The Cumberland County Board of Education hopes to develop its own performance evaluation for the director of schools. A newly formed committee will take up the task over the next several months after the board narrowly approved the committee creation.

Josh Stone, 4th District representative, objected to the committee, saying it would not allow all board members to offer input on the new evaluation process.

“Those who can attend the most meetings win, I guess,” Stone said. “I like the thoughts of all nine individuals putting ideas in one place and a starting document coming out of those nine pieces.”

Jim Inman, 1st District representative, countered, “If we’re going to ask our attorney to do that for the evaluation model, then let’s let him do that for the budget. I’ve not been able to be at any of the budget meetings and I’ve not had any say-so in the budget.”

Stone said the budget proposal is developed by Director of Schools Janet Graham and Chief Financial Officer Kacee Harris with input from board members. The budget committee has met twice in May to discuss the budget presented by school administrators. Inman attended the May 29 meeting. 

The idea of an evaluation committee began in March when board members were asked to complete the current performance evaluation developed by the Tennessee School Boards Association. Board members rank the director’s performance on a scale of 1 to 5 in areas of board relations, community relations, staff and personnel relations, educational leadership, business and finance, and strategic planning. 

Though the board uses the association’s evaluation model, it does not pay the group to compile the responses. Instead, board attorney Earl Patton has handled that task in recent years. 

In April, Inman noted the position of school superintendent had once been an elected position.

“The community used to be able to vote for the superintendent,” Inman said at an April 4 work session. “They ought to at least be able to express their opinion.”

Tennessee moved to appointed directors of schools following the 1992 Education Improvement Act, which required moving to appointed directors by the fall of 2000.

Inman suggested including a community survey. Other board members suggested staff surveys, as well.

Last month, Teresa Boston, 8th District representative, offered a motion to task board attorney Earl Patton to meet with each board member, get their input, and develop a preliminary evaluation form to be presented to the full board.

With only seven board members present, the motion failed in a 4-3 vote. All board votes require a five-vote majority, regardless of the number of members present. The matter was tabled until the May meeting.

Rob Safdie, 2nd District representative, moved to approve creation of a committee, supported by Stace Karge, 9th District representative.

Safdie said, “I don’t feel any need for the involvement of our attorney in the process.”

He said the committee should discuss the scope of the committee and develop various proposals to bring to the board. 

“I can easily see the committee will engage different administrators involved in this,” Safdie said. “That’s the way I see it being carried out.”

The motion passed with Inman, 3rd District Representative Shirley Parris, 5th District Representative Tony Brock, and Karge voting in favor. Voting no were Stone, 6th District Representative Tom Netherton, 7th District Representative Rebecca Hamby, and Boston.

Safdie, Inman and Karge volunteered to serve on the committee. The first committee meeting has not yet been scheduled.

Brock added, “I’ll attend as many meetings as I can.”

Other business back up for discussion Thursday was the sale of real estate owned by the school system.

In January, the board approved a request for qualifications from real estate companies interested in selling at least three properties owned by the school system, including about 40 acres off Hwy. 70 N. near Baker’s Crossroads.

The January request resulted in no proposals. 

Shortly after the proposals were opened, a company came forward with a proposal. With the deadline passed, the only way the school system can accept the proposal and evaluate the services, experience, and qualifications of the company is to reissue the request for qualifications, with publication in the newspaper.

The request for qualifications was developed by the county finance office with input from attorney Patton. 

Karge asked why the board didn’t put the property up for sale by owner. The board had offered the property for sale in 2017, with no bids received. The property was purchased for $290,000. The most recent tax appraisal lists the value at $170,500.

Boston said, “If we can get someone approved and they can get the property listed, any agent can sell it.”

Stone moved to approve re-issuing the request for qualifications, supported by Safdie. The motion passed unanimously.

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.