Evert, board part ways
WCLO's Beth Wheelock reports on the early retirement of Janesville's Superintendent of Schools.
Hear WCLO's coverage of a news conference held by the Janesville School Board Tuesday, 2/3/09.
Some key points in Tom Evert's education career, from Janesville Gazette files:
1965—graduates from Onalaska High School.
1969—graduates from UW-Eau Claire with a bachelor's degree in psychology.
1971—graduates from UW-Eau Claire with a master's degree in education.
1971-73—school psychologist, Beloit School District.
1973-79—director of pupil services and school psychologist, Beloit School District.
1979-84—director of student services, Beloit School District.
1984-87—supervisor of pupil services, Janesville School District.
1987—earns a doctorate in educational psychology from UW-Madison.
1987-89—director of pupil sevices, Sheboygan School District.
1989-92—director of student services, Janesville School District.
1992-95—principal, Janesville Craig High School.
August 1995-present—Superintendent, Janesville School District.
JANESVILLE The Janesville School Board has decided it can no longer work with Superintendent Tom Evert.
The board on Tuesday night revealed that it was relieving Evert of his duties.
The only wrongdoing the board cited was Evert's failure to communicate properly with board members. The problem apparently has been going on for months but recently got worse.
In a news conference Tuesday night, board members cited few examples of the communications breakdown and often were vague about what the problems were.
Evert, superintendent for more than 13 years, had intended to retire June 30. He has not been in the office the past two days.
The board announced the move after its third closed-door meeting in five days. It also voted unanimously to appoint Karen Schulte, the director of student services, to be interim superintendent.
A board press release added one more reason for the action: Evert suffers from "a chronic health condition that is significantly impacted by stress."
Evert could not be reached for comment.
The press release states that both sides agreed to Evert's departure. But the board initiated the action, board member Tim Cullen said.
A board needs to trust and have confidence in its superintendent, "and I think that deteriorated significantly over time," Cullen said.
Board member Kevin Murray said his problems with Evert stretched back to the time he was first elected in 2005, when he wanted a list of administrative salaries and Evert didn't think he needed it.
Murray said things got worse lately, when he had to ask up to seven times for information before he got it.
Board member Greg Ardrey said he went to talk to Evert about what he could do to improve student achievement, and the meeting deteriorated into Evert commenting about other board members.
Some board members indicated they did not realize the extent of the problem until they heard from other board members—with Evert not in the room—in closed session Thursday night.
Board member Bill Sodemann said he did not have the problems with Evert that other members did.
"You could kind of tell some things were happening with some friction, but if I could rewind the clock, I would have been a little more forceful in discussing it, and I apologize for that," Sodemann said.
"I don't think Dr. Evert was doing anything wrong, but I think there was a senior slide," board member Lori Stottler said.
Senior slide is the tendency of high school seniors to reduce their effort in their final months in school.
Cullen said Evert was like many longtime executives who come to consider the organization they serve as their own. Such executives tend to take it personally when anyone raises questions that reflect badly on the organization, Cullen said.
The board distributed copies of an "agreement for early retirement" between Evert and the district.
The agreement includes a clause that states that each side does not intend to make disparaging remarks about the other.
Board attorney David Moore said that clause does not prevent board members from speaking out because the contract is between the district and Evert, and individual board members do not represent the district.
The agreement requires Evert to turn in his district-provided car and clear out his office by Saturday. He will get a stipend to make up for the loss of the car through June 30, based on an annual value of $2,750.
Evert apparently will receive all other benefits he would have received had he continued to serve through June 30. His annual salary is $158,199.
Cullen said the board is united and excited to go forward with Schulte as interim superintendent.
Schulte said she would devote half her time to being student services director, and her staff would pick up the remainder of her student services duties.
Schulte will be paid extra—about $10,000—for her added responsibilities.
Board member Bill Sodemann said the added expense to cover Evert leaving probably would add up to about $20,000.
Sodemann said people should not forget the good things Evert did for the district, including hiring many talented administrators.
Board President DuWayne Severson said he would meet with principals and Schulte this morning to show the board's support for Schulte and to remind staff that the board is committed to moving forward.
The process to pick the next superintendent has been under way for months. The new superintendent is expected to be named this spring and take over July 1.