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Evert makes the grade

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
January 10, 2008
— The Janesville School Board gave Superintendent Tom Evert high grades during a semi-annual review at a closed meeting Tuesday.

But some board members found room for improvement.


“The board continues to be very pleased with Dr. Evert’s leadership in promoting student learning and achievement and gave him high marks for the district’s accomplishments from November of 2006 to December 2007,” board President Debra Kolste said in a news release.


The board members graded Evert in 10 areas. He received mostly A’s and B’s, but he got two C’s and one D.


The worst marks came in the area of health and safety. He got five A’s, one A/B, a C and a D.


The Janesville Gazette requested a document showing Evert’s grades. The document does not tell which board member gave what grade. It includes comments, which also were not attributed.


Comments on the health-and-safety question include:


-- “Not much emphasis is placed on school safety. Many districts are way ahead of Janesville in their preparation and planning.”


It was not clear what areas of safety this board member was talking about. The school district installed video/buzzer systems at all elementary schools in the past year, and it continues to do something that is said to be rare among Wisconsin schools: It partners with local law enforcement, juvenile probation and neighboring schools to track students who show signs that they could endanger others.


-- “Coach Mauermann’s discipline proceedings were confusing and caused much unneeded reactions.”


The board imposed discipline on hockey Coach John Mauermann but reversed the administration’s decision to dismiss him last spring. That was the result of a series of closed meetings at which separate attorneys represented Evert and the board.


-- “Concerns of staff being stretched too thin in administrative areas of health and safety. Obviously addressing staff development in this area.”


The district’s safety coordinator position was moved in 2007 from the athletics director to the director of student services.


-- “My concern is regarding the legal limitations to what we can do to satisfy the parents’ and students’ needs for information. The recent example is the student speech given at Parker. Parents want to know what is being done about it but we (the district) cannot comment because of a student’s right to privacy. What about the kids who were affected?”


The comment apparently refers to the incident in which a student ripped pages from a Bible as part of a speech he was giving as a class assignment. Some students felt threatened by the speech-giver’s crude language or overall demeanor during the speech.


Afterward, school officials cited federal law as a defense for not telling parents, students or the public what was done to deal with the student, other than to say that appropriate action was taken.


Board members gave Evert all A’s for leadership and for relations with the news media.


Several comments were positive about Evert’s recent initiative to reform management and employee relations by using techniques from consultant Quint Studer.


“Always amazed that he never responds with anger, although there are times when he has every right to!” one member wrote.


The ongoing, contentious negotiations for an overdue teachers contract and other topics appear among the comments:


-- “I am concerned about exit strategy for negotiations. Personally, I appreciate your leadership and diligence. … We certainly have long-term goals not met, e.g., expulsion rates, testing scores and graduation rates.”


-- “He does an outstanding job. He has also surrounded himself with a highly qualified group of directors.”


-- “Diversity work excellent. Keep letting public know the positive.”


The review did not include any change in Evert’s compensation package. That topic will come up next year, Kolste said.


Evert said the board has been evaluating him in this way for more than a decade.


“I always value getting that kind of feedback,” Evert said.


“We are privileged to have a committed and dedicated veteran administrator whose enthusiasm for taking our district to the next level never wanes,” Kolste said in the news release.


Evert has been superintendent since 1995. He said he has no immediate retirement plans.


He intends to serve at least through the end of his current contract, which ends June 30, 2009. The contract allows for three one-year extensions after that time.


Evert said he is in good health and enjoys the job’s challenges.


Among those challenges is the teachers contract.


“I want to see the contract settled as soon as possible and get everyone focused 100 percent back on students,” he said.



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