Noonan builds relationship with school board | RecordCourier.com
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Noonan builds relationship with school board

by Scott Neuffer
sneuffer@recordcourier.com

More than a year after former superintendent Carol Lark came under fire from her own staff, eventually leading to her resignation, new superintendent Lisa Noonan sat down with Douglas County School Board members to share her professional expectations for the job and vice versa.

“We can’t ignore the fact that we’ve just come through Hell,” said trustee Cindy Trigg. “This meeting, what we’re doing today, is something we didn’t do last time.”

The group spent Tuesday evening discussing communication, reviewing board protocol and the superintendent evaluation process. District consultant Jim Huge likened the meeting to a marriage.

“Just like any other relationship,” he said. “If you go to any good marriage enhancement or marriage counseling, either way, the first thing they’re going to talk about is communication.”

Huge described the ideal relationship as reciprocal: Noonan must keep the board informed, but the board must also keep Noonan informed.

“She’s your employee,” he said. “You need to give her ongoing feedback.”

Noonan presented a draft of her 90-day entry plan that has six focus areas: listening to learn, organizational capacity and alignment, student achievement, political leadership and public relations, operations and finance, and ensuring success. In the latter area, she requested professional mentoring from both Huge and former interim superintendent John Soderman.

“The first 90 days are critical,” Huge said. “They give people the confidence to move forward.”

Noonan said any credibility she has coming into the district hopefully will lead to respect and eventually trust.

“The respect I have to earn,” she said.

While her primary charge is students, Noonan said she must also reach out to the greater community.

“I think the important message is that school districts don’t operate in a vacuum,” she said. “We are interlaced as part of the broader community.”

Noonan’s $130,000-a-year contract expires in July of 2013. School board members must notify her six months in advance whether to extend.

Regarding her annual public evaluation, Noonan said the district’s three-part system is reasonable. That includes student achievement data, perception data, and progress on priorities.

Trustee Karen Chessell asked at what point Noonan will become responsible for student achievement data.

“I think we need to be very clear here to make it as fair as possible,” she said.

Board Vice President Tom Moore suggested student achievement not be heavily counted in the first evaluation.

“It will be more about our perception of how we think you’re doing,” he said.

Noonan offered the possibility of breaking up the annual evaluation into different parts, so that student achievement would be weighed last. Board members also liked the idea of brief quarterly evaluations of Noonan’s progress.