For the second month in a row the Ennis School Board tabled the review of Doug Walsh in his role as bus supervisor for the district.
The Ennis School Board scheduled Walsh’s review Feb. 15 before the monthly school board meeting, but after a closed session of about an hour the board decided again to table the review, this time until April.
“At that time we didn’t feel we had enough information to accurately asses the performance of Doug in that position,” Ennis School Board Chairman Marc Glines said after the meeting.
This was the same reason the board had rescheduled the January evaluation as well, he said.
Walsh is employed by the Ennis School District as a two-thirds time bus supervisor and a one-third time superintendent. His superintendent evaluation was done at the end of last year.
Walsh’s bus supervisor contract pays him $62,000 per year in base pay, plus $12,000 in other incentives. Additionally, he is eligible for a $12,000 annual bonus based on his performance.
At the meeting, Glines didn’t comment much about Walsh’s evaluation or contract despite several questions from citizens in attendance.
Ed Totten from McAllister was at the meeting and tried to get answers about Walsh’s performance and contract, but went away frustrated with the response of the board.
“They were extremely evasive to the point where it was almost like if they said anything it was just going to be a lie,” Totten said.
Totten doesn’t believe Walsh is qualified for the bus supervisor job and would like the school board to tell him and the community why they hired him and are paying him so much money.
“My biggest fault with the school board is that they’re laying out money that doesn’t belong to them and they’re giving it to someone who’s not even qualified for the job in the first place,” he said.
But the school board isn’t able to comment on anything currently involved in litigation, which includes Walsh’s contracts, Glines said.
In August, David Kelley of Ennis filed a lawsuit against Doug Walsh and the Ennis School Board claiming essentially that Walsh’s contract as bus supervisor is fraudulent. The lawsuit also claims that the school spent money illegally out of the adult education and transportation funds. It also claims Walsh’s contracts with the school, dating back to when he officially retired as superintendent, are in violation of laws governing the Montana Teacher’s Retirement system.
The lawsuit has kept the school board from answering a lot of questions citizens in the community have raised, Glines acknowledged.
“There is nothing more that the school board wants to do than to disseminate information to make people understand what’s going on,” he said. “We are told by our lawyer not to respond or comment and it’s very frustrating to us.”
In fact the school board’s lawyer, Elizabeth Kaleva from Missoula, has made it clear, either they follow her guidance or get a new lawyer.
“What I’ll refer you to is our lawyer stated that if we were to comment outside of what she told us we could say, which is anything about the legal issues, that we would be responsible for our own legal fees and have to find our own lawyer,” Glines said.
After attending last week’s meeting, Totten doesn’t think the community is being served by the school board’s refusal to address honest questions.
“They work for us and I understand that a lawyer is going to tell their client to keep their mouth shut and that’s just the way of it, but you have people who are supposed to be working for us and they’re not,” he said.
The school board rescheduled Walsh’s bus supervisor evaluation until the April meeting. In the meantime, Glines and school board member Jim McNally will work together on determining the proper way to evaluate Walsh.
Typically, the school board receives job descriptions and standard evaluation forms from the Montana School Board Association. This time those standard job descriptions and forms didn’t accurately depict what the school board wanted to evaluate, he said.
“It’s our fault that the evaluation didn’t accurately depict the job description,” Glines said. “So we have to get a more accurate tool. So we’re laboring over doing it correctly.”
Walsh has been bus supervisor since 2009 but has never had a performance evaluation done for the position, he said. The board is at fault for that, he said.
“Our omission is that we have not evaluated in this position,” Glines said. “We should have had an evaluation in place probably before we hired anyone and we didn’t.”
He would not say whether or not Walsh’s evaluation would be the only factor in whether or not he received his $12,000 annual bonus.
It was a point Glines tiptoed around.
“Could it be attached to this job evaluation, yes it could,” he said.
Glines wouldn’t clarify the point because it dealt with the ongoing litigation.