Attribution omitted from new document on Dukes' grade

Friday, February 11, 2011

At least some school board members knew their evaluations of the schools director wouldn't remain anonymous, regardless of how their attorney presented evaluations during last month's board meeting.

A compilation of the scores, and copies of all the comments, without names attached, were presented at the Jan. 18 meeting by the board's lawyer, Sam Jackson of Nashville, but they weren't discussed that evening.

"The compilation is merely a tool created so that all board members would be able to access the results of the evaluation in one document rather than look at all of the evaluations individually," Jackson explained in an e-mail.

In a special called meeting on Nov. 15, Jackson told board members how he intended to have his staff add up all the scores, and present the high, low and average number for each question.

The lawyer's staff also typed all the comments verbatim, without attribution. Jackson said this was "typical" and "very similar to what is done across the state."

In a recording of the meeting, Barbara Kennedy can be heard asking if the comments will be identified, and Jackson answers, "No, unless you want your names on them," but no one spoke up one-way or the other.

Contacted later by e-mail about this interchange, Kennedy wrote, "Quite honestly, I have no idea why I asked that question. I knew that evaluations would become public record as soon as they were 'official.' It wouldn't hurt my feelings whatsoever if you published them all, in their entirety. I believe the public might be interested to see individual scores and comments."

Also by e-mail, Jackson commented, "To the best of my recollection, the question I was asked about at the public meeting related to whether or not the compilation of the evaluations I prepared would attribute board member names to comments. In fact, the comments re-created in the compilation were not attributed to any board member."

A Tribune story after the January board meeting referring to the evaluations as anonymous drew immediate criticism from some board members.

"This is completely inaccurate," Kristen Gold wrote in an e-mail. "Each evaluation is signed by the board member who completed the evaluation. Also, the evaluations with board member signatures are public documents and can be requested/viewed at the central office."

Chairman Mike Keny left a telephone message stating, "The evaluations that we did - they weren't anonymous: they were all signed. Every board member had to sign off on it when they turned it in. A year ago we did not sign them and that created some controversy."

"I did not think that the individual evaluation forms would remain anonymous as they are public documents," Jackson asserted in his e-mail, while refusing to speculate whether board members knew their comments about Dukes would be linked to their names. "The actual evaluations signed by the board members, the board chair and the director of schools were, and remain, public documents," Jackson concluded.