Superintendent finalists endure final test |

Superintendent finalists endure final test

by Scott Neuffer

The first two superintendent candidates interviewed more than a month ago were back Monday as the two finalists for the highest job in the Douglas County School District.

Mary Bull, former superintendent of Vallejo City (Calif.) Unified School District, and Dave Jensen, assistant superintendent of Humboldt County School District, each had three-hour interviews with a roundtable composed of 20 school board members, administrators, teachers and classified staff.

Bull faced 15 questions asked by various employees over the three-hour period with only one break and a roughly half-hour mock administrative coaching session with Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School principal Keith Lewis.

Zephyr Cove Elementary School teacher Brenda Chapman asked Bull how she felt about using student achievement data in teacher evaluations.

Bull said it’s fair to use student achievement as part of an evaluation, emphasizing the word “part.”

“It’s a very complex issue,” she said. “Teachers don’t pick their kids for the most part.”

Carson Valley Middle School teacher Nicolle Larson read to board members an excerpt from a June 13, 2009, Vallejo Times-Herald article that describes a racial discrimination lawsuit filed against Bull by a former assistant. The same article states that Bull was the subject of at least four employee-mistreatment claims since September 2007.

According to the Vallejo Times-Herald, Bull was placed on paid leave in June as the school board investigated another employee complaint against her, this time made by the school district’s spokesperson Jason Hodge.

In August, Bull was terminated without cause in a 4-1 vote and paid out the remainder of her contract, though no details of the investigation were made public. Hodge was subsequently reinstated.

“I understand that people in highly public positions are susceptible to lawsuits,” Larson said. “However, that would be understood for one or even two lawsuits. My concern here is we are talking about three or more. There seems to be a pattern here.”

Bull said two board members in Vallejo, including one who voted for her termination, already have stated that the measure was political in nature and had nothing to do with any character flaw.

Jensen was called into the roundtable for the next marathon interview.

When Chapman asked Jensen about using student achievement data in teacher evaluations, Jensen said he supports the idea.

“I don’t believe there’s another profession where people are not held accountable for what the outcome is,” he said. “Teachers, all the way up to administrators and the superintendent, need to be held accountable for growth and student achievement.”

Jensen said student achievement would not be the sole determinant in evaluations, likely accounting for 50 percent or less. He said districts will need to work with teacher unions to determine how best student achievement can be utilized in the evaluation process.

School board members will discuss final selection of the superintendent 5 p.m. Monday at Douglas High School.


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