After a 50-minute meeting, the director of schools evaluation committee has asked that an employee survey designed to gauge morale be placed on the agenda for the Thursday night regularly scheduled meeting of the Cumberland County Board of Education.

The agenda for Thursday’s meeting also includes discussion and possible action on the director’s contract following a review by the contract committee last month.

The committee is made up of 1st District Representative Jim Inman, 2nd District Representative Rob Safdie and 9th District Representative Stace Karge. Also attending Monday night’s committee meeting was 5th District Representative Tony Brock and teacher representative Kim Wattenbarger.

No other media or people in the audience were in attendance.

Drawing the vast amount of attention and discussion was the wording of the survey. Safdie stated he felt that more time should be spent on how questions are presented in the document. 

Inman said he would have liked to have more time to work on the survey, but with a deadline of Jan. 30 to have it completed, that isn’t possible.

The board must decide to grant Director of Schools Janet Graham a new contract by Jan. 31, or that serves as notice the board does not plan to renew her contract.

Inman put that desire in a motion that was voted down by the full board in a previous monthly meeting.

In that light, Inman and Karge agreed that the questionnaire should be presented as presently written.

“The whole purpose (of the survey) is to get a general feeling in the system,” Inman said. “I prefer to keep it simple. It will make it easier for everyone to understand where we are coming from.”

When perception was tied to the survey, Safdie asked, “What is perception?”

Karge responded, “Perception is a feeling.”

There was also a brief discussion on who would participate in the survey. Should it be limited to teachers, or should custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, non-certified personnel be included?

Graham noted the school system operates with a “chain-of-command” and that supervisors often handle issues with employees that never reach her desk. 

“It’s not that I wouldn’t like to meet with those … [and] have that interaction,” Graham said. Most are resolved before they are brought to her attention.

Safdie said as much during a meeting last month when he noted there are many components to the role of director of schools’ position, including oversight of accounting systems, maintenance and academic initiatives.

The board evaluated Graham’s performance in April, with an overall score of 4.1 on a 5-point scale. A score of 4 signifies “consistently meets expectations,” with scores for board relationship, community relationships, staff and personnel relationships, educational leadership, business and finance and strategic planning skills. 

The committee developed the following nine questions using the 2019 Tennessee Educator Survey, an annual voluntary survey administered across the state to measure school climate.

The questions ask participants to mark if they strongly disagree, disagree, agree or strongly agree to each statement:

•There is an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect within this school system.

•I am generally satisfied being an employee in this school system.

•I would recommend this school system to parents seeking a place for their child.

•I feel supported by the director of schools.

•Our director of schools encourages suggestions for improvement.

•I feel comfortable raising issues with the director of schools.

•I like the way the director of schools runs this school system.

•The director of schools effectively handles employee discipline.

•The director of schools seeks to understand the needs of faculty and staff.

The board meeting Thursday starts at 6 p.m., is held at the Central Office off Fourth St. and is open to the public.

Michael Moser may be reached at mmoser@crossville-chronicle.com

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