It’s good that ratings are being sought from high school students, parents, staff and taxpayers — which will comprise 10 percent of the superintendent’s evaluation. It’s also good that Dr. Hinojosa himself wants his work to be assessed by stakeholders and not only the school board.
The process began last week with student surveys in all 16 Cobb high schools under a contract with a research firm based in Tallahassee, Fla. Principals chose one or two classes of ninth through 12 graders to take the survey. Email invitations were sent to randomly chosen parents, staff and taxpayers for an Internet survey. To get the targeted one percent response rate from taxpayers means at least 20,000 people will need to be contacted by email or telephone.
All of the survey results except for about 15 percent dealing with board-superintendent relations will be made public. Sample questions published by this newspaper start out by asking how informed the respondent is about the school district’s performance. Good start. Other questions ask for an overall rating of performance and Hinojosa’s performance. It’s like a public opinion poll, and that can be useful to the school board and the administration.
But the downside is that the evaluation and survey by the research firm is costing $12,450. Granted, it may seem a piddling drop in the bucket in view of the district’s $830 million annual budget. In normal times, the expense might hardly be noticed. But the school district is facing a daunting $79.5 million deficit for the next fiscal year. That means — or should mean — that every dollar takes on added significance.
To his credit, new board Chairman Randy Scamihorn, while backing the idea of the evaluation by parents, teachers, students and taxpayers, voiced concerned about the cost, piddling or not. He said he wondered what other things the $12,450 could be used for, such as staff development and conferences.
The same can be said of the board’s move toward possibly contracting for an academic audit that could cost far more than the evaluation and survey.
The board approved a request by member David Morgan concerning the audit, and Hinojosa is to present cost figures and outside firms that could do the job. As for the cost, figures ranging from $50,000 to $350,000 have been mentioned. The county pays about $50,000 a year for a mandated state financial audit. Even Hinojosa said he didn’t “feel comfortable” moving ahead with the academic audit “when we’re cutting money.”
Yet here’s the school board spending or considering spending money on things the board and the school administration are charged with doing. The board is to get feedback or “ratings” from constituents and to evaluate the superintendent and the district’s performance. That’s what the school board members are elected — and paid — to do.