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School board renews superintendent’s contract

The Brookings Harbor School board agreed to renew Superintendent Brian Hodge’s contract, but not without disagreeing about the process in which his annual job review was done.

The board spent several hours at Wednesday regular board meeting debating whether the format used to evaluate him had been actually agreed upon in prior meetings, and whether the board followed its policies in evaluating him. 

Two of the board members were dissatisfied with the evaluation process, but the board ultimately voted 3-2 in favor of the evaluation format.

School board chairwoman Jamie Ryan had distributed an evaluation form at the Jan. 27 school board meeting that asked board members to evaluate Hodge on communication, graduation rate and vocational education — three areas where the board decided earlier that it wanted see improvement. 

But during Wednesday’s meeting, board members Sue Chambers and Bruce Raleigh pointed out that no evaluation method had been decided on by the board in prior meetings. 

“The criteria had not been developed in a public meeting before this meeting,” Raleigh said. “There was no vote taken. Before we call it a decision, there needs to be a vote.”

Ryan said she had developed the form based on the consensus she felt had existed after previous board meetings where the evaluation method had been discussed. Board member Katherine Johnson agreed.

“My perception is, we had come to a consensus,” Johnson said. 

Chambers disagreed about there being consensus, although she admitted there had been discussions about Hodge’s evaluation.

“A discussion does not qualify as a consensus,” Chambers said.

Emails obtained by the Pilot show that, prior to Wednesday’s meeting, there had been a discussion between school board members about the evaluation and its form. The email discussion is most likely in violation of Oregon’s public meeting law, which requires the public to be informed of any meeting to discuss board policy.

In a Jan. 29 email, Chambers wrote “the board never settled on (superintendent) expectations during those discussions, or a new or different format. ... These three general board goals do not make a superintendent evaluation form or format.”

In a Feb. 3 email, Raleigh requested holding a meeting to discuss the issue. 

“In my opinion this email discussion constitutes a serial meeting and we have been told by OSBA that it can violate open meeting laws to do so. We need to hold a special meeting to have our discussion on this issue,” Raleigh wrote.

In a Feb. 3 email, Ryan wrote that the board was not bound by its CBGAR policy since the board had suspended it and was acting within its policies to evaluate the superintendent with the form she had created. 

“As a board we have made the decision to use this process to evaluate our superintendent for this year,” Ryan wrote. “The time for debate is over, the decision has already been made, through majority vote in accordance with our policies.”

On a Feb. 5 email, Ryan wrote that if three board members wanted to have a meeting to discuss the evaluation format, she would call one. However, only two board members called Ryan to request another meeting. No meeting was held. 

During Wednesday’s meeting, Raleigh said he felt like he had not provided any input to the form.

“We had an opportunity to meet and discuss it,” Raleigh said. “If two board members requested a meeting, there should have been one.”

Ryan maintained there was consensus about the format.

In a vote, the board decided to proceed with evaluating Hodge with the format Ryan created by a vote of 3-2, with Chambers and Raleigh dissenting.

Superintendent’s review

Hodge’s evaluation, which in a rare move he opened to the public, had each board member discuss his performance. Normally, personnel evaluations are done during executive sessions, closed to the public, but not the media.

Most school board members praised Hodge’s creation of the data committee this year. The committee, a combination of teachers and administration, was created to look at data and develop strategies to improve performance at Brookings-Harbor schools. 

They also praised his community involvement and the slowly improving graduation rate at the high school. 

Board members noted that more could be done to improve morale at the schools, mentioning recent surveys of teachers and staff that showed low morale. Chambers said work should be done to improve the morale and culture of the district. 

Other suggestions made to Hodge included visiting the schools more, talking to teachers and students more, and holding a community meeting to spur community involvement. They board urged him to continue looking at adding more vocational education at the high school. 

The board decided to renew Hodge’s contract, but spent a long time discussing whether they should or not after he requested two amendments to his contract: one which included removing a clause that allowed the district to terminate the superintendent’s employment without cause.

Chambers said the board should seek legal counsel before changing the contract, and the board decided it would talk with an attorney before making the requested changes. 

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