Olathe rewards superintendent Yeager for DEI, not academic improvement

(The Sentinel) – USD 233 Olathe Superintendent Dr. Brent Yeager can earn a $25,000 annual bonus for implementing the school board’s diversity and other objectives, but not for improving the district’s weak academic performance.

Yeager’s five evaluation objectives for the 2021-22 school year are:

  • Navigating the pandemic (30%)
  • Relaunch the Strategic Plan (20%)
  • Diversity and Engagement (20%)
  • Communications (15%)
  • Successful Establishment of the District’s next bond referendum (15%)

The Sentinel obtained the information in an Open Records request.

There is only an amorphous reference to academic performance in its five-year Strategic Plan, rewritten last fall due to Covid-19 considerations: a guaranteed and viable curriculum to ensure that all students are on or above grade level.

But that is only about having a curriculum in place that, in the superintendent’s opinion, can ‘ensure’ that students are at least at grade level. The Strategic Plan doesn’t identify current achievement levels, let alone a timeline for getting kids to grade level.

According to the Department of Education’s 2021 state assessment, nearly a quarter of all students are below grade level in math and English language arts, and the numbers are worse for high school students (38% below grade level in Math, 25% below grade level in ELA).

Even worse, achievement was declining before the pandemic, and that sad truth is also missing from the Strategic Plan.

Board objectives focus on process, not academic improvement

Four of the five objectives identify specific goals, but those are more about pushing a narrative than anything else.

For example, the Communications objective list includes:

  • Tell our story on social media (short sweet communications that describes (sic) who we are as a district ex: # of languages spoken, number of schools, number of chicken nuggets served each year.
  • Establish communication processes to support the board of education (talking points, district email, and boilerplate responses).

One goal under Relaunching the Strategic Plan is to clearly define measurable objectives for a public scorecard. The district posted an Academic Scorecard, but it is horribly inaccurate. It says 3rd-grade reading proficiency is 69% and 4th-grade math proficiency is 84%. According to KSDE’s January 2018 application to the U.S. Department of Education for approval of the state plan to comply with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, “Levels 1 and 2 are categorized as not proficient. Levels 3 and 4 are proficient.” Therefore, 3rd-grade reading proficiency is just 50% and 4th-grade math proficiency is only 42%.

The Sentinel reached out to Board of Education President Joe Beveridge and asked why Dr. Yeager’s evaluation does not appear to include improvements in student achievement, and if the district has a written plan to accomplish that objective. We did not receive a response.

Yeager is in the first year of a three-year deal that provides up to $312,000 annually, including $250,000 in base salary, up to a $25,000 bonus, a $25,000 contribution to a tax-deferred annuity, and a $12,000 car allowance. He also receives a health insurance allowance equal to the employee contribution for family coverage, KPERS retirement, and five weeks of vacation; Yeager gets $1,033 for each day of unused vacation. The health insurance allowance either means he is effectively receiving free coverage (a payment to offset his contribution) or what amounts to another bonus. A Kristen Yeager is listed as a Library Media Specialist for the district; if Yeager is her husband and she is covered by the district, he can pocket the allowance. An online search shows Brent and Kristen Yeager living at the same address in Olathe.