Powden evaluation to include public input Executive committee releases form for comment

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

While the rest of the Two Rivers Supervisory Union Executive Committee wanted to eliminate public comment from the evaluation of Superintendent Meg Powden, GMUSD board chair Marilyn Mahusky argued the case for hearing from “our constituents.”

After a spirited discussion, Mahusky prevailed as the committee decided to release an evaluation form to be handed out in schools and town offices starting today. You can download a copy here to print and  fill out.  Instructions for sending it to the committee are within this article.

Committee chair Bob Herbst expresses his concerns about doing an evaluation without a job description. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

Criticism of the process revolved around the lack of a job description for the superintendent position. Committee chair Bob Herbst of Mt. Holly said they had agreed on the process but dropped the ball. Herbst echoed Powden’s concerns about “inputs from various constituencies.”

“I have concerns.” said Herbst. “We should have sat down with her on expectations. She should have had a job description.”

Mahusky asked if Herbst was saying that the committee should not do an evaluation. And committee member Wayne Wheelock of Baltimore suggested giving the superintendent guidelines, then evaluating in six months.

Public evaluation form for TRSU Superintendent Meg Powden

Mahusky said that the board would be remiss if it didn’t do an assessment since Powden has been in the position for two years already. She added that if members did not evaluate, how could they consider a salary increase.

Wheelock conceded that he had received “a lot of calls from the community wanting input.”

“I’m certainly aware of the role and responsibilities of the superintendent,” said Powden. “I’m curious about those calls you’ve gotten Wayne, because I know four people in Baltimore, three board members and the town clerk.”

Powden went on to say that to have a job evaluation that has value the evaluation form needs to go out to people “who are aware of my work. That would be the board members, senior management team, the principals, some teacher leaders, my staff, those are the people who are going to give me valuable feedback.”

Committee member Angela Benson-Ciufo suggested the compromise of not doing the public portion this year.  GMUSD board member and incoming TRSU representative Joe Fromberger of Andover concurred.

“To invite the public would be less than useful,” said Fromberger, noting that the public was not exposed to “how things work and how the superintendent does the job.” Fromberger urged the committee to keep the evaluation process “close to home.”

The TRSU Executive Committee begins its May 3 meeting with several other board members sitting in.

Powden said that with unusual circumstances like the Act 46 process, she hadn’t had a lot of time to see the public including “Rotary and performances” and that she has been at board meetings three to four nights a week.

“The public comes to board meetings,” said Mahusky. “And the public was paying attention to the Act 46 process for the two years you have been involved with it and the public has certainly been paying attention to what’s going on on the Green Mountain side of the district … so I disagree, I think you have had a very public role.”

“OK,” said Powden.

“I think we’re going to get some real negative comment and some real positive comment,” said Mahusky. “And I think it’s up to the board to do their job and weigh the value of that.”

Board member Marilyn Mahusky tells the board they would be remiss and be “politally hanged” if they don’t consider the public’s thoughts in the evaluation

Pointing to the public as the board’s constituents, Mahusky said the board would be remiss and “quite frankly, politically hanged” if it did not listen to them.

The Telegraph asked what criteria were used for giving Powden a $10,580 (9.2 percent) last year. Herbst said there had been no formal process and that the increase was “based on a decision of the board that she deserved a raise because of her performance.”

Fred Marin, GMUSD board member and incoming TRSU board member, said he thought it was appropriate to hear from the public.

In the end, the committee decided to include a public evaluation form, which will be emailed to the families of students and distributed to schools, libraries and town halls for the public to pick up. Telegraph readers can click on this link then print the form. The deadline for returning it is May 18 and the forms should be mailed or delivered to:

Superintendent Survey – TRSU Executive Committee (Confidential)
Two Rivers Supervisory Union
609 Vermont Route 103 South
Ludlow, Vt. 05149

A group of committee members will look at the responses before the June 7 meeting. If there are a large number of responses, a special meeting will be called to review them.

A dearth of descriptions

Benson Ciufo said that going forward, a top priority would be making sure everyone in the supervisory union has a job description, noting that at this point “nobody in that building has a job description.”

“I cringe to even hire someone without a job description,” said Benson-Ciufo.

“I had to have one,” said Mary Barton, director of Student Services, “because we were audited and had to.”

“Do we have job descriptions for the principals,” asked Mahusky.

“I have no idea,” said Herbst.

“…nobody in that building has a job description”

“We have them, but they were never approved by the TRSU board,” said Powden who asked Katherine Fogg if she had received a job description when she was hired as Chester-Andover principal. Fogg said she didn’t think so.

In March, the GMUSD board held an executive session for “CAES Principal Contract Negotiation.”  Based in part on a performance review presented by Powden, Fogg was offered a two-year contract with at raise of 2.5 percent.  As the details of the negotiation are not public – even after the deal is done – it was not clear whether the unapproved job description referred to at last night’s Executive Committee meeting was used in the decision making.

Approve program now, details later

Barton told the board that the number of students on the autism spectrum has increased over the years and that the SU was asking the board for approval of an autism program for up to 10 students to be housed at Ludlow Elementary School. The program might be either Pre K through 6 or K through 6 and students would be mainstreamed wherever possible.

Barton said there are students who receive services outside the district, and that it would be possible to bring students back through such a program. “Some of these children are having to ride an hour away,” said Barton. “We’d really like to better serve these children.”

“How many children are in out-of-district placements?” asked Mahusky.

“If I say, it’s a violation of confidentiality,” replied Barton.

“I don’t think numbers is a violation of confidentiality,” said Mahusky.

“We have three out of district,” said Barton. “But we would be bringing one back.” The SU has been steadfast in its refusal to give out any detailed numbers — whether its children or budgetary — within the special needs programs citing confidentiality.

Barton said the SU has been exploring the idea and has sought out help from Tammy Meyers who has experience in starting such a program.

“The approval is for exploring,” asked Mahusky.

“No, approved to have it ready to go in September,” said Barton. “It’s ambitious but we can do it.”

Barton said funding for the program would come from reallocating already budgeted money and that she would be able to report more details on June 7.

The committee approved the program.


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