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An Arlington first: School Committee evaluates superintendent in public

Kathleen Bodie

For the first time, an Arlington school superintendent was evaluated in public as Kathleen Bodie listened to comments from all seven School Committee members and wrote notes in some cases on Thursday, Nov. 10. Committee comments ranged from praise for leadership to recommendations about improved communication and past audit issues. Bodie is in the second year of her current contact, and this was also her first evaluation.

After each member presented suggestions, which were shown on cable TV and will be available in on-demand video at this link, YourArlington requested for publication the comments from each member. So far, two have provided them, and five have not.

Some members of the committee discussed at the Nov. 17 committee meeting how all evaluations are to be made public.

Emailing a copy of their remarks were Joseph Curro Jr. and Judson Pierce.

Of the five declining to immediately provide comments, Starks, Jeff Thielman and Kirsi Allison-Ampe have said that all evaluations are expected to be published on the schools' website in one document.

Leba Heigham said she has not written her evaluation and did not speak from notes. "I did have copies of the district goals, the MASBO grid, and superintendent reports in front of me," she wrote Sunday, Nov. 13.

Bill Hayner has not responded to two requests.

Allison-Ampe explained further on Saturday, Nov. 12:

"My understanding is that evaluations must be done under a very specified set of conditions. My concern with releasing other copies of my written evaluation is that they open the door to changes and then suggestions of evaluation done 'out of school,' as it were. My problem is that I neglected to retain a copy of my signed official version. I will correct this next week. So my preference remains that you contact Ms [Karen] Fitzgerald [School Committee secretary] for a copy on Monday.

Fitzgerald wrote Nov. 16 that she had received YourArlington's request for evaluations and that Starks would address it.

All evaluations will be published here as they are received or linked from the schools' website, once published there.

Each member had two minutes

Each member was given two minutes to address each of six categories as well as make final remarks.

At the meeting, Heigham praised Bodie's leadership. Allison-Ampe lauded work in completing contract talks with the teachers' union.

Several praised the decision to hire a full-time human resources director, Robert Spiegel, and urged hiring a full-time assistant superintendent for curriculum development and assessment.

Hayner said he appreciated Bodie’s newsletter and improvements to using technology. Thielman agreed with Hayner about the newsletter, and added that it should be issued more frequently.

Starks wrote in an email Friday, Nov. 11, that the public evaluation was performed following changes in state law, which was the amended Open Meeting Law adopted July 1, 2010. In response, the committee amended its policy on evaluating the superintendent, she wrote.

"We worked a long time on the policies that dictate this, which is why although this is Kathy's second year, it is her first evaluation," she wrote. "I expect that the BOS [selectmen] will need to amend their policies and change the way the town manager is evaluated as well."

One citizen comments

For public participation during the Nov. 10 meeting, Len Kardon was the only speaker. He said he was addressing the evaluation of the superintendent from a citizen’s perspective. He cited issues in the past two years, including the Pledge of Allegiance and athletics fees. He said in terms of the budget and information technology, in the community's view, there is "no sense of where she wants to lead."

Kardon noted Bodie tries to maintain community respect, but, "for whatever reason, that is not happening." He said he knew he was focusing on negative and "that is unfair," he said, yet he said he should try to community concerns.

Bodie was named interim superintendent in August 2008, after Superintendent Levenson had resigned.  She served in that role until 2009, when she became permanent superintendent.

Early in 2010, as the School Committee conducted a search for a new superintendent, Bodie said she was finalist for the position in Swampscott. In March, after three finalists for the Arlington job were interviewed, that job was offered to Bodie, and she accepted

This story was first published Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011, and updated Nov. 16 and 18.

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