It may be District 861 Superintendent Scott Hannon's last performance evaluation after decades working in Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS). On Thursday, after the board meets in a session closed to the public to review the results of his review, members will begin to plan the search process to find his replacement.
The process for the annual performance evaluation is called a "360 review," and uses a company called Profiles International. Surveys are distributed to board members and seven administrators, filled out, and returned; then the company compiles the information. The compiled data is then given to board members and reviewed during the closed session, and at the board's next regular meeting it must provide the public with a summary of the results of the evaluation.
This year, WAPS Human Resource Director Pat Blaisdell said that Hannon himself was allowed to choose which administrators would participate in the evaluation. She said she was not certain if that procedure was included in Hannon's employment contract, but added that she didn't believe it was.
In the past, superintendent reviews were conducted by the chairperson of the school board, and procedure was not set in stone. Superintendents were sometimes allowed to choose which administrators would be given evaluation forms, and sometimes not. Blaisdell said that by the latter part of 2010, the board adopted the "360 review" process, in which an outside company, rather than the chair of the board, compiled the results.
State requires performance summary
The Minnesota Open Meeting Law (OML), which provides for transparency of government bodies in the state, requires that a summary be given to the public following a performance evaluation that is conducted by a quorum of government officials during a session closed to the public. How much detail must be disclosed to the public about the evaluation results has been the subject of several Minnesota Information Policy Analysis Division (IPAD) commissioner opinions in recent years. IPAD is a division of the Minnesota Department of Administration, and answers questions about the state's public information and transparency laws.
Because the Minnesota Data Practices Act includes provisions to protect data about public employees, the performance evaluation requirement of the OML has been questioned in the past by government entities that are unwilling to provide detailed accounts of performance reviews conducted in meetings closed to the public. IPAD commissioners have repeatedly been asked to provide guidance on the question of how detailed these summaries must be, and have continually held that government entities must provide meaningful details when summarizing performance reviews of top government officials. (See chart page 5a.)
After a 1989 Minnesota Supreme Court case ruling that the city of Annandale, Minn., was allowed to close a meeting to the public to discuss nonpublic data — such as employee performance data — the courts invited the Legislature to amend the OML if it was not satisfied with the conclusion. The Legislature was quick to respond with a change to the statute in 1990, as summarized by IPAD: "As part of those amendments, the Legislature addressed the high public interest in the performance of certain public employees, and, in particular, employees about whom personnel decisions are made by governing bodies subject to the OML. The Legislature authorized governing bodies to close meetings to discuss personnel data about public employees, including performance evaluations, subject to certain limitations. However, the Legislature also clearly required that once a public body completed its closed meeting evaluation of an employee subject to its authority, the body must, at its next public meeting, 'summarize its conclusions regarding the evaluation.'"