A recurring question at recent Grundy County, Tenn., school board meetings has been why the director of schools has not been evaluated in the two years she's been in office.
At the most recent school board meeting, former school board member Mike Yates was the latest to ask the question.
He asked board members how many times Director Jessie Kinsey is supposed to be evaluated per year and how many times she actually has been evaluated. Their response was once and none.
"We tried to get it set up; she hasn't been evaluated a first time that I know of," school board member Reuben Newsome said.
"It is tabled to be discussed at the February board meeting," clarified Chairwoman Phyllis Lusk. "There is some, shall we say, confusion what the state law says, what the board policy says and what her contract says, are three different things."
Lusk said the discussion to sort that confusion out is to take place at February's board meeting. The evaluation itself won't take place until much later, as board members would have to agree to a method by which Kinsey's performance is evaluated.
"According to Ms. Kinsey's contract, she is to be evaluated December of 2018, but the evaluation tool must be in her possession by August the 30th," Lusk said. "So we are starting the process next month."
Despite Lusk's claim that there are conflicting evaluation guidelines coming from the state, school board policy and Kinsey's contract, all three documents specifically say an evaluation must be done annually. Only Kinsey's contract, unanimously approved by board members on Feb. 11, 2016, details specific dates by which an evaluation must be completed.
Kinsey, previously a high school counselor, assumed the responsibilities of director of schools on Dec. 8, 2015, but she did not enter a contract with the school board until Feb. 11 of the following year, according to the contract included in her personnel file.
Contrary to what Lusk said at the recent board meeting, the terms of the contract state that Kinsey must be evaluated by the board "annually, no later than the 30th day of June" and the board is to provide her with the evaluation format "no later than August 30th of the preceding year."
As part of the evaluation process, Kinsey's responsibility was to present the board with a strategic plan for the upcoming school year no later than July 30 of each year. Kinsey has done that, records show.
For both 2016 and 2017, Kinsey submitted strategic plans.
Her goals for students focused on closing achievement gaps, decreasing the number of "chronically absent" students, improving support for "differentiated learning," better assessment plans, increasing transitional support for eighth graders going into high school and strengthening postsecondary opportunities for high school students.
For educators, Kinsey's goals included better professional development programs, improved recruitment and updating pay scales for non-professional staff.
With the exception of a number of additional strategies added to some goals, plans for both years remained mostly the same.
Though the school board failed to carry out its plan to annually evaluate Kinsey as stated in her contract, there are no specific consequences spelled out within state law, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Education said via email.
State law states only that it is the duty of the local board of education to "develop and implement an evaluation plan to be used annually."
As for Grundy County Schools' policy, the only guidance about when the evaluation should take place is "the board will meet as a body to evaluate the director's performance" at a time agreed upon by both parties each year. There are no specified consequences should the board fail to carry out that agreement.
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