After a return to regular session from executive session, School Committee chair Chuck Robinson announced that the committee had voted in the executive session to extend the contract of Superintendent John Doherty through the 2022 school year. The current contract was due to expire after the 2021 school year. This vote came after an extended conversation regarding the process of when the committee will evaluate the superintendent in the future. Current guidance from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) suggests that long-serving superintendents in good standing could have a biennial evaluation, as opposed to the current model of an annual evaluation. This would allow for long-term goal setting, as well as making more efficient use of the committee’s time. Doherty posed the idea of moving the time of year for the evaluation from June, when it currently is accomplished, to before the annual town election, thus eliminating the awkward evaluations from new members who may have only served for a few months. School Committee member John Parks agreed strongly with this second concept, sharing with the committee the challenges he faced last year doing a partial evaluation.
Also at issue for this committee is the current situation with three new members joining the committee this March, after the election, though committee member Jeanne Borawski commented that the decision to change the timing of evaluations is, “Less about the dynamics of this particular year, but more about going forward.” She suggested that changing the process to a biennial one that evaluated the superintendent before the election was a “better, more stable process.” Committee member Thomas Wise raised the issue that at a recent training, it was suggested that, if the process remained in June, former members could be asked to participate, though Doherty questioned the legality of that suggestion. Committee member Linda Snow Dockser agreed with Doherty. “It’s a lot neater to go with sworn-in committee members to do the evaluation prior to the election.” She stated. Wise also raised concerns about moving to a new process now, when year-long goals for this year are already in process. Borawski recognized the concern but suggested that this issue could be worked out for this year. After continued discussion, the committee voted 5-1 to evaluate the superintendent every other year, with this year being year one and the evaluation to be completed by the election in April of 2021. Wise was the dissenting vote.
Human Resources Director Jennifer Allard presented the first quarter personnel update, reporting that 69 new “professional” employees had been hired in the first quarter totaling just over 59 FTEs (full-time equivalents). There were also 47 transfers within the district. Allard continued sharing that there are currently no open teacher positions in the Reading Public Schools. Snow Dockser asked if any employees had left the district due to the change in high school start time. Allard stated that she had no reports of any personnel leaving the district for that reason. Thirty teachers left the district after the end of the last school year, eleven of whom were terminated.
Director of Finance Gail Dowd’s budget update reported that currently, the district has a $332,881 unencumbered balance through December 13, mostly due to salary savings from unfilled positions. The School Committee voted 6-0 to move $35,000 from regular day to the administration cost center to cover the costs of temporary payroll and accounting personnel. Dowd also presented an overview of the process for determining the Fiscal Year 2021 budget, which will be tackled by the committee in January.
The School Committee tabled the issue of the Social Media policy due to a miscommunication with the superintendent regarding the intent of the policy as an addition to current policy and not a replacement. The committee adjourned to executive session at 9:20 pm.