Lots of ink has been spilled over the fighting (literal) amongst school board members, with member Jessica Olson playing the instigator—or so it seems. Last night the board took a bizarre step toward further inanity: limiting the review of the district’s superintendent to a committee of three; the board has five members. We may presume that Ms. Olson will not be invited to participate. She said that the 3-1 vote cemented the board’s “laughingstock” reputation, according to the Everett Herald.
For whatever reasons, she has given black marks to Superintendent Gary Cohn. But her review has been in the form of a minority report, which evidently didn’t become part of the record.
Now I don’t know any of the school board members. Nor am I in a position to finger one or more as the cause of the bitter animus between them, although readers of the Herald would likely infer that Olson is chiefly responsible.
But she has a point.
Olson contended the parameters for Cohn’s review should take place in a public meeting.
Having been through such processes as a member of the Snohomish County PUD board, I am quite familiar with the state’s Open Public Meetings Act, which gives deference to the people’s right to know what their public bodies are up to. The act allows for executive-session exemptions (pdf)—evaluating the performance of a public employee being one.
However, and this is where I think Olson has it right, the evaluation criteria are a matter of public record. Only the discussion of whether or not the employee satisfied the criteria belongs in executive session.
I’ve been on contentious boards, for which I was largely responsible. It’s not much fun, certainly. I’m relieved that we PUD commissioners managed to work through our problems—with the help of a professional facilitator. We’re now actually governing. Fancy that.