Board member makes harsh statement in evaluation of the director of schools

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 White County Board of Education conducted its annual evaluation of the director of schools during the May 2021 meeting, and that evaluation was met with some controversy.

“I want to make some clarifications about our Policy No 5.803 Evaluation of the Director of Schools,” board chairman Jayson McDonald told the members before the evaluation discussion began.

McDonald said he had been involved in discussions with the board’s lawyer to ensure they were doing everything correctly.

“In our policy, it says that we are to set our goals within the needs of the system and that the performance of the director will be made in reference to these specific goals,” he said.

McDonald said it was his opinion one board member did not evaluate Kurt Dronebarger, White County director of schools, on the objectives the board had set forth for the 2020-2021 school year

“Some of the comments that were made, some of the objectives that he stated, were not done in the last school term,” McDonald told the other board members and referenced the notes that were included in their meeting packets. “They were out of order- very offensive and not an evaluation of Mr. Dronebarger’s standards that was set forth by us in the last school year.”

The following is the statement to which McDonald referred.

“This person [Dronebarger] is not the right fit for this county: the students, parents, teachers, nor citizens like him a tenth of what he thinks they do. He is not accountable to anybody. He is far too liberal for what White County wants. If a true election could be held and anyone ran against him, he would be easily beaten. A liberal board with family members gave him this job. He should have never been hired for superintendent. He needs to move to another system and leave White County. He knows I feel this way, and I am convinced he will know exactly which board member wrote this. So, go ahead and tell him. Here is a final clue: In my opinion, he murdered a school and raped a community for no definitive reason.”

“I would like to move that we strike Mr. [Dewayne] Howard’s comments from the evaluation tonight,” McDonald said, naming the board member whose evaluation he was deeming as offensive.

McDonald told the board he had requested that Ashley Rust, the school system’s technology coordinator, prepare a cumulation of scores, both with and without, the scores of board member Dewayne Howard.

“He scored him at a 1 at everything across the board,” McDonald explained. “Everything that he talked about was from three years ago or five years ago and not in the past eight months of the evaluation process.”

After the explanation for the motion to strike the board member’s comments, Adam Hickey seconded the motion, which passed with six “yes” votes and only Howard opposing the striking of his comments from the 2020-2021 evaluation.

McDonald said the adjusted scores placed Dronebarger at a 3.5 or higher, out of a possible 3, in every category and that there was what he felt to be great constructive criticism and feedback given as well.

“I appreciate your own scoring of yourself and identifying the things you need to work on,” McDonald told Dronebarger, who had to complete a self-evaluation as part of the annual process. “You don’t give yourself anything above a three. That lets me – and hopefully any other board member – know that you know you have things to work on.”

Other comments submitted by board members, along with their evaluations, were as follows. (The names of the board members who had made the following comments could not be verified by press time.)

“I realize much of what a superintendent does involves working directly with others and this can be especially difficult and demanding. This position requires a unique skill set to be effective in communicating with staff as well as parents. While also understanding the value of building relationships. While Mr. Dronebarger’s ability to lead our county is obvious, it is my professional opinion he needs to work on his interpersonal skills with his staff and parents.”

“Mr. D is doing a great job leading our system and has endured some very tough challenges in his time leading this system. He has remained very professional in everything he does. I do think he could listen to the (sp) teacher just a little more to understand where they are at and what  it is like in the classroom every day and the challenges they face. Other than that one thing, I believe he is the best person to be our director of schools.

“(1) Leadership and consistency in practice during COVID has been outstanding. The director and staff came up with a plan and executed it well. Our district led in this area, and it was evident in principals’ presentations, especially Mrs. Peek’s, that our plan worked and staff and students were grateful. (2) Staffing is a concern for all industries. Education is no exception. Understanding that recruiting is actively taking place, and high performing student teachers are being recruited is good practice. Thanks for staying ahead of the curve as best as possible. (3) The first of the year teaching in-service training program is another great practice. Hope this trend continues. (4) Your work with Mr. Marcum and Mrs. Alley managing the district’s finances is commendable. Managing publicly funded programs is dynamic year to year. We seem to be in good position to manage programs for the short term in the event funding was cut. (5) Your commitment of time to this job is noted. It is evident that you are investing the time required to manage this district effectively. (6) Regarding handling criticism, you listen, state your reasoning behind your decision, but are willing to reconsider the subject based on the prospective that was shared. You also have demonstrated that you’re not too proud to make an adjustment and accommodate if it does not impact the district in a significant way (i.e. end of the year awards program this year). I am of the opinion is a great trait of someone in the director’s position. It gives confidence to me as a board member that we are firm in our operations but also reasonable when we can be.”

Bob Young made a motion to approve the results of the adjusted evaluation scores, and Kay Prater seconded the motion. Once again, the motion received approval of all board members with the exception of Howard.

After the vote, Young said maybe the board could clarify the scoring system for future years.

“It’s a four-point system, so we need to move some subjectivity from this,” he said.  “We probably should let everyone know what those numbers represent. I would take it as a 3 as ‘performing as expected’ with a 4 ‘exceeding expectations.’ A 2 would be ‘less than expected,’ and a 1 would be ‘not performing.’”

Dronebarger said he appreciated the board’s confidence in him and found their scores to be encouraging.

“I appreciate the board and the support that you’ve shown,” he said. “The scores were very flattering, and I appreciate your confidence in me to lead. I felt some of the criticisms were very pointed and well received – things for me to work on both strategically and personally. I appreciate the board’s support and look forward to continuing to do great things here in White County.”    

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