluation concepts are earth-shattering for those with experience in evaluating those who hold positions of senior management. As an employee at a non-profit some years ago, I completed one of these 360 evaluations on my own supervisor at the time as part of his performance review.
Oh, and to clarify-- I wouldn't expect Alton's review to be conducted in public. Don't expect to be able to sit in the meeting where trustees sit down with her and discuss her review, as this is a textbook example of an in-camera meeting that every board follows when conducting its director of education performance reviews. Once she has received it though, it's fair game to ask the chair of the board whether Alton received a favourable review or not. For those who want to know more, it may also be fair game to pony up the $5 for the freedom of information request and ask for a copy of the evaluation. The request might be declined by the board, but overwhelming public interest would be a good route to appeal (another $25 fee) it to the Information and Privacy Commissioner.


RetDir said...

That would be an interesting request, and the response would be equally interesting. I would guess that it would not be made publicly available, and it would be an interesting case in trying to balance Freedom Of Information with Protection Of Privacy (which is why FOIPOP exists). In the federal civil service the answer to that request would be negative (they won't release, for example, the salary of top civil servants, only the salary range within which the person operates) and an appeal wouldn't succeed unless there were extenuating circumstances in the public interest, but they take the POP aspect more seriously than is the case with the Municipal legislation in Ontario.
I can imagine the reaction of either ETFO or OSSTF if I had released a teacher's performance appraisal in response to a FOIPOP request, and I'm guessing a board would react similarly to a request for the director's, a superintendent's, or a principal's.
It would also be an open question as to what performance evaluations would look like if they were known in advance to be public documents. I'm guessing they would become milquetoast, which is the last thing you want them to be.
The question of whether it should be a public document may lead to some discussion here...

Anonymous said...

Where a school board works effectively I can't see the need for the public to be privy to the director's review document, as the director is accountable first and foremost to those trustees. It is the trustee's butts on the line if the review is perceived to be tilted in one way or another. Via municipal election trustees will see the result of how the review was interpreted at that time.

A change of the slate of trustees may indeed, given the same review criteria, review differently. Which is why regular reviews need doing.

I do agree that the results of the review need publicizing, but not necessarily by the communications person, but by the trustees themselves and if possible.

How much of what's in the review i.e. criteria is input from the trustees and how much inserted by board staff? Anyone?


Education Reporter said...

I was being a bit of a s**t disturber in posting this the way it was written. After all, the trustees are being investigated by the OPP for reviewing the disciplining of two superintendents in private.
So, one would argue, why not release the results of its dir of ed performance review?

Hugo :)

RetDir said...

Well ER - the trustees will not being investigated by the OPP - the explanation for this is a complex one, but violating the Ed Act is not a criminal offense. The OPP comment I read was very carefully phrased - they were going to look into whether there were grounds for a criminal investigation. Aint going to happen. There are things trustees can do (such as financial fraud) that would be - but holding meetings in closed that they perhaps shouldn't doesn't count as criminal. Misguided, perhaps, and reason for them to be turfed in the next election, perhaps, but criminal - not. But, as you have noted, since boards deal with discipline in closed there is likely no violation of anything here. From what I have read, the complainant was given the opportunity to address what he wanted to in closed, and chose not to do so, as that didn't suit his agenda. That was his choice, and it is also the choice of the board to then deny him the ability to do so in public. The fact that he didn't like it doesn't make it criminal.

Anonymous said...

In the end if trustees hire a director that's incompatible with the school community, the trustees are accountable to the community and taxpayers for their decision.

I wonder though if a director would ever get a bad review based on that? By giving a director a bad review would the trustees be admitting their own failure.

I'm betting that their is no such thing as a bad review, again, because of the optics and what it says or doesn't say about a school community's elected representatives.

Trustees work for me, directors and board staff...not so much and even so very indirectly.


Anonymous said...

I've been over at Mended and it sure doesn't appear that anything will make that bunch happy because when asked to ante-up what they'd do differently not many offer anything but barbs and insults to the point where I wonder whether in fact it's more a personal or political disatisfaction by folks who don't get their way so don't want to play the game any longer.

It's never been clear to me how much the Mended folks represent of the whole board?

Education Reporter said...

Don't forget, trustees can change with every election. Even when they don't they can still turn on a dir of ed they hired. Witness the insofar as I recall ongoing lawsuit between the London District Catholic School Board and its former director of education Joe Rapai.

Anon 22 Nov. 11:43:
MendEd people are angry people-- one-issue people perhaps? While the site is an excellent repository for all the coverage of the Bluewater board (hence why I keep referencing it in posts), it's very clear there's no love lost between its owners and the board. Or between its owners and certain ministry initiatives.
It's always easier, after all, to lob potshots from the sidelines than it would have been to stick around and get their hands dirty-- or, dirtier than they may have already been in a career spent in the field.