Hamilton County school board debates self-evaluation

Hamilton County school board debates self-evaluation

September 18th, 2018 by Meghan Mangrum in Local Regional News

Board chairman Steve Highlander, right, speaks next to schools superintendent Bryan Johnson amid a discussion about equity in the school system during a Hamilton County Board of Education work session on Thursday, June 21, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Document: Hamilton County Board of Education's policy 1.103

The Hamilton County Board of Education's policy 1.103 in regard to the board's self-evaluation is up for revision and review at the Thursday, Sept. 20 board meeting.


The self-evaluation policy and several others will be read and discussed at the Hamilton County Board of Education meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. The meeting will be held in the board room at 3074 Hickory Valley Road.


Several Hamilton County Board of Education members don't think the board needs to formally evaluate itself despite a policy that requires it to do so.

The vague policy — which is not legally required but was issued in 2004 — is up for review this month as part of the board's annual review of policies. Several other policies, including the board's interaction with media, objectives and goals and how grievances are filed, are also in the process of being updated and reviewed.

Board Chairman Steve Highlander, of District 9, said the board has never used a formal instrument to evaluate itself but has conducted an informal evaluation every year he's been on the panel.

"We do sit down and discuss what we have done, what have we done well, what can we do. It's done collectively, not individually," he said.

Highlander also said he didn't see value in using a formal instrument to evaluate board members similar to the way the board evaluates the superintendent.

Tiffanie Robinson, of District 4, agreed with Highlander. She said board members are held accountable by the voters.

"When people elect us or don't elect us is one form of evaluation," she said. "On the other hand, to sit down to do an evaluation of us as a group, that makes sense and I would be in favor of that."

The topic came up at the board's September policy meeting last week and is on the agenda for Thursday's regular board meeting.

The current policy states that "the Board will conduct an annual evaluation of its operational procedures" that will be based upon premises such as "the development of standards by which [board members] will evaluate themselves."

Ben Torres, deputy general counsel for the Tennessee School Boards Association, said in an email that boards are not required to evaluate themselves, and though the association's model policy leaves room for the development of an evaluation tool, the use of such varies across the state.

The Hamilton County school board is charged with evaluating its superintendent annually, a process that includes a formal instrument that is used by each board member and made public. The board also has a committee that discusses and designs the superintendent's evaluation tool.

Board member Rhonda Thurman, of District 1, said evaluations are something she remembers the board doing before, echoing Highlander that they have occurred at board retreats in the past. She also said an evaluation tool wasn't something she believed board members were qualified or required to do.

Robinson and Highlander both emphasized that the board does establish goals and objectives that inform the superintendent's own strategic plan. Superintendent Bryan Johnson's plan, Future Ready 2023, will be up for vote at Thursday's meeting.

Tucker McClendon of District 8, a newcomer to the board, said he also didn't believe a formal tool was needed, but that the board should review its priorities and impact each year.

"I think we should look at what we do every year as a board and scrutinize it and say we did this exceptionally well as a board I'm all for trying to improve the system and the board as a whole," he said. "I don't think it should be an evaluation tool like we use for Dr. Johnson."

McClendon also said he was excited to see Johnson's strategic plan formally be accepted Thursday and was looking forward to working toward those goals.

Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at mmangrum@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.