Superintendent Evaluation Leaves Lingering Questions

The employment contract of Katie Brochu, the current Superintendent of Richland 2, is an agreement between the Superintendent and the Board of Trustees of Richland School District Two for the term July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2014 with an annual compensation of $215,000. Additional benefits include $10,200 for local travel, full reimbursement for travel outside the District, annual annuity contributions of $18,275 contingent upon a satisfactory annual evaluation by the Board and, lastly, contributions into the S.C. State Retirement System.

Last fall, the School Board, after enormous public pressure, conducted their first evaluation. In accordance with the employment contract, this should have been a third evaluation. All questions to Superintendent Brochu were directed by Board members and answered by the Superintendent. There was no opportunity for the public or district staff to participate.

The night following the evaluation, at a regularly scheduled Board Meeting, then Chairman Chip Jackson read a statement from the Board expressing support for the current direction of the academic agenda and fiscal management. In the worry category was student achievement in some of the District’s underperforming schools and the leadership/communication process between executive staff, schools, parents and community. The Board asked for a response from the Superintendent in addressing the worrisome categories by Dec. 3. The Board also asked for a “detailed and itemized report on professional development expenses for the 2011-2012 year.”

The Superintendent’s response was reported by several Board Members to be a 75-page report submitted Dec. 5. It was said to include 25 pages addressing the worrisome areas and 50 pages outlining professional development expenses. Board Member Bill Flemming, who was recently elected Chairman, was quoted in The State newspaper as saying that the total amount of professional development expenses reported by Brochu was $600,000 for the 2011-2012 year – the same as in previous years. When the report was posted to the District website, however, it contained only the 25 pages addressing the worrisome areas plus a two-page letter to the Board, but there was no comprehensive professional development expense report. Through a Freedom of Information Act request for the 50-page report, I received, instead, 147 pages of line items, but no comprehensive report of professional development expenses.

The questions remaining:

1. Why did the Board fail to give the Superintendent her first two evaluations?

2. Were annuity payments made each January even without a satisfactory evaluation?

3. What are the professional development expenses and why have they been so difficult to produce?

4. Why were 147 pages of line items, but no comprehensive report of professional development expenses, issued through an FOIA, with totals that do not match any of the figures stated by the Board?

5. Who or what is the focus of professional development in the district?

6. In the worrisome areas, what are the measurable goals to see that underperforming schools are meeting expectations?

7. Does the Board consider the matter resolved?