By Madelynn Coldiron
A new system for school boards to evaluate school superintendents will be “more lengthy and more time consuming” than what they now use, attendees at a KSBA conference clinic on that topic were warned.
But, said KSBA Cadre trainer Dale Gray, the new system will allow boards to find outmore about both the district and what the superintendent does. Both sides will gain, he said.
“The superintendent is going to have to spend a lot of time explaining to us things that take place that we don’t see,” said Gray, a Hancock County board member. “Through this conversation between the superintendent and the board, we should have a much better idea of some of these intricacies that we probably have not had in the past.”
PHOTO: KSBA Cadre trainer and Hancock County school board member Dale Gray talks with several conference attendees during a workshop session.
Basically, he said, “What’s going to change is it’s going to be a lot more detailed.”
Training on superintendent evaluation is now part of the required annual training for school board members. The annual conference was the first major venue for the training, mandated by the state board of education.
At this point, most boards are still using the same evaluation system they’ve been using, with the addition of three components now required by KDE: progress toward specific academic targets as reflected in the state’s accountability system; effectiveness and efficiency in district operations, such as budgeting; and facilities and resources improvements.
The education department is expected to roll out a model for the new superintendent evaluation system this spring, Jean Crowley, KSBA board team development specialist and Danville Independent board member, told clinic attendees. Boards will choose whether to use that or either of two other models: a version of KSBA’s current model tailored to KDE’s new requirements; or one they develop locally that also must meet KDE’s standards.
“Find a format that’s best for you,” Crowley said.
In any case, the system must have a detailed scoring guide with specific criteria, performance levels, standards, indicators and rating descriptors. Boards must adopt their new system by December of this year and will begin using the new gauge of effectiveness for the 2015-16 school year, according to KDE.
Whatever model boards chose, best practices suggest it should:
• Accurately define the expectations and responsibilities
• Be the basis for conversations linked directly to student achievement
• Be built on common leadership requirements
• Be tied to professional standards
• Include local goals
• Be based on a performance continuum
Boards will still need to conduct a formative evaluation in closed session and a later summative evaluation, discussed and adopted in written form in open session.
But, Crowley noted, “The most important part of this evaluation process is the board and superintendent conversations. A strong evaluation format helps to focus the district. It also helps to bring tensions or issues to the surface to be discussed – so this process is a continual process, it’s not a one-shot deal. You talk about it throughout the year, at various times throughout the year.”
Gray and Crowley also pointed to some pitfalls to avoid in evaluating the superintendent, including having no clear understanding of the superintendent’s role; thinking only in terms of deficiencies; measuring performance without goals, strategies, outcomes and timelines; not giving the superintendent an opportunity to weigh in on the evaluation; and discussing closed-session specifics with the public.
A weak system for evaluating the superintendent, “could serve as a platform to magnify minority opinions of single board members,” Crowley warned.
The final product of a good system, she said, should be a consensus reflecting “one voice from the five board members.”