Simon: SBAC needs to set policy goals as a team

Superintendent Dr. Carlee Simon asked members of the School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) to spell out their goals for her collectively so that her annual evaluation can be measured accurately.

“Where do you all want this organization to go?” Simon asked during a special meeting on Wednesday held to adopt a superintendent evaluation tool.

According to Simon’s current contract, which went into effect in July 2021, the SBAC is required to evaluate her performance annually on or before Dec. 1.

Board member Gunnar Paulson pressured the board to expedite the process and to submit narrative evaluations as soon as possible, but Simon asked that the board consider a tool that will measure more topics that will give her and the staff more information to guide their priorities.

Simon presented an evaluation for the board to consider that had 43 questions to be rated from as Outstanding, Effective, Needs Attention, or Not Observed. The evaluation tool also includes the assessment of three areas: “A. The progress toward the educational goals of the District; B. the working relationship between the Board and the Superintendent; C. the Board’s own effectiveness in providing direction to the Superintendent.”

The outcomes listed on Simon’s evaluation according to the proposed evaluation tool are that it will determine her salary, identify strengths and weaknesses, and establish specific objectives.

There is also an outcome of the evaluation aimed at the SBAC that states “the Board should be prepared to improve its own performance as the public body ultimately charged with the educational responsibility of this District.”

After Simon presented the evaluation tool to the board, she commented on  the additional questions.

“These 43 items add additional feedback for me,” she said. “We are in the educational profession, we want formative evaluation.”

Simon then expressed her frustration that the board does not act collectively and present goals as a team. She said they meet with her individually but have not presented strategic policy goals as a cohesive body.

She said the only time she knows when all five board members are on the same page is when they vote unanimously on policy.

Simon said the last strategic policy discussion and vote held by the SBAC was in 2019 and when she started in March, the board gave her one goal: to open schools safely.

SBAC Vice Chair Tina Certain agreed.

“As a board we didn’t set strategic priorities for Dr. Simon to work on after we employed her,” she said. “Collectively we did not set strategic priorities as in previous years.

Certain said that in Simon’s starting school year, the board “directed her on the mask mandate and to get schools open safely.”

The SBAC issued a mask mandate prior to school starting that led to a three-month battle with parents and the Florida Department of Education before the board voted to comply with the state in November.

“Now to do an evaluation, we didn’t give her direction, other than that,” Certain said. “How and what are we evaluating her on?”

Certain then moved to adopt the appraisal instrument and allow board members to add narratives to it. The SBAC approved the motion unanimously.

The evaluations will be turned in to the SBAC at the Feb. 1 regular meeting.

Controversy has surrounded Simon in recent months regarding her qualifications to be superintendent. At the SBAC meeting on Sept. 21, citizens demanded Simon be fired.  A day later, SBAC staff attorney David Delaney stated Simon was in compliance with her contract only to have further disagreement over her qualifications at the Oct. 6 meeting. 

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