A late-night School Board discussion about the Knowledge and Skills-Based Pay system has caught the ire of some of the teachers working on the plan.
The discussion, which followed an executive session held near the end of the School Board's Monday night meeting, resulted in a unified School Board belief that KSBP's current direction needs to be re-routed if the evaluation-based pay system is to have a future in the Steamboat Springs School District.
"We all agree we can't keep moving in the direction KSBP is moving right now," School Board President Paula Stephenson said Thursday.
The post-executive session discussion followed an extensive discussion of KSBP earlier in the meeting. The School Board tabled the subject after its members weren't able to agree on what direction KSBP should take. Instead, they decided to schedule a special meeting for a later date.
Later in the same meeting, School Board members decided to revisit KSBP after they were unable to come to an agreement on a date for that special meeting, which Stephenson wanted to take place before next week's spring break, she said.
"It wasn't planned," Stephenson said about the discussion. "We got out of executive session and talked about when we'd be able to schedule a meeting on KSBP. We ended up spending probably another 45 minutes talking about our stances and trying to find commonality."
KSBP committee member and high school teacher Mike Smith isn't satisfied with the explanation.
"I feel like our (School) Board had a debate with nobody there to hear it," said Smith, who attended the Monday night meeting specifically to listen to and participate in the KSBP discussion. Nearly all of the district's KSBP committee members attended Monday's meeting for the same purpose.
"I want to know what the position of each board member was during the discussion," he said. "I wanted to hear the debate."
He didn't hear that debate because it happened after the School Board exited executive session and reopened the meeting to the public. Smith said everyone at the meeting already had left after hearing the board agree to schedule a meeting for a later date.
"While it may be legal, it feels a little deceptive to me, especially with an issue that is hot and has so many interested parties," Smith said.
Stephenson rejected any suggestion the School Board was being deceptive.
"The conversation just came up," she said. "I felt it was best to get the conversation done."
Based on the second discussion, School Board members were able to agree on a couple of stances, Stephenson said, including that KSBP isn't affordable as it's currently being designed. An outside financial analysis of the system estimated implementation costs to be about $600,000 per year for a period of 10 years. The district can't afford the system on its own and School Board members don't think asking voters for the money is a realistic goal, Stephenson said.
The School Board also thinks the KSBP committee should continue working on the evaluation component of KSBP but questions why the school district is the only one in the nation that is developing a system that entirely bases an employee's salary on the outcome of his or her evaluation, Stephenson said. The board would like the KSBP committee to look at systems being developed elsewhere to determine what other options are available for tying pay to evaluations.
The School Board's earlier discussion on KSBP revealed widespread disagreement among its members on a number of issues related to the evaluation-based pay system, including funding options. The discussion ended when Stephenson stressed the School Board's need to provide specific direction to the KSBP committee and suggested a special board meeting to hammer out a unified stance.
"I don't think we can keep putting this off," Stephenson said at the meeting. "We can't continue to have the same discussion every time we come together as a group."
Though Superintendent Donna Howell wrote down the statements made during the post-executive session discussion and later formulated them into a summary of the School Board's stance on KSBP, the statement isn't official until board members are able to approve it at their next meeting, Stephenson said.
"I don't believe we have an official stance," she said, adding the School Board will address the issue at its next meeting. "I think it's pretty important for the board to get back together and say (at a public meeting), 'Look, we had a discussion.'"
Diane May, the school district's central office secretary, was the minute-taker at Monday's meeting. She said she left the meeting before the executive session ended and didn't record minutes for any discussion that followed. State law mandates that minutes be recorded at any meeting of a local public body where formal action does or could occur.
Howell could not be reached for comment Thursday.
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