School board grades Dukes

Wednesday, January 26, 2011
In a happy moment at the January School Board meeting, Schools Director Roy Dukes presented a certificate to Chapel Hill Elementary School student Divi Ferris, who scored 100 percent on her state math test.

School board members rated their director's performance somewhere between "fair" and "good" across a range of categories in his first annual evaluation, though scores in several areas averaged close to "poor."

The elected school board conducted its evaluation of Dukes without a public vote. Evaluation forms were submitted without the names of the board members attached, thereby allowing them to vote anonymously.

The board's attorney, Sam Jackson, handed the completed evaluation form to Director Roy Dukes at the January board meeting. Jackson's law firm had collected each board member's form in December, tabulated and averaged the scores, and transcribed the comments.

"What's our next step with this in accordance with the contract?" Barbara Kennedy asked and chairman Mike Keny replied, "We deliver it to the director and he has the opportunity to make a written response."

"Can you respond by our February meeting?" Keny asked Dukes.

"Probably not by February," Dukes answered.

A motion to have Dukes respond by the March meeting was unanimously approved, though Jackson reminded board members, "It's his option to respond; he doesn't have to."

The evaluation consisted of a series of statements, covering seven areas of the director's performance, to be rated on a scale between two and five, with two indicating "performance is poor - condition exists only to a slight extent," and five signifying "performance is very good - condition exists to a large extent." Scores of one or zero were not allowed, and if a board member declined to score a certain statement this was not allowed to reduce the average.

Working out all the numbers, Dukes' score is in the middle of the next to last quartile, exactly where former director Stan Curtis' score was in summer 2009 when the board rated his first year in office.

At that time, some 18 months ago, Craig Michael, then a board member, commented, "I don't see how that can be other than unacceptable."

Now, board members' written remarks, handed in along with the scores, fill 10 single-spaced pages, and most are critical.

"Mr. Dukes has been able to find several minorities who are highly qualified and, in my opinion, has made sure they are treated fairly," is one of the few positive comments, along with "Support services supervisor and personnel are doing a great job for the school system."

One board member concluded, "This evaluation may seem to lean to the negative side... I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Dukes. I believe him to be a good Christian man who loves children and wants the best for them. (He) needs to make a conscious effort to bring his board together and put the focus back on the students... The children must come first."

Dukes' worst scores came in the personnel area, with an average rating of 2.5 for the statements, "Works effectively with supervisors of instruction and school principals to employ the most qualified staff for the district" and "reports unsatisfactory service and recommends appropriate action."

He also scored poorly in finance, with his best average only 2.86.

Dukes' best score on the whole evaluation was 3.43 for the statement, "Represents Marshall County Schools in dealing with other school systems, higher education, community organizations - local, state, and federal levels."