The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 21, 2013

MSSU panel opens part of closed meeting to discuss evaluation steps

JOPLIN, Mo. — Members of the Personnel Committee of the Board of Governors of Missouri Southern State University revised their approach Thursday night after the Globe questioned the closing of the meeting intended for discussion of the steps for and scheduling of the university president’s annual evaluation.

In a posted notice, board members initially closed the meeting, citing a portion of state law that allows for the closure of meetings that are related to the “hiring, firing, disciplining or promoting of particular employees by a public governmental body when personal information about the employee is discussed or recorded.”

After about an hour in a closed session, they opened the meeting to the public to briefly review the evaluation steps.

Board Chairwoman Sherry Buchanan said committee members met behind closed doors to talk about how to conduct the president’s annual evaluation, looking at factors such as what surveys or interviews they are going to use as part of their criteria. The evaluation of the president, Bruce Speck, by the board will take place in June, she said.

Buchanan said that because the evaluation procedure is individualized, committee members discussed specific information related to Speck, such as his past performance in certain areas or areas from which they want more information. She said it was for that reason that they closed the meeting.

“We will be talking about Dr. Speck in particular because it’s his evaluation,” she said. “There is some of his personal performance information that is discussed that is part of the planning process. There’s really no way to do an evaluation planning process without talking about the particulars of the performance.”

Jean Maneke, attorney for the Missouri Press Association, said she didn’t think the meeting as posted should have been closed because, under her interpretation of state law, it didn’t meet the cited exemption.

“They only thing that they’re allowed to close is the actual process of making the evaluation” of the president, she said when contacted Thursday by the Globe. “The only thing they can close is personal information about the employee.”

Maneke said that if committee members brought the president’s performance records into the discussion, then that part of the meeting could be closed under the law. But other discussions should be segregated from the closed portion and should remain open to the public, she said.

During Speck’s most recent evaluation last June, board members met for nearly an hour in a closed session after their regularly scheduled open meeting, at which time they announced that they had renewed his contract through June 2015.

They said afterward that they had interviewed MSSU faculty and staff members as well as employees who report directly to Speck, and had considered written evaluations of Speck from individual board members and from those who work directly under the president.

Members of the committee said Thursday during the open portion of the meeting that they would take a similar approach this year, disseminating written surveys to and conducting interviews with those who report to Speck. Members of the board also would provide information. They said they were considering distributing the surveys in April and conducting the interviews before commencement in May.

Change of venue

CITING THE CLOSURE of the MSSU campus for spring break, the Board of Governors’ Personnel Committee met Thursday night at 1105 E. 32nd St. in the law office of Charles Buchanan, husband of the board’s chairwoman, Sherry Buchanan.

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