By Madelynn Coldiron
Kentucky school boards not long ago wrapped up a summative evaluation of their superintendent’s performance over the 2013-14 school year, but they must now turn the clock forward to 2015-16.
That’s when they will be required to begin using a new evaluation tool sanctioned by the state education department or come up with one of their own that meets the same rigorous standards. Boards must decide which system they will use and let KDE know by Dec. 31. For this year, they can continue using their current evaluation tools, or pilot the new KDE version.
However, said state education department Chief of Staff Dr. Tommy Floyd, “We ask them to attend trainings and become familiar with the new process.”
KSBA interim Executive Director David Baird and Board Team Development Director Kerri Schelling were on the statewide steering committee that crafted the new model. Baird said how a board eases into the new system will depend largely on the type of superintendent evaluation it has conducted in the past.
“Many boards have been involved in a comprehensive evaluation of their superintendent for many years and this will not be a tremendous change for them,” he said. “For a few boards that have not done comprehensive evaluations in the past, they will need to receive training and become very familiar with the new instrument that they probably have not used in the past.
“So we’ll try to get them all to a point where they can all be familiar and comfortable with the new model and the new requirements that they will have to fulfill.”
An outline of training for the state’s new superintendent evaluation system will be presented at this year’s KSBA Fall Regional Meetings, scheduled to begin Sept. 9 and wrapping up Nov. 11.
Floyd has been attending regional education cooperative meetings to brief superintendents on the new system. He said so far, the model “has been very well received by superintendents.”
Board teams that piloted a version of the system this past year also gave it positive reviews, he added.
Baird said he hears “the usual concerns about something that’s new and something that many board members may not feel they had enough input or enough discussion prior to the actual implementation.” But, he said, “board members are resilient,” and will get up to speed with training.
Floyd said the new system is especially important for boards due to the large number of new superintendents in the state – approaching 100 over the past three years.
“One of the biggest things they’ll do as a board member is select a superintendent, evaluate that superintendent, help that superintendent grow and improve and lead the school district,” he said.
A lengthier version of KDE’s new superintendent evaluation instrument has been used this past year by boards with first-year superintendents.
“I think it’s a very good evaluation system,” said Metcalfe County school board member Robin McMurtrey. She said she liked best the documentation system in which a superintendent electronically uploads examples of how he or she is carrying out goals and duties, something that experienced superintendents also can do in the new model.
“You can see daily what he was doing and how he was assessing himself. And then when it came time for us to do the evaluation, there was documentation,” said McMurtrey, a Barren County teacher who was on Superintendent Dr. Benny Lile’s first-year advisory committee.
The system worked well, Lile said, also citing the electronic portfolio he kept that doubled as documentation for the board’s evaluation of him.
“I’m not going to tell you that maybe there couldn’t be something more, but I’m also cognizant of the fact that when you start doing that, you can overload things very quickly,” he said. “I thought it covered the essential items that we need to really be paying attention to. I thought it was an efficient process for me as a superintendent and the board as well.”
Augusta Independent’s board is using KSBA’s superintendent evaluation model as a bridge this year between its old and new systems.
The board for years used its own instrument, which “really didn’t answer the questions that we needed to answer for Ms. (Superintendent Lisa) McCane or ourselves. It was just too limited,” board Chairwoman Laura Bach said.
This past year the board used the KSBA instrument to evaluate McCane and “it worked out very well,” she said.
The board reviewed both the KSBA and new KDE systems for use in the 2014-15 school year, and opted for the former.
“We went over both models and decided this was more appropriate for our smaller school and we just liked it. It just fit for us,” Bach said.
McCane said she and the board will be reviewing the new KDE model over the course of this school year to become more comfortable with it.
For most board members who are laypeople and not educators accustomed to this kind of evaluation, the new model “is very complicated and complex,” she said.
McCane likes the new instrument, calling it “clear and concise.”
“The standards and indicators are very clear – that’s a good thing,” she said. “I also like the idea of it being more objective, with specific goals, whether that be academic goals or budgetary goals.”
Floyd said the education department will create a one-stop-shop Web page for the superintendent evaluation system to assist boards with resources, including videos of school teams who talk about their experiences piloting the model this past year.
While districts will have the option of creating their own local superintendent evaluation system, it remains to be seen whether any will take advantage of that. Local models must meet KDE’s specifications (see chart) and win the agency’s approval.
Even if that doesn’t happen in 2015-16, Floyd said, “It could happen in a later year.”
The new model also may be tweaked, he said, adding, “This is a situation we’ll come back and ask for input, obviously from the two key players, superintendents and school boards.”
New superintendent evaluation system a focus of Fall Regional Meetings
School board members attending this year’s Fall Regional Meetings will get a basic outline of the state’s new superintendent evaluation system, and how to use it. The program counts toward the new requirement for annual superintendent evaluation training.
“We have lots of districts clamoring for the training on the specific new model,” said David Baird, KSBA’s interim executive director.
The information about the new system will enable board members to “make an informed choice,” according to Board Team Development Director Kerri Schelling, on the two options the state education department has given them: use the KDE system or their own local evaluation, which must meet KDE’s rigorous standards.
Baird said KSBA’s goal is to help boards with training in whatever evaluation tool they choose. The evaluation system will be high on KSBA’s 2014-15 training agenda.
KSBA’s former training on the topic, which focused on its own evaluation instrument and more recently on best practices, will shift to training that details the ins and outs of the new system, which most districts are expected to use.
Board members will also get an opportunity to pick up training in two other required areas if they register for concurrent sessions on either ethics or finance that will precede the Fall Regional Meetings, depending on pre-enrollment.