The Evergreen Fiasco

Every Chief Executive Officer has hopes to make a positive mark on the organization they lead. Katie Brochu has been no different in her 2 ½ years as Superintendent of Richland 2 School District. In early 2011 she requested the School Board to sign a $25,000 contract with Evergreen Solutions to conduct a two-phase comprehensive diagnostic review of the district. Board member Melinda Anderson enthusiastically amended the motion “to request the administration to enter into a contract with Evergreen Solutions to conduct a four-phase organizational effectiveness study up to $150,000 to be taken from the board contingency fund.” The Board motion carried 7-0.

What we know now, however, is that Evergreen Solutions had never done a district wide effectiveness and efficiency study of this scope for any school district. In the spring of 2011, the Evergreen Study was presented to the district, with 161 recommendations for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the district in nine areas. But many community members felt that the recommendations posed a cultural change for Richland 2, and they wanted to have input before these recommendations were implemented.

The School Improvement Council at Spring Valley hosted a public forum with three Board members to address this concern. Brochu did not attend. The videotaped event records the Board members as stating that none of the 161 recommendations would be implemented without the input of a Review Panel Task Force (made up of community members) and the express approval of the Board.

A recent informal poll of district employees, however, found at least 121 of the 161 recommendations (75 percent) have been implemented. Of course, there is always the argument for what constitutes implementing the recommendation – but it is undeniable that significant work has been done using the recommendations from the Evergreen Study without the input of the Review Panel.

Conversations with original Review Panel members confirm that they have not met or been notified of a meeting to discuss the recommendations. A lottery of eight or nine community members was later added, and these new members have yet to have any input.

At a recent Board meeting, Superintendent Brochu was to present an update of the Evergreen Study, but was stopped when a Board Member asked for a copy of the material to follow along. It couldn’t be produced, so the update was tabled until the next meeting when Sue Mellette, the District’s Chief Academic Officer, presented an update on two of the 161 recommendations that the District has adopted — still without the Review Panel having input. Board member Chip Jackson has asked that monthly updates from the Evergreen Study be put on the Board’s agenda calendar.

Because community partnerships are the cornerstone of the district’s new mission statement, it is critical that community members have a genuine voice in the direction of the educational process in their community. But the fact remains that the road map outlined in the Evergreen study is being followed by the Board and District staff without any of the community involvement that has been promised.