Whitfield County Schools expected to strengthen protocol for teacher evaluation appeals

Whitfield County Schools is expected to soon have an official policy for teachers dissatisfied with their evaluations, as opposed to a superintendent's directive that's been the practice.

The change from a directive, which could be ended or altered by a new superintendent, to official board policy, which would need to be reversed by official board action, comes as a new Georgia law now requires school systems to have a school board policy in place "to give teachers this right/opportunity if they feel they have not been evaluated fairly," said Superintendent Judy Gilreath. Though "I don't see this changing much for our teachers," as the superintendent's directive that's been in place is "very similar" to the new board policy, "I assume that all systems did not allow this (method of appeal for teachers) since lawmakers evidently felt the need for a new law."

Gilreath had established the directive "to give teachers a way to dispute an unsatisfactory end-of-year evaluation and are not going to be offered a contract for the next year based on poor yearly evaluations," she said. "We were not required by the state to do this, but I wanted to be fair to teachers, so we voluntarily put this in place, (and) we also allow teachers to request that a routine evaluation during the year be 'redone' if they get a poor one."

The new policy will have a second reading at the Board of Education's next scheduled meeting, June 7, when it's expected to be approved, she said. If it is, the policy would take effect July 1.

Teachers who have accepted full-time, full-year contracts for the fourth-or-more-consecutive school year would be covered under the new policy, and they'd be permitted to appeal summative performance ratings of "unsatisfactory" or "ineffective," according to the school system. "No more than five days after the summative evaluation conference, the teacher shall provide a written notice of appeal to the responsible evaluator detailing every factual basis for the appeal."

If the principal is the evaluator, the principal is to respond within writing within five school days after receiving the appeal, and if the evaluator is not the principal, the appeal shall be forwarded to the principal, who would conduct the initial level of review, according to the policy proposal.

"In either circumstance, a written response shall be provided to the teacher within five school days after the principal received the appeal."

If the teacher is dissatisfied with the response from the principal, he or she may file an appeal within five days to a certified and Teacher Keys Evaluation System-trained administrator in the central office to be designated by the superintendent, "and a written response shall be provided to the teacher within five school days of the appeal being received by the designated administrator," according to the policy proposal. This decision would be final.

The appeal must include a review of the complete evaluation record, the original appeal and the response of the principal, and a meeting can be scheduled with the teacher, but no teacher shall be subject to any reprisal for filing an appeal under this policy, according to the school system. "Any reprisal may be referred to the Professional Standards Commission."

Construction

At the new North Whitfield Middle School, slated to open for students in August for the 2021-22 academic year, "flooring is installed (and) looking good, (but) the asphalt there needs work because there are groundwater issues in the parking lot," Mike Ewton, assistant superintendent for operations and student services, told the school board members during their recent meeting. "We'll need to do soil-cement remediation."

These things are "relatively easy to fix," added Ewton, who will take over as superintendent from the retiring Gilreath on July 1. "It's just a matter of getting it done."

The new Valley Point Middle School, which opened for students in August 2020 for the 2020-21 academic year, also has "some concrete concerns," but the contractor will pay for it and rectify it, he said. "I believe we'll be fine with it."

Purchase orders and contracts

The school board members approved several purchase orders including $83,600 to Impact Sport Surfaces, Inc., out of Deerfield Beach, Florida, for demolition of old flooring and replacement of new vinyl flooring at Valley Point Elementary School.

They also approved Marietta's The Surface Masters, Inc., the low bidder of two, for parking lot paving at Varnell Elementary School at a total cost of $311,590. The work is scheduled to be completed by June 30.

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