A survey of Anne Arundel teachers released yesterday by their union shows near-universal disfavor with Superintendent Eric J. Smith in such areas as cooperation and trust.
The unflattering evaluation comes one week after an internal audit of hiring and payroll practices under Smith that found that his human resources department overpaid some top administrators, awarded seemingly undeserved raises and granted improper signing bonuses, generally without the knowledge of the Board of Education. The audit also found employee work files missing such basic documents as proof of background checks.
Among the 1,102 teachers who answered the survey from the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, only 5 percent agreed that the superintendent "has established a firm trust level" with them. Seven percent agreed that Smith "considers and implements employee input on teaching methods."
Union leaders sent out the survey in May with the stated purpose of gauging teacher support for Smith as many in the rank and file were calling for a confidence vote on their instructional leader.
Union President Sheila Finlayson said yesterday that a decision on a confidence vote would be made next month by union representatives from every school, based on the survey, test scores, teacher turnover data and other factors making up a comprehensive "report card" on Smith.
"If we're going to do such a thing, we can't do it arbitrarily or capriciously," Finlayson said of such a vote, an action school-based union leaders called for in April.
Of the survey, Finlayson said: "It tells me that teachers are extremely unhappy. It tells me that while they are doing their jobs and doing them well, they are not happy working in Anne Arundel public schools."
Smith, the Anne Arundel superintendent since 2002, has built much of his reputation on improving test scores and expanding challenging course work. Even among his detractors, few dispute those gains. In the union survey, a narrow majority of teachers, 54 percent, agreed that Smith is committed to raising student achievement.
"For the last several years, as you know, we've demonstrated outstanding growth in student achievement, and it didn't happen by accident," said Bob Leib, Smith's chief of staff.
Leib said of the union survey, "We will review this with an open mind."
The survey findings, based on voluntary responses from about a quarter of union members, contrast sharply with the results of two annual surveys released by the school system in 2004 and 2005 that dealt with some of the same issues. The most recent of those surveys, released May 31, showed that a majority of parents, teachers and central-office employees who responded were satisfied with the school system and with Smith.
Some questions in the 70-item union survey, conducted by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies of Annapolis, dwelt on a perceived area of weakness for Smith: that he doesn't listen to teachers or heed their concerns and that he has lost their trust and support as a result. On three questions dealing with trust, 90 percent of survey respondents gave a negative response.
Smith and his deputies are dealing with an internal audit released last week that shows widespread concern over pay raises awarded to top executives and that portrays a human resources department in disarray. It has caused a rift between Smith and some members of the eight-person school board, which will decide next year whether to renew his four-year contract.
"I haven't made that decision," said board member Eugene Peterson, who has generally supported Smith. "But I would certainly welcome the superintendent of schools, instead of pointing the finger at everybody and everything, taking some accountability of what is happening on his watch."