Leader's goals still not set

Richmond County school board members dangled carrots in front of their new superintendent in July to usher in a new era of accountability for a much maligned school system.

But halfway through Dana Bedden's first year on the job, he and board members have yet to agree what those goals will be, something one local professor said bluntly is "bad business."

For each of the three incentives, Dr. Bedden can earn $5,000, but the goals are expected to affect more than just the superintendent.

"Whatever the goal of the superintendent is should be the goal of every teacher in the classroom and everyone in between," board President Jimmy Atkins said, adding that there is a "trickling down" effect to setting goals for Dr. Bedden.

Mr. Atkins, and other board members, downplayed the delay in establishing goals, saying they will be effective when approved.

Asked if the delay will lower the bar for the goals, Mr. Atkins said the goals he will propose for the superintendent are not "watered down." The goals will consider the progress Dr. Bedden has made in his first six months and will likely be the same goals the board would have set at his hiring.

The school board has always had a voice, but the new evaluation gives members an opportunity up front to say what they feel is important and what they want to see addressed, said Tony Arasi, director of professional development for the Georgia School Boards Association. Mr. Arasi has been working with Richmond County on the new evaluation.

Financial incentives are "absolutely" effective, but Richmond County is going about it all wrong, said Dalton Brannen, a management professor in the Augusta State University Hull College of Business.

"The people in the public sector don't have a reason to do better, so they don't," he said.

Though uncommon in the public sector, they are increasingly being used, especially in school systems where the public is looking for a turnaround, such as Richmond County, Dr. Brannen said.

But not setting goals beforehand is "bad business," he said. Doing this is problematic when a person has already accepted a job, and it's also unfair to that employee.

Richmond County school officials sidestepped the question of fairness and say the goals could be approved as soon as next week.

"Only Dr. Bedden can say whether or not they are a disadvantage to him," Mr. Atkins said.

Through his secretary, Dr. Bedden said he would not comment about the goals.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

THE BACK STORY

SCHOOL BOARD EVALUATIONS

In the waning months of former Superintendent Charles Larke's tenure, board members questioned the size of his financial incentives and the way in which they automatically triggered if he received a "satisfactory" evaluation.

That's partly why board members chose to adopt a new evaluation form when they hired Dana Bedden. The new form requires the board and superintendent to agree to goals and the evidence needed to support those goals from the outset. Under the old evaluation, there was no discussion and board members used a generic form in which they circled answers on a scale.