CCSD trustees stand up for superintendent
Churchill County School District’s Board of Trustees reviewed the superintendent evaluation and contract at Thursday’s meeting and responded to the previous meeting’s letter from the three employee bargaining groups.
Churchill County Administrators’ Association, Churchill County Educators’ Association and Churchill County Classified Association stated 95 percent voted “no confidence” in Dr. Sandra Sheldon, CCSD superintendent. (Sixty-nine percent of qualifying staff are association members.)
“When we’re looking at Dr. Sheldon and evaluating her, we have to look at this letter,” said trustee Dr. Greg Koenig. “I don’t think they did their homework.”
Trustees Tricia Strasdin and Kathryn Whitaker did their homework to address the letter’s claims.
Regarding poor curriculum development collaboration, Strasdin said according to district policy, curriculum committees are superintendent committees and do not require a formal agenda and action steps. She said the board serves in an advisory capacity in addition to the committees as well as the curriculum department and Education Services director. She said no course of study is eliminated or added without Sheldon and the board’s approval.
Whitaker responded to financial irresponsibility, saying nothing could be further from the truth with the positive budget balance and grant funding compared to previous leadership. She said grant money isn’t free and carefully considered since work from teachers and staff is required in response. Strasdin agreed with the letter about a dramatic shift during Sheldon’s time here but for the better.
“I have lived here my entire life and that has simply not been the case,” Strasdin said. “Whatever has been happening is absolutely not working.”
She said Sheldon’s focus is where it needs to be — on student education. Whitaker said before there was no vision, an insolvent budget and lacking curriculum.
“The claims are for actions she was directed by the board to make,” she said. “Dr. Sheldon is simply doing the job that we as a board have asked her to do.”
Koenig spoke to Sheldon’s daughter being hired as the parent and community engagement coordinator.
“She had nothing to do with that process except she had a daughter,” he said, adding the superintendent doesn’t hire, the board does. “If you want to write a letter of no confidence to the board, bring it.”
Whitaker said family members are disclosed in board meetings, plus there is no nepotism state law or district policy, adding if there was, over 50 district employees might no longer have jobs.
Bringing up disappointments the letter expressed, Strasdin cited examples of Sheldon’s teacher recruitment, a state and national issue. Strasdin added she herself couldn’t know the majority of staff by name; it’s a small town but a large entity, and she couldn’t see having job performance evaluated based on knowing people’s names.
Trustee Carmen Schank reviewed the board’s evaluation with content ranging from budget and employment to academics and families. Personal experiences as well as site and union representative visits resulted in responses showing improvement needed in communication and site visits, management of administrative staff and site principals as well as public relations and treatment of staff, employees and volunteers. Other areas were deemed excellent or satisfactory, with a resulting score of 3.48.
“If we saw a 3.4 on staff evaluations, we would be thrilled,” Whitaker said.
Schank said the evaluation is to give the superintendent advice from the board, show areas to focus on and those to be proud of. She encouraged further communication and counseling together as a team as well as increased site visits and visibility.
A closed session followed to negotiate Sheldon’s contract, resulting in a two-year renewal with a 10 percent wage increase.
Trustee Richard Gent said he’s been looking at superintendents for the last decade, and he’s been very pleased with what Sheldon’s done so far.
“I have never ever felt bullied by Dr. Sheldon, never,” said trustee Matt Hyde. “She works with me, she listens to me, and I listen to her … I’d be the first one to tell you she’s unsatisfactory, and she’s not.”
Trustee Clay Hendrix said he can only evaluate based on facts.
“I expected to come here and see the room filled with members of the union,” he said. “I’m extremely disappointed; two people who sat here and read the letter are not here … We asked everyone for information. The school district gave information, the unions did not.
“I cannot sit here and evaluate the superintendent based on secrets. Give me empirical facts that I can rely upon to make my decision different than it is today. Invite me into your associations. Or a room full of people. Let me hear you talk. I would be happy to listen. I think anyone sitting here at this board would. I think Dr. Sheldon is doing an excellent job at what she does.”
CCEA President Elena Marsh provided public comment saying the association appreciates the strong fiscal ground it’s on as shown by Sheldon’s raise. She added the association will be looking for equal compensation for the teachers doing a lot of hard work on the front lines on behalf of students.