Board praises superintendent after formative evaluation

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Mid-year evaluation takes place in closed session

By Stephen Lega

The Marion County Board of Education last week praised Chuck Hamilton for his work as the Marion County superintendent.

"His total score on a scale of zero to four was 3.8," board chairman Michael Mullins said in a phone interview the day after the meeting.

The board members went into closed session at the conclusion of their Jan. 24 meeting at St. Charles Middle School to conduct Hamilton's formative evaluation.

Public superintendent evaluations have been a point of contention in recent years statewide. This lead to a change in the state law requiring school boards to conduct preliminary discussions (the formative evaluation) related to the superintendent's evaluation in closed session. Summative evaluations, which are conducted at the end of an academic year, are required to take place in open session.

Mullins said the board was in agreement that Hamilton was doing good work for the district.

"The board collectively agreed that Dr. Hamilton hit the ground running just as soon as he became superintendent," Mullins said. "And he has not slowed down."

Hamilton's formative evaluation comes one year after a controversy involving former Superintendent Donald Smith and his formative evaluation. That evaluation was scheduled to take place after the 2010 election, during which three incumbent members of the school board were voted out. Initially, the board discussed conducting the Smith's formative evaluation before the new board was sworn in at the beginning of 2011. The outgoing board eventually decided to allow the new board members to handle it.

After the new board (which includes the five current board members) was seated, they scheduled a question and answer session with Smith. Mullins said that meeting was intended to give the new board members a basis on which to assess Smith when they conducted the formative evaluation. That session was frequently contentious, and before Smith's formative evaluation officially took place, he resigned as the Marion County superintendent.

Steve Burkich was hired to serve as the interim superintendent following Smith's resignation. Hamilton took over as superintendent July 1, 2011.

Mullins reiterated that the board has been pleased with Hamilton's efforts.

"Everything he's done has been positive for the district," Mullins said.

District researching tech center options

School officials are gathering information about how the district might be affected if it took over responsibility for the Marion County Area Technology Center, Hamilton told the board.

At this point, the Marion County Public Schools are responsible for the tech center building, but the educational programs are managed by the Kentucky Cabinet for Workforce Development.

Hamilton and the school board members stressed that no decision has been made about bringing the tech center into the school district.

"This is akin to actually opening a new school," he said.

The tech center recently lost its industrial maintenance instructor to retirement, but because of state budgetary issues, the center is not allowed to hire a replacement.

Board member Bernard Miles asked if the tech center employees would be safer if the school was part of the district.

"They would be as safe under our umbrella as they are now," Hamilton replied.

The day after the meeting, Mullins said district officials are continuing to research how a change could affect the district, both in terms of local control and finances.

"We're looking at everything before we decide," Mullins said.

Dress code committee reports on dress code

The dress code committee for Marion County Public Schools gave additional information about its decision to not create a district uniform policy.

School board member Ed Hacker said the results of a poll conducted via One-Call Now showed that a majority of respondents did not think it was an issue. He also said that lined up with the consensus of the uniform committee.

"They didn't feel like it should be a district problem," he said.

The committee felt the superintendent should be working on more important things than attire, Hacker said.

Board member Mike Cecil said he was a proponent of school uniforms for the district. Looking back, he felt like the issue of a uniform was dead before it started because people's definitions of a uniform "were all over the map."

At the same time, he said he does not believe every initiative needs to come from the superintendent. He said he proposed creating a school uniform policy because he believed it would make the school system better.

Cecil said he would agree that a uniform probably would not make a difference for the top echelon of students, but he thought it could help the bottom 10-15 percent of students.

"The disappointing part of it was that a lot of people weren't looking at the big picture, from my point of view," Cecil said.

He said people should have been asking if a uniform would help their children do better in school or improve the school environment.

"I think it's an idea that will keep coming back," Cecil said.

Board moves forward on renovation, roof projects

The Marion County Board of Education is closer to making some improvements at Marion County High School and Calvary Elementary School.

At its Jan. 24 meeting, the school board approved a BG-1 for $998,898 to make improvements to windows, lighting, restrooms and science labs at the high school. Miles asked that science labs be added as a possible focus of the renovation project.

The board also approved a revised BG-1 for $585,060 for a partial roof replacement at Calvary Elementary.

In other news:

- Hamilton reported that the district has a higher rate of graduates going onto college than public high schools statewide. According to the Kentucky High School Feedback Report, 63.5 percent of Marion County seniors in the class of 2009-10 went to college, compared to 61.4 percent statewide.

- Hamilton told the board of education that the gap analysis reports for the schools in the district would be released soon.