The Problem with Non-Public Superintendent Evaluations

On May 13, the two school boards that govern SAU 55 approved a 6.75% raise and a 4% bonus for our superintendent. This brings Dr. Metzler’s total compensation package (not counting a $10k annual annuity) to $155, 050 — very close to the top paid superintendent in NH. My vote was the sole dissenting one. The evaluation was confidential and all deliberation was done in non-public session as is the practice statewide.

The superintendent and the SAU board as a whole look upon his evaluation as a personnel matter and subject to all the confidentiality that would be extended to a teacher. Only the superintendent can disclose elements of his evaluation. The day after the vote, our superintendent sent out his own press release (written with our public relations consultant), prompting one of my readers to reply, “Super intendent!”

By established practice, business discussed in non-public meetings must stay confidential to the people involved in the discussion. This is sometimes taken to the extreme. Last year, the SAU chairman was pressed to resign as chair because he had made an innocuous comment to the press about Dr. Metzler’s evaluation.

In my opinion, superintendent evaluations should be conducted in full public view . Far too much of the public’s business is allowed to be hidden in non-public meetings which sometimes lead, in my experience, to an ultimate betrayal of the duties of your elected officials.

News of our superintendent’s very generous compensation caused significant public criticism. Constituents are asking board members to justify their decision. How are they going to do that while respecting the constraints of non-public session?

There was a surprising list of things NOT spoken of in the secret discussion of the evaluation. I believe if the public heard the non-public discussion, it would fuel cynicism. I also strongly suspect if the discussion had been conducted in public, the person who proposed an eye-popping raise would not have had the courage to do so.

A superintendent is not a teacher and treating his/her evaluation as a personnel issue is a profound disservice to the public.

  • Board members cannot defend their decisions to the public when questioned or offer criticism of the deliberation
  • The public cannot see the level of rigor of the evaluation
  • The public cannot see the actual concerns of minority board members, or any board members
  • The public is left mystified as to how raises and bonuses are actually arrived at
  • The public cannot see the dynamics of board politics and who most needs to be replaced

Our school board conducts its evaluations in a manner in keeping with other districts in the sate, specifically in non-public. I believe this practice should change everywhere. School boards should write in their contracts with superintendents that evaluations will be done in public. Oregon, for one, requires superintendent evaluations to be made public. According to an Oregon Attorney General release on this subject, Information relating to manner of performance of public duties is not personal. Placing it in a personal file does not make it personal.”



Filed under Sandown Issues

4 responses to “The Problem with Non-Public Superintendent Evaluations

  1. “Secrecy is the keystone to all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy and censorship. When any government or church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, “This you may not read, this you must not know,” the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man who has been hoodwinked in this fashion; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, whose mind is free. No, not the rack nor the atomic bomb, not anything. You can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.” – Robert Heinlein.

  2. wdr

    This is all well and good and I totally agree that a position of this stature should definitely be publicly reviewed to some degree – but how do you intend to get this changed? You know for a fact that if you were to bring this to the board that it would be immediately snubbed and dismissed. Would this be an item that would have to be discussed at the state level? A petition to bring it to election for the general public to decide? There’s got to be a chink in the armor somewhere that can expose the fraud and debauchery that continues to run rampant through this board – which is continuously costing us, the feudal servants to his kingdom. We can ill-afford another heinous increase like this again. Is he going to continuously receive raises and bonuses like this year after year?

    • Debauchery? I’ve really been out of the loop on that one!

      But to address the seriousness of your point, this is something that could be addressed at the state level through legislative change. I belong to a group called Right to Know NH that monitors legislative changes to the RTK law and proposes improvements. It could be possible to have this addressed through a clear prohibition of non-public discussion of superintendent evaluations in that law. Perhaps you would like to propose and champion this initiative with the group? The problem, of course, is that our membership dues to the NH School Boards Association pay for a full-time lawyer who lobbies against the citizens’ interests in favor of the educational establishment. One person, Harriet Cady, is trying to strip the NH School Boards Association (and the NH Municipal Association) of public money so they will no longer be able to afford lobbyists to fight against the interests of citizens, but that is going to be a long, hard fought court battle.

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