BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The majority of Greene County Board of Education members expressed a high level of confidence in Director of Schools Dr. Vicki Kirk in their 2013 evaluation of the director, although two members gave Dr. Kirk significantly lower scores in most areas of the evaluation.
Chairman Roger Jones reported the results of the evaluation during a called meeting on Thursday at Central Office.
The board spent most of the day in meetings, beginning with a four-hour workshop on team-building. The workshop was followed by an Education Safety Committee meeting and then by the called meeting of the board.
Despite hours of moderated discussion with Tennessee School Boards Association General Counsel Randall Bennett, and efforts to work through their recent frictions, the board spiraled back into emotional disputes at the called meeting. (Please see related article on Page ???)
The evaluation included 52 questions for which each member had ranked Kirk's performance between a one and a five, with one indicating "needs improvement" and five being the high score, Jones explained.
During the meeting, he read for the record each question and the corresponding rankings from all seven members of the board. The letters 'A' through 'G' replaced each board member's name so that rankings were not linked with names.
However, Jones and board member Tommy Cobble both openly revealed which letter represented the scores they assigned -- the letters 'E' and 'D', respectively.
Cobble gave Kirk the high score of 5 on all 52 questions, while three other board members, including Jones, gave a mixture of 4's and 5's. One board member gave mostly 4's and 5's but also an occasional 3.
The remaining two board members gave significantly lower scores, including frequent 1's and 2's.
Questions were grouped into the following categories:
* Board Relationship, which included 14 questions with an average score of 3.95;
* Community Relationships, which included nine questions with an average score of 4.13;
* Staff & Personnel Relationships, which included 12 questions with an average score of 3.87;
* Educational Leadership, which included nine questions with an average score of 4.15;
* Business & Finance, which included four questions with an average score of 3.8; and,
* Strategic Planning Skills, which included four questions with an average score of 3.86.
This resulted in a total average rating of 3.97.
Members also had the opportunity to make comments on the evaluation questions.
Cobble, Jones, and the two low-scoring members, 'F' and 'G', were the only ones to make comments.
Cobble offered high praise in his occasional comment, while 'F' and 'G' made more frequent comments that were more critical or that offered suggestions for improvement.
Jones' comments offered some praise while also occasionally requesting "more follow-up" on certain items.
There was some discussion of board members' knowledge of Kirk's calendar and ability to get in touch with her.
Kirk reminded the members that she provides a monthly Director's Report that details her calendar, and she agreed to make sure all members continue to receive that information.
While most comments were amiable, the final discussion on the evaluation rolled into considerable tension between the members.
"Dr. Kirk, in my opinion and in, it looks like, the majority of the board's opinion, you're doing an outstanding job," Jones said.
"Some of these things where she had very low marks -- I take offense to some of those. She's meeting or exceeding just about everything on that list."
While Jones said he can understand some leeway in opinion, he encouraged the board to all support Kirk.
"You've set a high mark, and you're leading us and directing us in that direction," he said. "If she's successful, the kids are successful and, bottom line, the community is successful."
JOHNSON TAKES OFFENSE
These statements prompted a very heated response from board member Deborah Johnson.
"I take offense to that. How dare you sit there as the chairman and bad-mouth some of us that may not have given the same scores that you did?" she asked.
Johnson said that Jones' role as chairman is to preside over the board, not to dictate how things are done by suggesting that they should research the situation before giving low scores.
"We sat in a meeting all morning so we could be open to each other's ideas and comments, and then you sit there and make some of us feel bad because we look at things differently than you do?"
"Can I ask you a question?" board member Rex Hopson asked. "Do you think those marks were a true value of her job? Those ones and twos?"
"I do. I took my evaluation very seriously. Did you not take your evaluation seriously?"
"I did, but I thought she was doing an outstanding job," he replied.
Johnson said that straight-across-the-board fives did not reflect a lot of thought or room for growth.
"So now you're calling me stupid," Cobble said.
The board was then able to quickly reach the consensus that it was time to adjourn, and they immediately adjourned and dispersed.
Kirk declined to comment during the close of the meeting, but said afterwards that she is privileged to work for the school system.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity to do what I do every day," Kirk said. "It's worth it."