This is an excerpt of On Assignment, education writer Theresa Harrington's blog on Contra Costa County schools. Read more and post comments at IBABuzz.com/onassignment. Follow her at Twitter.com/tunedtotheresa.

Jan. 4

With a new board majority and new board president in the Mt. Diablo school district, closed session agendas have become markedly more transparent -- giving more detail than I have ever seen regarding what will be discussed.

The agenda for the Dec. 21 closed session was very specific about the types of "anticipated litigation" to be discussed and even named the outside counsel that was meeting with the board to talk about allegations the previous board may have violated the Brown Act -- the open meeting law -- in its handling of contract extensions for the superintendent, general counsel and three other top administrators.

The closed session agenda for Monday's superintendent evaluation includes similar never-before-seen details about the topics to be discussed.

The public can comment on the superintendent's evaluation at 4 p.m. in the district office board room at 1936 Carlotta Drive in Concord before trustees retire to their closed session. Here is the (excerpted) agenda:


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"On Dec. 21, the board met in closed session to conduct the superintendent's formal performance evaluation. In that closed session meeting, the board and the superintendent agreed that, given the fact that two new trustees had joined the board, a one-time adjustment to the superintendent's evaluation timeline would be made, and the interim evaluation process would be completed in a two-step process as follows:

1. Jan. 7 Special Meeting -- The superintendent presents and discusses evidence and data to demonstrate progress made in the accomplishment of his performance targets in a closed session with the board ...

2. Jan. 14 -- The board meets in closed session to complete the superintendent's interim evaluation process."

Here are some (excerpted) evaluation targets:

"Supportive Family and Community Involvement

Target 1: Internal Communications

  • There will be regular (at least monthly) updates from the School Support and Personnel Divisions and these memos will be copied to board members.

  • There will be weekly updates to school board members' on site/community events attended and site visits made by the superintendent

    Target 2: External Communications -- During the school year monthly newsletters will be sent to parents and district staff via e-mail and posted on the web.

    Target 3: Community Outreach -- The district will reach out to community organizations to schedule available superintendent council members to provide annual presentations on the status of the district. There will be six of these events.

    High Quality and Effective Staff

    Target 1: Provide the Board with factual information around the district budget and negotiations in order to fairly and accurately represent the Board's point of view throughout the negotiations process. Evidence will be provided in closed session negotiations updates.

    Target 2: Train all managers, both certificated and classified, to ensure they have the skills and knowledge to follow the contracts with a focus on effective evaluation practices and progressive discipline guidelines. Evidence will be dates the trainings were provided.

    Target 3: Provide the board with the legal implications of creating a feedback mechanism for school staff ... students, parents/guardians, and district staff to provide feedback around school and district climate. The goal of the feedback tool is to identify areas we are doing well and areas of growth. It is not meant to be an evaluative tool ... "

    On Sept. 10, the board discussed its policy regarding developing the superintendent's evaluation goals in closed sessions instead of public meetings. Trustee Cheryl Hansen suggested amending the policy to develop the performance goals during public meetings.

    "Mt. Diablo USD's board policy ... currently omits this important practice that other districts have adopted," Hansen wrote. "The intent of this proposed amendment is to increase the public's awareness of the superintendent's goals, ensure that these goals are aligned to district goals, and increase board accountability."

    After discussion, the board did not change the superintendent's evaluation policy.

    Do you think the board should publicly identify superintendent performance goals?