By Rosemary K. Otzman
On Feb. 25 after a closed-door session to evaluate the performance of School Supt. Michael Van Tassel, the Van Buren Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously to give him a rating of “highly effective”.
A three-page document was released to the public spelling out the details of the annual evaluation and giving Van Tassel glowing reviews.
During the more than two-hour closed-door session, the final evaluation was edited together from two proposed evaluations – one by Board President Brent Mikulski and one by Vice President Martha Toth. The documents were projected overhead, discussed at length and changes made by Board Secretary Kevin English until everyone was satisfied.
The approved evaluation begins: “When Superintendent Van Tassel assumed leadership of the Van Buren Public Schools just over a year ago, he and the Board agreed upon an ambitious set of goals in five major areas. We are extremely pleased to report great progress in every one of those areas.”
At a workshop session on Feb. 18, the board discussed how to evaluate the superintendent and how to set the goals the board members wanted, short and long-term.
Board President Mikulski said last August Van Tassel and members of his cabinet wrote out a dozen goals.
Trustee Scott Russell said that the board shouldn’t be setting goals for next year half way through this year. He urged them to wait until the end of the school year to set goals, but he did note the board needs goals before evaluation can take place.
Van Tassel explained how the first list of goals was developed.
“You can evaluate me any way you want, but do you renew my contract?” he said. “… If I’m not doing the job you want, you don’t renew my contract in May.”
The board talked about the evaluation for almost an hour at the work/study.
“There’s an art form to what people do,” Van Tassel said. “The hardest thing of my job is having seven bosses … each has his or her own pet projects … it’s difficult to balance it.”
The summary of the evaluation reads: “We did not have the luxury of time for incremental change; rather, we needed a ‘great leap forward’. The Board has been pleased with the steps taken by the Superintendent to achieve these goals.
“The Board recognizes that such changes cannot be accomplished by edict, nor overnight. They require careful and extensive planning and thoughtful implementation. Supt. Van Tassel has laid the groundwork and set in motion processes that are grounded in valid research. If we continue to implement these new models of teaching and learning with fidelity and persistence, we are confidant we can become the premier school district we have all desired for our children and our community.”
In other business at the Feb. 25 meeting, the board:
• Heard a presentation from Boys and Girls Club members and supporters who handed thank-you cards to Edgemont Principal Delria Crippen, to School Board President Mikulski and to Supt. Van Tassel for their support of the after-school club at Edgemont. There are 273 active club members and 250 children on a waiting list. Club supporter John Juriga said his dream is to start a new Boys and Girls Club at Rawsonville Elementary School, noting Rawsonville Principal Karensa Smith was a part of the Romulus Boys and Girls Club in the past;
• Heard a report from the four elementary school principals on the teaching methods that are coordinated and the same in all the schools. Taking part were Savage Principal Kelley Villa, Tyler Principal Aleisa Pitt, Edgemont Principal Crippen, and Rawsonville Principal Smith. The four took part in a group hug at the end of the presentation to emphasize that they are all working together;
• Approved the terminations of Tim Bishop, after 15 years as a Transportation Department mechanic, for other employment as of Feb. 22; and Tamarra Getty, a food service worker for two years, as of Feb. 5 for personal reasons;
• Approved the employment of Paulette Cook as a food service worker at BHS as of Feb. 26;
• Heard a report from a woman who had left the meeting about how McBride Road at the school is really terrible. The board also heard a report from BHS Special Education teacher Connie Testorelli on awards earned by BHS students and events being hosted at BHS, including the girls basketball tournament that evening and the Feb. 28 band festival. The festival is open to the public. It runs 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and BHS bands will play at 8 a.m., 11:25 a.m., and 1:10 p.m., with the McBride bands on Friday; and
• Voted to go into closed-door session to evaluate Supt. Van Tassel, with a no vote from Sherry Frazier who questioned who was going to write the evaluation that was to be put together and adopted.
By Rosemary K. Otzman