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School board group evaluates superintendent, financial officer

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A representative from a state school board association on Thursday presented to the Anniston school board evaluations of the district’s superintendent and chief financial officer.

Superintendent Darren Douthitt said the board normally requests such evaluations from the Alabama Association of School Boards. Dr. Camille Wright presented the findings, which were gleaned from anonymous surveys from Anniston school board, community members and school staff.

The board gave Douthitt high marks for speaking and writing effectively as well as developing and keeping current personnel policies. The members indicated he needs improvement in seeking sufficient funding, leadership of the schools and supporting the planning and implementation of a curriculum.

The district’s staff gave Douthitt high marks for maintaining his composure during stressful situations. But they indicated the superintendent needs improvement in taking an active role in curriculum and instruction and managing financial resources.

The community members surveyed indicated that Douthitt needs improvement in all of the 14 categories included in their portion of the evaluation. Two specific areas for improvement were taking a leadership role in improving education and demonstrating problem-solving abilities.

Douthitt characterized the evaluations as “fair and helpful.”

The evaluations for the school system’s chief financial office, Jimmie Thompson, came from board members, the superintendent and his staff as well as the district’s department heads.

The superintendent ranked Thompson as either meeting or exceeding expectations in all of the 43 categories in Douthitt’s portion of the evaluation.

The board gave Thompson high marks for putting forth a professional image and preparing annual budget presentations. They indicated he needed to improve in posting the budgets online and consistently receiving audit reports with an unqualified opinion.

Marie Manning, the district director for the Alabama Association of School Boards, also presented the board with the group’s President’s Award. The association gives the distinction to boards that have demonstrated a commitment to improving members’ leadership skills.

Manning said only 39 of the state’s 138 school boards have received the distinction.

In a separate matter, the board heard from Cory Brown, president and CEO of Preacher’s Lawn Care, who says the school board is in breach of a maintenance contract with his company. Brown said he had a contract for landscaping with the district that was set to run through at least May 2019, but the system’s chief financial officer told him the contract was terminated on Aug. 22.

Brown says the contract requires 10-day written notification of the termination and a reason for ending contract. Brown also says the board must vote to disapprove of the contract.

Brown says the board owes his company $3,474 for final work performed by the company as well as $66,000 to fulfill the rest of the contract.

The superintendent declined to comment on the matter Thursday.  

Brown said that although he’s made repeated attempts to contact school officials, he hasn’t heard anything from them since Aug. 22.

Brown met with school officials after Thursday’s meeting. He said they agreed that they owed the $3,474 for the final work, but they wanted to meet to resolve the other issues. Brown said school officials wouldn’t agree to a specific meeting date, and if he doesn’t hear anything by Tuesday, he will pursue legal action.

In other business, the board:

— Approved its strategic plan.  

— Considered a revised lease on property at Anniston High School being occupied by a local doctor. Community members criticized the deal, which charged the doctor no rent. But Thursday’s measure to change the lease failed after no one seconded the motion.


Assistant Metro Editor Daniel Gaddy: 256-235-3560. On Twitter @DGaddy_Star.

I'm the assistant metro editor for The Anniston Star. I edit, post online stories and write the occasional story.