Board Finds Leadership Lacking In School District


Payson school's Superintendent Herb Weissenfels needs to improve his leadership and personnel skills, according to the local school board.

During a Nov. 20 meeting, the board found Weissenfels' job performance lacking in both areas.

The board, however, looked more favorably upon Weissenfels' curriculum, budget, finance and policy planning, as well as his ability to reach out and build relationships with the community and his peers.

The school board's mixed reviews on Weissenfels' performance kept the five members together for more than three hours to discuss further actions.

The board also took into consideration a self-evaluation, submitted by Weissenfels, which they reviewed during a 13-minute recess.

After the review of the self-evaluation, the board decided to render their own decision, discuss each item, and vote on it.

The school board applied their own grading scale to rate Weissenfels' performance: 1 -- Superior Performance; 2 -- Adequate Performance; 3 -- Performance Requires Improvement; 4 -- Unsatisfactory Performance; and 5 -- Cannot Judge.

One of the most controversial discussions occurred just prior to the 3-2 vote, which gave Weissenfels a "3" rating on leadership.

According to the minutes, board president Vicki Holmes questioned the superintendent's leadership because of recent behaviors exhibited by his staff.

"Lack of appropriate discipline regarding these behaviors led to an attitude that administrators are beyond reproach," Holmes said, according to the minutes.

When asked if he thought Holmes was referring to a recent incident in which Rim Country Middle School principal Frank Larby had a run-in with the local motor vehicles department, Weissenfels replied "no comment."

Holmes also refused to discuss circumstances behind the decision. "I don't wish to elaborate any further."

Weissenfels' leadership of teachers also received criticism. According to the minutes, board member Kristi Ford "felt the attitude of some teachers was do the bare minimum; leadership is needed to avoid this lack of enthusiasm and inspire teachers to do what is best for kids."

Weissenfels also declined to make further comments on the board's determinations, but said his self-evaluation differed from theirs.

In the discussion of personnel management, Weissenfels' grade of "3" passed by a 3-to-2 vote. The board would like to see the superintendent "develop consistent hiring practices in the district and ... take a greater role in staffing during the budget process to avoid staffing concerns."

Earlier in the board discussion, Holmes pointed to inconsistent hiring practices for administrative, middle school, high school and district office staff.

In board discussions of curriculum and instruction, Weissenfels drew praise for his performance.

Ford said the superintendent was exemplary in updating the data warehousing while recent kindergarten through eighth-grade staff meetings were a plus to the district.

Ford also thanked Weissenfels for his work on the grievance policy.

"Even though the board made no changes, it brought an awareness of discipline under the existing policies," according to the minutes.

Ford and board member Carol Marchak agreed that the superintendent's strength is in planning the budget.

"(Ford) stated that the approaches to the budget taken in the last several years are really good. She believes the process to be more open than ever with better output," the minutes read.

Ford also said she was aware of the community relations problem at RCMS, but was encouraged by the progress in the development of community liaisons and parent meetings as an alternative to suspension.

The board also lauded Weissenfels for "an excellent job in developing the Varied Instructional Delivery Program (at RCMS)," for funneling Payson High School into the Northern Arizona Vocation Institute of Technology, and "his visibility in ABEC (Arizona Business Education Coalition)."

Weissenfels' evaluation took an unusual twist only minutes into the evaluation when he asked that the meeting be open to the public rather than closed in an executive session. Most administrative evaluations around the state are routinely done in executive session.

Weissenfels said he opted for the open meeting because he believes a recent Maricopa County court decision makes the school superintendent's final evaluations public record.

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