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Gainesville school board says it has PR problem
Members gave anonymous self-assessment amid reaction to Enota school plans
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Gainesville Board of Education members believe the district has communication and public relations problems, according to an anonymous self-assessment.

A majority of the school board members ranked eight of 17 standards as “needs improvement.”

The primary area highlighted for improvement is “board and community relations,” including creating a culture where input is sought and valued, resolving issues raised by stakeholders and effective communication and engagement of stakeholders. Those areas received a unanimous “needs improvement” from the four members who took the survey.

The board has struggled with community reaction to the building of a new Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, which would require removing the school’s Smartville garden.

But board members were silent at the June 30 called meeting when board chairwoman Delores Diaz asked how the board could improve. Most declined to offer much in the way of specifics in the survey.

Comments about the culture included “I am told the Enota decision process was very different than the Fair Street building process.” Fair Street School was rebuilt in 2013.

Another member commented about resolving issues, saying “while I believe we have gotten much better, I am not sure that some community members would agree.”

Problems over meeting minutes also came up, with one board member listing culture as “needs improvement because of the current errors and omission in regard to some minutes.”

The June 2 and June 6 minutes were not approved by the board at its June 20 meeting. When Brett Mercer, acting chair for the meeting, asked for separate motions on both sets of minutes, the other three board members were silent.

The minutes issue was also raised on the survey in questions about the governance team.

The June 2 minutes included three questions posed by Diaz: Would a new Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy be built? When would the transition occur? What would it look like?

June 2 minutes were incorrect,” a comment reads, adding the motion “included only the first two questions and not the third.

“Even though I feel by and large we provide transparency, there are times when we are discussing sensitive issues ... that impact a community as a whole, we may be lacking.”

Board member Sammy Smith earlier told The Times that June 2 minutes included “errors and omissions, rendering them unworthy of the board’s approval.”

The omitted section of the minutes includes comments that garden supporters would not be satisfied without preserving the current garden, having a “tailor made” garden with the new school, faculty survey results about preferring a “tailor made” garden, safety concerns about a retaining wall and fence for the garden and Americans with Disabilities Act access on the site.

The motion, made by Mercer and seconded by Smith, was “to build a new Enota MI Academy, with a transition beginning May 2017, to utilize the original plans.”

The first two sections of the minutes each said, “All voting members present were in agreement ...” The third section does not include similar language.

The second section of the minutes stated “it was recommended, based on the feedback gathered from the recent survey with Enota faculty and staff, to postpone the transition to May 2017.”

However, the Enota survey results, presented in two versions dated May 24 and June 7, said the opposite.

The May 24 results said 64.2 percent of those responding favored “move into the transition school in December 2016” and 35.8 percent favored “move into the transition school in May 2017.”

The June 7 results, which had 11 more responses, said 59.4 percent favored “move into the transition school in December 2016” and 40.6 percent favored “move into the transition school in May 2017.”

Those minutes have not been approved, and they are expected to be on the agenda for the July 18 meeting.

In a section about evaluating Superintendent Wanda Creel, two comments were made — with two “needs improvement” responses.

The comments are “we are a little slow on the superintendent evaluation” and “if I understand correctly, we are to evaluate the superintendent two times a year. This year it was done only once.”

A companion section said the board will evaluate the professional performance of the superintendent. Three members said that “needs improvement.”

The only comment was “hard to give this a satisfactory when it has not yet been completed.”

At the June 30 meeting, the board met in closed session and one personnel topic included the superintendent’s evaluation, Diaz said.

2015-2016 Board Self-Assessment
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