2017-03-02 / Front Page

Evaluations no family affair in Northport

Search on for neutrality
By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff


WETHERBEE WETHERBEE Neil Wetherbee, who has been on-the-job in the Northport School district for about eight months, is facing a challenge that few superintendents share.

It’s time for teacher evaluations and Wetherbee is having to look outside the district for someone to evaluate his wife Corrine Wetherbee, a Title I teacher, and his uncle Steve Wetherbee, who teaches secondary math and physics.

Wetherbee himself will be evaluated by Northport school board members, although Tom Wetherbee, board president and his father, will have to recuse himself.

Wetherbee is looking to the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District for some help in conducting teacher evaluations, though the district has not yet decided which evaluation tool will be used.

The issue was discussed at a School Board workshop held Monday, when Tom Wetherbee asked the board to begin thinking about the process as teachers must be evaluated by the end of the school year.

And Tom Wetherbee’s son, Neil Wetherbee, must be evaluated by the end of his hire year; his contract was approved in August.

The conflict is not unique in Northport to the Wetherbee family.

Neil Wetherbee said that in the past, when Jeff Tropf, was superintendent and his wife, Margie Tropf, was teaching kindergarten, her evaluations were done by Dan Stowe, who was the assistant principal and later principal.

“The sole issue here is that there’s me,” Wetherbee said.

The school has 149 students this year. The principal position was eliminated with budget cuts under former Superintendent Chris Parker, who said the small district could not justify paying for both a superintendent and principal.

Teachers must be evaluated every year, with part of that process including classroom observation. Other criteria include comparing teacher lesson plans with the state benchmark on which plans are based.

Evaluations are also tied to student growth as measured by standardized tests such as M-STEP, which replaced the MEAP a few years ago, or the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) test which has results in teachers’ hands much sooner than with the state test.

Districts have several evaluation tools to choose from, including one that has become popular in the last several years, the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model.

Districts can pick and choose from different tools, coming up with their own hybrid — something some board members favored.

“I feel like we need to be true to our own community school culture,” said Trustee Jeannette Reynolds.

But Wetherbee said that creating a hybrid model may present a problem with consistency, as evaluators from the Intermediate School District prefer to use the Marzano model.

Lynelle Wilcox-Irvine said it wouldn’t be fair to use a strict Marzano evaluation for some teachers and “adaptations” for others.

Other options, Wetherbee said, would involve using board members as evaluators instead of the ISD.

While there were some detractors when Wetherbee was chosen over several other applicants that applied for the superintendency, he said that overall he’s received support from the community.

“It’s been great,” he said, while calling the job all-consuming. “It’s hard to go home because there’s always something you can be doing, there’s always an event. But it’s exciting to be a part of kids’ lives.”

The best part of being a superintendent in a school as small as Northport is the balance the position offers. He is with students and teachers every day, but also makes decisions that shape the future of the school.

In a larger district you may not see how your decisions impact teachers, he said.

“Here I can help a student, a teacher, a parent all within an hour or two. I really enjoy that.”

The most frustrating part of the job is always being double-booked.

“There are multiple times a week I could be in two places at the same time,” he said.

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