The Billings School District Evaluates Its Superintendent, Sort Of

The Billings Gazette reports about the novel strategy being employed by the Billings School Board to evaluate the performance of its new superintendent, Keith Beeman. Rather than including principals, which has been past practice, the Board sent surveys to a hand-picked lists of “community leaders”:

The board sent surveys to 25 prominent community members, including John Brewer, president of the Billings Chamber of Commerce; Tina Volek, Billings city administrator; members of the news media, including The Billings Gazette; and leaders at the locals hospitals and Big Sky Economic Development Authority.
“That’s just a reflection of wanting to get information from people the board is confident will have knowledge of his performance,” trustee Joel Guthals said.

I would guess that principals and teachers would have more knowledge about the performance of a superintendent, who is, after all, in charge of educating children, than a group of community leaders in other fields. If a superintendent is doing his job, how much time should he really spend with hospital administrators? How the Board could rationalize that the city administrator and hospital administrators are better positioned to evaluate the superintendent is hard to imagine.

From the outside, it sounds like the Board wants to pre-determine the results of its evaluation. Otherwise, how can this be explained?

Along with the survey, the board e-mailed a 39-page packet detailing Beeman’s first 100 days on the job.

A look at the actual document reveals a troubling degree of self-promotion. Were District resources used to create this document? Did the Board actually feel it was an appropriate piece of information to send out along with an evaluation form? What doe the document mean when it says ” Establish “tenure is an honor” not a right”?

Rather than creating and distributing a promotional piece for the Superintendent, perhaps the community leaders of the Billings schools should find out what educators think about his performance and work from that.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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