School Board gives Toso mixed reviewsThe Jamestown Public School Board’s review of Superintendent Bob Toso was a mix of positive and negative responses on Monday night. The formal evaluation required by North Dakota Century Code allows the nine board members the opportunity to rate the official as satisfactory or unsatisfactory in four different areas.
By: By Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
The Jamestown Public School Board’s review of Superintendent Bob Toso was a mix of positive and negative responses on Monday night.
The formal evaluation required by North Dakota Century Code allows the nine board members the opportunity to rate the official as satisfactory or unsatisfactory in four different areas.
Board member Roger Haut voted unsatisfactory in all four areas, while board members Greg Allen, Gail Martin, Heidi Larson and Diane Hanson had satisfactory results across the board. Other members’ comments were mixed.
Toso is retiring in June after more than 12 years as an administrator with JPS.
The first category was how well Toso organizes and manages the affairs of the School Board in an appropriate manner.
“Although I gave a satisfactory rating here, I feel that there is definite room for improvement on getting information to the board prior to board meetings,” wrote JPS board member Tanya Ostlie. “I feel we often times are asked to make a decision on something that was brought to us at that meeting or we know about it but did not have enough information to make an educated decision.”
Haut said there were some problems with the board micromanaging on issues, which wouldn’t be a problem if issues were resolved correctly.
“Bob has a problem with communicating effectively with people. He has a lack of desire to resolve problems by trying to shelter them,” Haut wrote. “I don’t think Bob’s manage (sic) techniques are effective in moving the district forward in a positive direction.”
The next category was how well Toso plans, develops and implements strategies for school finance.
“With the deficit situation the school district is in, it is difficult to give this category a satisfactory rating, but Mr. Toso has presented a budget and this board approved it,” wrote School Board President Roy Musland. “As a district, we do have reserves to carry us for a while. We have also developed a long-term plan to work our way out of the present situation.”
Shelly Jystad, board member, was upset about Toso’s handling of nonteaching professionals in the district and the revision of the pay scale — a task that is currently in committee work.
“I had several conversations with support staff and para professionals (sic) that described Mr. Toso’s conversations with them as condescending, dismissive and disrespectful. This was their feedback,” Jystad wrote. “I was disappointed with his leadership in regard to this pay scale. I asked 3 times for him to schedule a meeting. It took Board action before this matter was addressed.”
The third category was how well Toso administered human resources and external affairs programs.
Larson said there is always room for improvement in communication in a district with nine schools. But he said generally Toso’s communication was acceptable.
“I think that the communication with the community was better when Mr. Toso has the column in the Jamestown Sun to communicate what is happening in the district,” Larson wrote. “Mr. Toso makes an effort to attend many school activities.”
Haut cited his personal experience as a parent rather than a board member in his evaluation and his unsatisfactory grade.
“As a parent I have experienced Bob’s inability to handle concerns first-handedly. The lack of professionalism, lack of empathy and the lack of providing appropriate remedies,” Haut wrote. “I have also visited with many families that have had the same experiences.”
His recommendation for Toso to improve in this category was short.
“Communicate as a professional, the title of superintendent deserves professionalism,” he wrote. “Don’t let your ego get in the way.”
The final category which Toso was scored on was his opportunities to evaluate the working relationships that exist between the board and the superintendent.
Board members Terry Anderson and Jystad didn’t respond on this category, saying they felt this was more suited for a board evaluation, not the superintendent’s.
Ostlie said in her unsatisfactory response that she feels some board members are treated differently than others based on their agreements or disagreements with Toso on issues.
“No matter what your personal feelings are about certain board members, those should be left out of the meetings and we should be able to work together for a common goal,” she wrote.
Allen’s satisfactory remark said the conflict is not all Toso’s fault and the district needs to work together to appear more favorable.
“Overall, I believe Mr. Toso is making an effort beyond halfway to work with the board. I believe the Board is making an effort as well. Some of the conflicting issues come from within the board itself and that is something the superintendent can’t fix,” Allen wrote. “As with the district I hope we continually try to improve as a board as it will only help our district and that we paint our district with a bright light that will make us look good as well as help to reveal areas of improvement.”
Toso said he anticipated a review like this was coming up and that there is disagreement between him on the board on issues.
“I feel academics are the direction we want to go, I think there’s board members that are too concerned about activities and athletics, and I think we need to focus on what’s important, and that’s a disagreement we have,” he said.
He said the problem has happened in other districts, but he feels JPS is headed the right direction academically and financially.
“Sometimes that happens with districts, you don’t have a good match between the board and superintendents and that’s fairly obvious,” Toso said.
The evaluation was the first of the year with the second coming later in spring.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at email@example.com