Dave Miner's job review of school Superintendent Rick Mills not constructive

We encourage school board member to improve working relationship with superintendent

June 5, 2014 

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Manatee County School Board member Dave "Watchdog" Miner listens to discussion Tuesday regarding opening contract negotiations with Superintendent Rick Mills' during a school board meeting. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

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In his performance evaluation of Manatee County Schools Superintendent Rick Mills, Dave "Watchdog" Miner offers strikingly divergent opinions than his fellow school board members.

The superintendent earned an average score of 9.25 out of a high score of 10 in the 16 job performance categories from Julie Aranibar, Karen Carpenter, Barbara Harvey and Robert Gause.

Miner's highest mark only reached a 5 and he assigned 2's in three categories -- integrity, analysis and organizational sensitivity.

On the flip side on integrity, Aranibar and Carpenter gave Mills 10's, with Aranibar remarking under comments, "A complete turnaround from previous administration."

In an interview Tuesday with this Editorial Board, Miner expressed distrust of Mills. In review comments, he stated Mills "sometimes appears intolerant of views differing from his own ... This does not cultivate trust ..."

In one of his comments, Gause wrote, "Has done a great job of increase (sic) public trust in district finances and accountability."

Aranibar also complimented Mills, writing, "He has earned the trust of the Board and community based on his openness and directives."

On his review being polar opposite from his peers, Miner said their expectations differ from his. On overall performance, he gave the superintendent a 4, below expectations.

Such disparity among board members is baffling, to say the least. And potentially divisive in the community.

Curiously, too, Miner waited until the waning hours before the June 1 deadline to submit his written review while the other four board members completed theirs in mid-March, the date the board agreed to in February. Miner, who waited to receive more financial and academic information, did admit he could have completed his earlier.

After Miner submitted his evaluation to the district via email, administrators could not locate the message. Mills learned about the review in the media, not a diplomatic way to communicate such an important document.

Miner avoided the traditional practice of meeting one-on-one with the superintendent to review scores and comments. That's unacceptable in both the private and public sectors.

In a statement issued Monday, Mills noted, "Despite my repeated attempts and willingness to do so, I have not met with Mr. Miner one-on-one in more than 15 months ..."

In his Editorial Board discussion, Miner did say he's willing to meet with Mills should the superintendent call. Miner also said distrust has kept him away. But since Miner is one of Mills' bosses, Miner should be the one reaching out for meetings -- especially now.

Miner does make some positive points about Mills in his evaluation, but the overall tone is not constructive and offers little advice for improvement -- as an employee should expect in a negative performance review. The focus on derogatory criticism is not helpful.

We don't expect the school board to march in lockstep on policies and viewpoints. Dissenting opinions can contribute to a more vibrant conversation and open the door to compromise. "It's important to compromise from time to time," Miner stated.

A collaborative, not combative, atmosphere must prevail in order to move the district forward and improve student education. After all, the school board and district administration are public servants.

We encourage Mills and Miner to hash out their differences, put the past in the past and start fresh -- working for the community.

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