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Residents angry after Harwood vote


February 13, 2014
By Kathy Ryan

Staff Writer

THE GROSSE POINTES —Residents angry over the performance of school superintendent Thomas Harwood spoke out at Monday night's Grosse Pointe Public School System Board of Education meeting, asking the board to delay acceptance of a performance evaluation rating Harwood "overall effective" in his job.

Nearly two dozen residents asked the board to table a vote on accepting the interim evaluation that graded Harwood for the period of July 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2013. The evaluation rated Harwood as "overall effective" and "effective" in five performance areas: results, leadership, systems alignment, processes and capacity building.

Residents, however, questioned those ratings, citing several issues that have come to the forefront in recent months. Specifically, they cited reports Harwood is trying to remove Grosse Pointe South principal Matt Outlaw and assistant principal Terry Flint and addressed how he handled concerns brought forth by parents of students with special needs.

"How can the seven of you evaluate Dr. Harwood without asking teachers, staff and students for their input," asked Cynthia Sohn. "No one has asked about his performance on leadership."

Harwood has declined to comment on the Outlaw issue, saying only that both Outlaw and Flint have contracts that run until June 2015 and he expects them to serve out their contracts.

However, several residents allege Harwood and Jon Dean, the district's director of human resources, are attempting to force Outlaw and Flint out as retribution for how the 2013 visit to South of former United States Sen. Rick Santorum and his opposition to block scheduling.

The issue centers on Outlaw's handling of a personnel issue involving a staff member at South.

"I'm dumbfounded that you can deliver this evaluation, when we have seen no leadership, no planning and no vision," Farms resident John Daley told the board, saying the Santorum issue made the district a "national media embarrassment," and questioned the district's finances.

"We have become a rudderless ship," he told the board.

Also at issue was Harwood's interaction with parents of special needs students.

"Harwood's lack of compassion has alienated us," Julie Moe told the board. "His behavior is offensive. He has never followed up on our concerns over the use of restraints. That is not effective leadership."

Moe's husband, Philip, told the board that Harwood is an "ineffective leader who has done nothing," and said the violations occurring in the Special Education department merit Harwood receiving an ineffective rating.

Several residents asked the board to table Harwood's evaluation until after the Tech Bond vote on Feb. 25.

"The Tech Bond will be a referendum on Harwood's leadership," said Fred Minturn, former school board member.

Minturn also questioned why Harwood accepted a bonus from the board while teachers and other staff were taking pay cuts.

"He should not have accepted that bonus," he told the board.

One resident did speak in favor of Harwood, citing Harwood's attendance at community meetings, his approval of the Head Start program and his work on the tech bond.

"You made a good decision in hiring Dr. Harwood," said George McMullen.

When it came time to vote on accepting the interim evaluation, school board president Joan Dindoffer reminded the board that while an annual evaluation is required, this interim evaluation was being done to give Harwood some sense of how the board felt regarding his performance.

"We felt an interim review would help us evaluate and make determination about a contract," she said, noting Harwood has a three year contract that expires in June, 2014 and that if the board was to choose not to renew his contract, he must be notified by March 31.

Following the comments, the board voted four to three to accept the evaluation, with board members Lois Valente, Cindy Pangborn and Tom Jakubiec casting the no votes.

The vote caused an outcry from the audience, including loud boos and cries of "Shame on you," and "This is disgraceful."

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