LUDLOW, Vt. – The TRSU board meeting Aug. 21 began with a presentation from Vermont School Board Association member Sue Ceglowski who was asked to advise them on how to develop a superintendent job description as well as an evaluation for that position. The board is making steps to avoid a repeat of the flawed evaluation process last year that included surveys from board members and other community members who critiqued performance without being able to point to any set expectations. That evaluation resulted in a one-year contract for Powden with a 2.75 percent raise, approximately half of the 5.58 percent raise that had been in the 2018-19 school budget.
Ceglowski recommended establishing a committee to work with VSBA, developing a job description using the VSBA model job description as a base, adapting as needed, and then developing an evaluation that is aligned to the description. The process would also include circulating an online survey to all the board members in the supervisory union. The information would be collated and organized for the committee by VSBA. The superintendent would also be part of the process, working with the committee and performing a self-evaluation. The result is a final written evaluation that also determines three to four goals for the first year.
Board Chair Marilyn Mahusky responded positively to Ceglowski’s recommendation. “It would helpful to us as a SU and our respective districts to develop a really good evaluation tool and have Meg be a part of that so that she is giving us her input as to where she wants to see the schools go, what kind of goals she wants to work on, and what we want her to be working on.”
The board agreed to establish a four-person committee with two members from each school district for developing a job description and evaluation for the superintendent’s position. The board then approved hiring VBSA for a fee of $1,000 for their services to help develop both documents.
Mahusky then asked VSBA for their input on structuring a board retreat. Ceglowski mentioned that another woman in her office, Susan Holson, would be the one to develop a retreat that would establish a new vision. The most recent vision statement for the district was developed in 2015, but Superintendent Meg Powden felt the time was right for another. “We’ve moved from ten districts to two districts, which was an incredible feat and so I think we need to recognize that we’re in a new place and that its time for a new vision.”
The board decided to invite Holson from VSBA to the next meeting to move forward with the vision retreat planning.
Discussion moved to the question of the transition funds. Originally totaling $150,000, money granted to school districts as an incentive for merging, these funds have been under scrutiny with the TRSU spending approximately $60,000 without approval. In addition, both districts voted that those funds are meant for the districts themselves not TRSU expenses. The remainder, approximately $90,000, is now again up for debate as to whether they belong jointly to both GMUSD and LMHUUSD districts or solely to GMUSD. The TRSU reached out to the Vermont Agency of Education to help clarify the situation, but the opinion from two different members of the Vermont Agency of Education appear to contradict each other.
Board member Joe Fromberger said that he wanted to request a legal opinion from the Agency of Education for a final judgement on the opinion. The Board agreed to request a legal opinion, and the topic was tabled until more clarification was received.
In other business, the TRSU agreed to purchase a rear-entry van that could accommodate wheelchair transportation for the supervisory union. Although the van costs $37,000 with an additional $70,185 for driver expenses, overall the purchase will save $35,000 in the budget.
At the end of the meeting, the board discussed revamping the TRSU website beyond the updates happening now. Powden stated that they would put funds into the budget for website software. Board member Dan Buckley saw this as an opportunity for students to perhaps work on that as a project through the schools. Powden agreed that they could look into the possibility.
The next TRSU meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 6 at 6 p.m. at The Roost.