2017-08-03 / Front Page

Teachers say Nelson changed evals

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

Changes made to teacher evaluations by former Suttons Bay Superintendent Chris Nelson resulted in lower ratings and in one case the layoff of a longtime teacher.

So says two members of the Suttons Bay virtual school staff.

Teacher Shannon Hymel stood before the Suttons Bay Board of Education Monday night and called for changes in the teacher evaluation process and the reinstatement of elementary teacher Jane Grishaw, who was layed off last month.

“I am asking that the board consider reassigning (evaluations) and splitting it up between the other administrator, and not the superintendent,” said Hymel, adding that this was the process used in a district where she previously worked. “There should be no reason that the superintendent has this type of power to evaluate to determine raises and then decide who gets laid off.”

Hymel alleges that Nelson changed her evaluation after it was submitted by her supervisor, virtual school director Bracey Bechtel, even though there was documentation of student growth supporting a “highly effective” rating.

She said that Nelson claimed the “virtual team” was well aware of what was expected, even though he never gave a direct or consistent answer regarding growth while speaking at teacher meetings.

“In fact, he spent a majority of time at our meetings texting on his phone,” Hymel said.

In 2011, state legislators adopted the Teacher Quality and Tenure Reform bill that mandates local districts conduct teacher evaluations rating he work of staff members as highly effective, effective, minimally effective and ineffective.

The ratings, not a teacher’s tenure status, are used to determine teacher assignments — and layoffs.

Hymel called on the School Board to reinstate Grishaw, who was the designated K-8 virtual teacher for the four-member online program.

“As most of you know, just four people ran the virtual school last year, and as many of you might not know, the four of us together brought in around $1 million to the school district,” Hymel said.

Suttons Bay’s enrollment has been in decline for the past decade. In an effort to bolster revenue school leaders established a virtual school through which students receive instruction online and the district receives all or a portion of a per pupil foundation allowance.

The program has generated an influx of money for the cash-strapped district.

“(Grishaw) is a necessity to our teams’ success and without her we would not have achieved what we did this year, including graduating about 90 percent of Suttons Bay Virtual seniors, which was approximately half of the Suttons Bay Public School’s graduating Class of 2017.”

Grishaw did not speak during Monday’s special board meeting. However, in a letter sent to board members, she also claimed that Nelson changed her evaluation after she received a “highly effective” rating.

“After the July 10 meeting, (Nelson) assured me that my lay off had nothing to do with my performance as a teacher,” Grishaw’s letter said. “Throughout the year (Nelson) complimented me on numerous occasions, as well as telling others who well I was doing in the virtual school … My evaluation reflected that until it was changed from the ‘highly effective’ score that I received from (Bechtel), to ‘effective’ after it was given to Mr. Nelson.”

No action on the reinstatement requests were taken at Monday’s special meeting.

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"So say" two members . . .

"So say" two members . . .