Miner gives Manatee Schools Superintendent Rick Mills low grades

mdelaney@bradenton.comJune 3, 2014 

BRADENTON -- Manatee County School Board member Dave "Watchdog" Miner thinks Manatee County School District Superintendent Rick Mills has performed below expectations in his first year leading the district, a stark contrast to how the other board members rated Mills earlier this year.

It is also in stark contrast to Mills' self-evaluation in which he listed his own accomplishments.

Miner, who emailed his evaluation to the school district administrative assistant

Saturday at midnight­ -- just before the Sunday deadline listed in the superintendent's contract -- consistently gave Mills low scores on his evaluation. The highest score Miner gave was a 5 out of 10. He gave Mills 2's in multiple categories.

"The Manatee School District is in some ways better and some ways worse since Mr. Mills became superintendent," Miner wrote in his evaluation, which he emailed to the Bradenton Herald.

The four other board members, who completed their evaluations in mid-March, a deadline agreed upon in a Feb. 11 board workshop, consistently ranked Mills as exceeding expectations. Mills' average score from the other board members was a 9.25 out of 10.

The evaluation asks board members to rank Mills' performance from 1 to 10 in 16 different categories, including communication, organizational sensitivity and leadership. The evaluation also included space for board members to write comments.

Miner's evaluation is a sharp contrast to those filled out by board Chairwoman Julie Aranibar and Karen Carpenter, who gave Mills multiple 10's and no rating lower than a 9 in any category. Members Barbara Harvey and Robert Gause also consistently gave Mills high scores, including some 9's and no score lower than a 7 in any category.

Miner did not submit his evaluation with the other board members, saying he needed more financial and academic information before he could complete the evaluation. The last financial report was released in May for the month of April.

As of 10 a.m. Monday, the district had yet to receive a copy of Miner's evaluation, Mills said in a statement emailed to the media.

"It is regrettable that I learned about Mr. Miner's evaluation of my performance in the media before he provided it to his fellow board members," Mills said.

Mills, who ordered the district's investigator to launch an inquiry into Miner earlier this year regarding comments he made at a meeting at Miller Elementary, also said he has not met with Miner one-on-one in more than 15 months, despite "my repeated attempts and willingness to do so."

Miner reiterated after Mills' statement the evaluation was sent via email over the weekend.

Aranibar said she had no comment on Miner's evaluation of Mills. Carpenter said Miner was entitled to his opinion but declined to comment on the specifics of the evaluation. Gause said he had not had a chance to review Miner's evaluation. Harvey did not return calls for comment.

At the last district board meeting, Miner was one of three board members who voted down proposed changes to the superintendent's contract.

Harvey and Gause also voted down the proposed changes, which included a two-year extension and a change to how the superintendent's annual performance salary incentive was doled out.

Although the two-year extension was defeated by the board vote, the superintendent received a one-year extension, because the board did not vote not to give him a one-year extension, per the language of Mills' contract.

In his statement, Mills said Miner also missed another practice agreed upon during the Feb. 11 workshop.

"It is the practice of the board to meet individually with the superintendent to review the individual evaluations before they are publicly noticed," Mills' statement said.

In the evaluation, Miner gave Mills a 5 in the delegation category, the highest score he gave the superintendent. Miner gave Mills 2's, which translate to well below expectations according to the scale, in multiple categories, including integrity, analysis and organizational sensitivity.

On overall performance, Miner gave Mills a 4, below expectations.

"Mr. Miner's evaluation is clearly contrary to the other four board members who rated me above average and my performance as 'Exceeding Expectations' with an average score of 9.25 out of 10," Mills said in his statement.

While Miner's evaluation includes praise for Mills for protecting students, he said Mills' tactics of "intimidation" have hurt the school district and employee morale.

"Mr. Mills deserves credit for helping deliver a district-wide emphatic message that students are not toys for the entertainment of staff and that miscreants must be promptly reported," Miner wrote on his evaluation. "He also deserves credit for creating a widespread sense of intimidation that fosters general mistrust of the district administration and public education."

Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.

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