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Keokuk Superintendent Goals Remain Private

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The Keokuk School Board might soon adopt a set of district-wide goals for the upcoming school year.  The idea appears to be in response to the fact that the annual goals of Superintendent Tim Hood remain private.
A motion to make Hood's goals public failed to even gain enough support to be voted on during the board's May meeting.  It was proposed by Jane Abell, who said after the meeting the district must be more open and transparent.

"When I ran for the school board, one of the items I listed very high that I wanted to work to improve was communication," said Abell.  "There have been some gains, but I think we still have some work to do."

Abell said that work includes giving the public a better sense of what the school district is doing by releasing Hood's annual goals.

But she said that will not happen without Hood's approval, per an email she read during the meeting from the district's attorney, Brett Nitzschke of Lynch Dallas.

In an email from Nitzschke to Hood, Nitzschke wrote:

"Superintendent Hood's contract specifically provides for the development of goals and objectives by the Board and Superintendent Hood, reducing them to writing, and using them as part of the criteria by which the superintendent is evaluated.  Since the goals are part of Superintendent Hod's evaluation, are in the superintendent's confidential personnel file, and are discussed in a closed session as part of the superintendent's evaluation under Iowa Code section 21.5(1)(i), the goals are confidential records which are exempt from the Iowa Open Meetings law under section 22.7(11) of the Iowa Code as 'personal information in confidential personnel records.'  Therefore, a copy of Superintendent Hood's goals is not an open record and cannot be discussed in an open session of the Board."

In a separate email, a representative of the Iowa Association of School Boards stated superintendent goals differ from district to district, with the decision to make the goals public being up to the superintendent.

Hood has said on numerous occasions, including during the recent board meeting, that he does not plan to make his goals public.

Abell said that's why she is proposing district-wide goals to ensure the public knows what the district is working on and whether the efforts are successful.

"Maybe one goal could be to increase enrollment," said Abell.  "(Another could be to) strengthen collaboration with industry and community.  Improve communication and present data-driven support evidence when we ask for change.”

Abell said she will review past action to see if the Keokuk School Board has ever adopted a set of district-wide goals.  She hoped the idea could be discussed during an upcoming meeting.

The privacy issues related to Hood's goals first came to light last summer when the school board discussed extending his contract.  The first vote resulted in a 3-3 tie with one member absent.

Following the meeting, Abell and fellow Board Member Alka Khanolkar said they voted against the extension because they felt Hood's goals should be open for public review.  They could not say, though, what the goals were because they were private.

The contract was approved 4-3 during the next meeting.

In Other Action

The Keokuk School Board...

  • Rescinded a motion to create a 1% income surtax.  The move comes a few weeks after the district received a petition with more than 300 signatures from people opposing the surtax.
  • Approved a new contract with the Keokuk Education Association for the 2015/2016 school year.  Teachers will receive a 2.93% increase in total compensation.
  • Learned the Keokuk Economic Development Corporation will donate $25,000 to the district to help it restore the industrial technology program full time.  The district says interest is up 50% compared to last year.
Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.