By NICK GRABBE
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
AMHERST - The chairman of the Amherst Regional School Committee provided new details Tuesday about last week's departure of Superintendent Alberto Rodriguez. He said officials orchestrated an affordable end to a bad hire - and promised a better search and selection process next time.
In an interview, Farshid Hajir said negative staff evaluations were among the factors - but not the only ones - leading to Rodriguez's sudden exit. He stressed that staff views did not appear to be based on resistance to change.
"Committee members had insight and direct knowledge of events of which the public is not aware - and took that information into consideration," he said. "When certain themes consistently emerge about operations of the Central Office, that's more revealing than complaints from individuals."
Further, he noted that Rodriguez left rather than face what would have been a public accounting of his alleged shortcomings in his months as the head of Amherst regional schools.
Hajir spoke cautiously and would not reveal specifics of the staff evaluations. However, he suggested that a close look at Rodriguez's leadership spurred officials to act to cut his tenure short.
"Through our supervisory role, we had access to a lot of information about the specifics of the day-to-day functioning of the schools," he said.
The committees had multiple sources of input on Rodriguez's performance, as well as members' own judgments, Hajir said. In addition to the staff evaluations, the committees reviewed feedback from community members, he said.
This month, Rodriguez was made aware of "a summary of themes" from the staff evaluations, Hajir said.
The superintendent was also aware that by law, his formal evaluation - scheduled for the day after he resigned - would have to be done in public, he said.
"No superintendent wishes to endanger his or her career or opportunities for other positions by having missteps or shortcomings discussed in open session unless he or she can adequately explain them," Hajir said.
"He was going to be evaluated, he walked away with a fairly small compensation package, and I want taxpayers to know their pocketbooks didn't suffer," he said.
The memo that Rodriguez gave the School Committee Feb. 9, outlining his 40 days of time away from work, was "one of many factors that formed the committee's preparation for the evaluation," he said.
Typically, when superintendents leave in the middle of a contract, they ask for at least half of the remaining financial commitment, he said. Rodriguez left eight months into a three-year contract paying him $158,000 a year in base salary, and he will be paid through May at a cost of $39,000, about one-tenth of his remaining pay over the three-year period, he said.
Interim Superintendent Maria Geryk, who had been making $109,000, started making $139,000 on March 9, Hajir said. She is expected to continue in that role until a new superintendent arrives in about 15 months, and some of her previous duties will be "reshuffled among other staff members," Hajir said.
The school committees hope to identify a better process for hiring the next superintendent, he said.
"We regret that the extensive superintendent search process yielded a curtailed superintendency and the larger question is how to avoid that in the future," he said. "A serious examination of ourselves and our process is warranted."
My Goal in Blogging
I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.