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Debbie Wesslund

Superintendent evaluation process should be a year-round endeavor 
Kentucky School Advocate
July/August 2019
By Debbie Wesslund
KSBA Board Leadership and Training Consultant
"When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too." – Paulo Coelho

It’s August, and your school board has completed the annual evaluation of your superintendent, approved it at a public meeting and released the summary of the results to your community. You’re done for a year, right?


You are to be commended for your work, but evaluating job performance is more than an end-of-year assignment to check off your list. It is a year-round monitoring process.

Your responsibility as a school board is to make sure your school system stays focused on the goals you have set to impact student achievement. Doing that calls for touching base with your superintendent throughout the year on how that’s going.

It helps if your board has set a few goals with your superintendent as part of his/her evaluation. The goals should reflect the priorities you set together as you complete the evaluation.

To stay engaged in meeting those goals, you should revisit them regularly. It is certain that school districts will get sidetracked on issues that arise through the year that require your attention. Regrouping around the big goals will increase the potential that you’ll meet them.

The superintendent evaluation process allows for regular conversations for this purpose.

Kentucky law allows for school boards to have these monitoring conversations with their superintendents in closed session. We call them “formative conversations.”

The sample KSBA Superintendent Evaluation Timeline explains it this way:

• July-December: Superintendent makes regular ongoing reports in formative conversations with the Board about progress on standards, goals and performance expectations.

Your board’s policy and procedure manual explains it further at #9:

• Throughout the year the Superintendent collects and retains evidence of performance for areas of emphasis as well as standards and district goals. S/he shares evidence with the Board throughout the year to demonstrate efforts toward increased competencies in these areas. 02.14 AP.2

Superintendent evaluations can be uncomfortable, even combative. Some of that is the result of trying to cram a lot of work and a year of pent-up concerns in a one-time, last minute effort. 

The laws that were passed a few years ago addressing superintendent evaluations were focused on making the process more productive. 

The truth is we want our school systems to be successful, to meet significant goals and to run smoothly. It makes sense that the effort would take regular check-ins.

My daughter is only a few years into her career. She sits down with her boss for a “check in” once a week. These conversations reassure her she’s on the right track and offer constructive feedback on what’s going well and what should be improved. This regular interaction helps avoid the buildup of concern on both the part of employee and employer, and missed opportunities for the organization as a whole. 

It’s the same concept on the larger, public stage of superintendent support and evaluation. The bottom line is that we want to be successful, and regular “formative” conversations with our superintendent strengthens both the board/superintendent relationship and the potential for meeting the goals you have set for student achievement.

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