A lot has changed in the 17 months since the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board started talking about how to evaluate itself.
The board has yet to create a self-evaluation process, but the tone at Friday's planning retreat was festive and congratulatory when the seven members present talked about how well they work together. That's a sharp contrast with the September 2012 session where members did a self-evaluation questionnaire and gave themselves low marks on such crucial functions as researching decisions, keeping confidentiality and supporting majority decisions.
Morrison says he hears good things about the board from local and state officials, as well as educators around the nation. The Council of Urban Boards of Education honored the CMS board as its 2013 Board of Excellence last fall.
"But it is so easy to lose it," Morrison said. "You don't want to lose the way you're being perceived right now."
That's one of the reasons the board is working on ways to formally identify the group's strengths and weaknesses. "If you want to be a healthy board and remain a healthy board, you've got to do a periodic check," Burney said.
Vice Chair Tim Morgan noted that unlike employee evaluations, which are confidential under state law, this rating would be a public matter. Members worried about giving ammunition to critics, noting the coverage they got in 2012 for the self-inflicted low ratings. But they also said the evaluation could help educate the public and identify areas for improvement. Member Ericka Ellis-Stewart said it will work only if members trust each other enough to use the opportunity for review of the group's work, rather than finger-pointing or reliving clashes.
Paul Bailey, a former Matthews town commissioner elected to the CMS board in November, said admitting mistakes can help turn critics into allies. Thelma Byers-Bailey, the board's other newcomer, agreed: "At least you take the sting out of it when you confess to it rather than having somebody else pick it up and throw it at you."
Members looked at self-evaluations used by other boards around the country.
The CMS board has been working with the CRSS for several years on improving governance. The district paid $5,625 for Burney to work with the board at this retreat, which took place at the CMS Leadership Academy near Vance High.