SCHOOL BOARD URGED NOT TO RENEW SUPERINTENDENT'S CONTRACT
By SCOTT GRAVES
The Brookings-Harbor School Board Monday began the process of evaluating the superintendent?s job performance, but not before hearing from parents and citizens who opposed the renewal of his contract.
During the public comment period of the meeting, parent Pat O?Hara, an outspoken critic of Superintendent Paul Prevenas, delivered a petition containing more than 120 signatures to the school board.
O?Hara encouraged the board to read the petition and consider the signatures before making any decisions in regards to Prevenas? evaluation.
Prevenas said Tuesday that he was ?surprised and disappointed by the petition.
?It is, of course, hurtful to be accused of things that are not one?s own fault,? he said.
The petition, written by parent Lisa Wopshall and endorsed by O?Hara, stated:
?This position requires leadership qualities that have not been exhibited by the current superintendent... Leadership requires honest communication as well as timely communication about all issues that surround the school district budget, program additions and program cuts, administrative issues, parent and student concerns, as well as a positive working relationship with staff, the school board, parents and the public.?
The petition stated there are several ?serious issues? regarding complaints filed with the Oregon Department of Education, lawsuits against the district and administrators, and grievances filed by school teachers, that remain unresolved.
?These issues have not been dealt with in a proper or timely manner by Dr. Prevenas, and have resulted in a negative view of our school district and our community,? the petition said.
It concluded by asking the board not to renew Prevenas? contract and to begin advertising the job and accepting applications to fill the position with a ?more adequate candidate.?
Brookings-Harbor resident Dan Werthaiser-Kent addressed the board saying, ?We set our expectations rather high of some public officials. Indeed, we should. Somehow we think it?s OK to expect 10 percent fiscal growth from the CEO of some company in our stock portfolio, yet we seem to have a problem extending those same expectations to the leader in charge of our childrens? education.?
Werthaiser-Kent said he was dismayed to hear about the board?s recent approval of a 2 percent increase for administrative staff at a time when the district is facing potential budget cuts.
?If our boss were cutting support staff, in this case our teachers, in our own workplace in the name of saving money, would it be appropriate to vote him or her a pay increase? Quite the contrary ? we would be up-in-arms for his or her removal.?
He said, ?An effective leader would not give himself and his staff a raise, and then flick it away as if it were insignificant.
?Rather, an effective administrator would at least attempt to rally the community around financially supporting our ailing programs. He or she could provide full disclosure of policies, decisions and fiscal circumstances to both the board and to the public in hopes of gaining confidence of taxpayers and parents.?
He concluded, ?Any type of creative, effective leadership would have kept me from saying it, but unfortunately I must ? we cannot renew the contract of Dr. Paul Prevenas.?
The board members did not comment on the petitions or O?Hara?s or Werthaiser-Kent?s comments. Board chairman Brian Larsson thanked the speakers for their input, then moved on to regularly scheduled agenda items.
At the end of the regular meeting, the board met in an executive session to discuss the evaluation of Prevenas. The meeting was closed to the public. State law allows the board to review and evaluate the job performance of administrative staff in executive meetings. The Pilot attended the meeting, but, by law, cannot report what was discussed.
After the meeting, Larsson told The Pilot that no decision had been made regarding the renewal of Prevenas? contract. The board scheduled another executive session for Monday to discuss the issue further.
To evaluate the superintendent, the board is using a form that includes areas such as leadership and district culture, communications and community relations, organizational management, and labor relations and negotiations. The board uses a rating scale that ranges from unacceptable to outstanding.
On Tuesday, Prevenas responded to the accusations levied against him.
?The petition seems to blame me personally for the difficult financial situation facing the district,? he said. ?This all but ignores the fact that virtually every other district in the state is facing a similar, if not more more difficult financial situation for next year, too.?
Prevenas said he is proud of what the Brookings-Harbor School District has accomplished during the last six years. He listed the accomplishments as:
?Expanded educational and co-curricular programs for all grades.
?Improved programs for students with disabilities.
?Recruited and retained ?top-notch, highly-dedicated faculty and staff.?
?Improved student achievement on state-mandated tests in all schools.
?Improved ?our student to computer ratio to one of the best in the state.?
?Maintained a healthy fund balance despite diminishing state revenues.
Prevenas added, ?I am confident that the school board will do the right thing and balance the views of those who honestly believe I am to blame for the pending budget shortfall with the facts about our district?s overall education progress and financial condition over the past six years.?