School superintendent’s evaluation continued again

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By Sam Hickman

 BOLIVIA — Twelve hours and two weeks later, the Brunswick County Board of Education still hasn’t completed Superintendent Edward Pruden’s evaluation.

What began June 24 with a seven-hour meeting to assess Pruden’s performance has continued into the second week of July as board members convened for another five hours Tuesday, July 8, at the Brunswick County Schools Administrative Office building in Bolivia.

The board immediately entered closed session after opening the meeting and took a three-hour break during the middle of the day to handle a separate personnel matter. After returning to the conference room at 3 p.m. to continue deliberations, board members came out of the conference room around 6:30 p.m. to close the meeting and announce the evaluation hadn’t been completed.

“We are working on not only the new forms, but also having serious discussions about issues raised,” board chairman John Thompson said. “It’s a lengthy process.”

Thompson said no date has been announced to continue the evaluation.

“As I’ve said, it’s a very interesting process,” he added. “This is the first time we’ve done the whole thing. It’s a 30-page deal.”

Members of the board are working to complete the standard North Carolina Superintendent Evaluation Tool developed in collaboration with the North Carolina State Board of Education, which they are using for the first time. Board attorney Rick Green and lawyer Rod Malone of the Raleigh-based Tharrington and Smith are assisting with the process.

After two hours of discussion, Pruden came out of the conference room and told members of the media the board had conducted another interview and was once again deliberating.

“It’s a very long document,” he said.

The process requires the board to provide feedback on seven key standards: strategic leadership, instructional leadership, cultural leadership, human resources leadership, managerial leadership, external development leadership and micro-political leadership.  These standards are aligned with the recently revised principal and teacher evaluation tools, school district spokeswoman Jessica Swencki said.

District policy states the evaluation must be completed by July 1, but Swencki said the board can extend the deadline if necessary.

Pruden’s contract expires July 1, 2016. He is in his fourth year as superintendent. He was named the 2013-2014 Southeast Regional Superintendent of the Year in May 2013. The 14 public school superintendents that make up the Southeast Region Superintendents’ Council chose him for the honor.

This is the fourth evaluation Pruden has received from the board since joining Brunswick County Schools in 2010. He received “high marks” on his previous annual evaluation that took place in September.

The board does not have to release the evaluation because it is a personnel matter, Swencki said.

Pruden’s evaluation caps months of discussions on several issues the school system faces.

In May, the board voted to return Brunswick County Schools to traditional start times, only to reverse its decision a month later and maintain the current staggered schedule. It would’ve marked the fourth time in as many years the district has changed school start times.

In February, the district approved its capital improvement plan that included major additions at North Brunswick High School, Leland Middle School and Waccamaw School.

While the plan was approved, the district has struggled to find funding for the additions after Brunswick County voters soundly defeated a sales tax referendum on the May primary election ballot.

Had the referendum been approved, the district would have received $1.5 million in additional funding, while another $1.5 million would have been allocated to beach renourishment projects.

Board members have discussed asking the county commissioners to place the referendum back on the ballot in November, but not everyone is on board with that plan.

Pruden has advocated asking commissioners to put the referendum on the November ballot, but board members Catherine Cooke and Charlie Miller have said they want more information before moving forward with the request.


Sam Hickman is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or shickman@brunswickbeacon.com.