Superintendent evaluation process varies

While Race to the Top and other education reform movements are putting an emphasis on teacher and principal evaluations, there is no uniform method for evaluating superintendents.

A JournalNews/Middletown Journal investigation reveals that the 10 public school districts in Butler County use 10 different instruments to evaluate superintendents.

While the Ohio School Boards Association, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators and the Ohio Department of Education created the Ohio Superintendent Evaluation System in 2009 as a guideline, the Talawanda School District is the only district in the county that uses any of the standards of that system in their evaluation process.

“We’re a Race to the Top school, so we adopted that model last January and are going to conduct a pilot to work those standards into the evaluation,” said Holli Morrish, district spokeswoman. “You don’t have to use their forms, but you have to align to the standards.”

Although the Ohio Education Association, the state teachers’ union, was not involved in the creation of the template, it approves of the format as a way to start.

“The OEA believes that school superintendents should be evaluated on research-based standards for job performance,” said spokeswoman Michele Prater.

While there are many advantages to having a uniform system for superintendent evaluations, Cheryl Ryan, deputy director of board services for the Ohio School Boards Association, said that not all districts have the same goals, so the system is offered as a customizable, flexible option.

“There’s not one right way” to conduct a superintendent evaluation, she said. “Many school board members are not educators, so this system helps them understand what the superintendent is working on every day.

The laws concerning superintendent evaluations are vague enough, requiring only that a district have a policy for evaluation, that it’s not uncommon for some superintendents to not receive regular written reviews, said Edgewood Superintendent Doug Lantz, who has not had a formal evaluation since he joined the district three years ago. He said that he has not received a written evaluation since his first year at the Franklin school district seven years ago.

“We are evaluated every day,” he said. “Both (Treasurer Randy Stiver) and I sit down regularly with the board throughout the school year to go over our goals, but nothing was ever put in writing.”

Edgewood Board of Education President Amy Ashcroft, in her first year on the board, said she has started the process for an evaluation of both Lantz and Stiver to be done this year.

Lantz said that with the increased emphasis on teacher and principal evaluations, he wouldn’t be surprised if state lawmakers soon started putting superintendents under similar systems that highlight student achievement as a standard of performance.

Hamilton City Schools implemented a new narrative evaluation structure for the first time this year to evaluate Janet Baker, who is in her 21st year as superintendent, according to President Larry Bowling.

“For years, we used a check-off model that listed different criteria and ratings from one to nine,” he said. “But we felt that just giving a number didn’t really tell us much, so this year I asked each member of the board to write a narrative of how she’s doing in different areas, using the the form as a guide if they wanted.”

Bowling then summarized the results in a three-page memorandum that includes eight bullet-points outlining areas of improvement, seven bullet-points outlining seven areas of accomplishment and a full page of comments from board members.

Areas of improvement included highlighting the need to schedule formal school visits each semester, to investigate grants with an emphasis on technology, to assess the effectiveness of all administrators every year and to “encourage honest communication from administration to teachers regarding classroom performance.”

The board noted among Baker’s accomplishments the district’s designation as a National School District of Character, the reorganization of instructional leadership team, the development of a five-year technology plan and reducing the operating budget by $3 million “to offset the loss of state revenues.”

The evaluation did not offer any kind of score or numerical rating.

The Middletown City School District responded to the Journal’s public information request with a seven-page narrative summary of two oral evaluation sessions for Superintendent Greg Rasmussen, a formative session held in February and a final session held in July, based on five standards of performance outlined in the job description, along with a set of goals for the next school year.

“Several board members shared that this district has made great progress this year but still needs to keep moving forward,” the narrative concludes. “After some good discussion it was decided that a check plus would be given to rate Greg’s attainment of these goals.”

Monroe Local Schools’ evaluation of former Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli took the form of numerical ratings from 1 (unsatisfactory) to 5 (outstanding) on 35 areas of responsibility in eight categories.

The board gave Lolli a ‘5’ on seven of the items, including “organizes and actively encourages a planned program of curriculum evaluation and improvement” and “demonstrates high standards of ethics.”

The highest-rated category was “Job Related Characteristics,” in which the board gave her a score of ‘5’ for “speaks and writes effectively,” “acts in a decisive manner” and “maintains his/her professional development.”

The lowest-rated item was a ‘3’ in “provides adequate data to support budgetary requests.”

The form provided as a result of the public information request, however, included two blank areas set aside for descriptions of “overall effectiveness” and “suggestions for change or improvement.”

New Miami Local Schools used a form for Superintendent Dave Gibson’s most recent evaluation, dated July 26, consisting of 18 “Professional Characteristics,” for which he was rated as either “Needs improvement” or “Meets or exceeds expectations.”

Only “Leadership” received a “Needs improvement” rating and garnered the comment, “As a first-year Superintendent, the board is aware that your leadership skills are going in the right direction.”

Ross Local School’s evaluation of Superintendent Greg Young includes slightly more than two single-spaced pages that includes 10 goals in five broad areas with narrative statements from Young on the status of those goals and the board’s response.

All of those goals were marked “Met,” with the exception of one item: “The board wants a raising of the bar regarding grounds maintenance,” which was marked “Met but on-going.”

“I believe there has been an improvement this year, but I am still not satisfied that we are where we want to be,” Young wrote, indicating that some of the issues were related to the district’s construction projects from last school year.

The goals that Young met included being proactive in the sharing of services with other districts, holding down health care costs and maintaining the “Excellence with Distinction” rating on the Ohio School Report Cards.

Although the form Talawanda used for the evaluation of Kelley Spivey is different from the tool created by the Ohio Department of Education, it includes rating the superintendent on the five standards with ratings based on five statements in each category.

The board gave Spivey an overall rating of 4.1 on a five-point scale. Her highest category score was 4.4 in the area of Instruction, and lowest (3.8) under Resources, described as “managing and organizing the district’s resources to accomplish goals.”

A section of written goals for the upcoming year included “better detailed evaluations” for staff and “prioritize goals.”

In response to the Journal’s request for Superintendent Karen Mantia’s review for the 2011-12 school year, district spokesman Randy Oppenheimer replied in an email, “The Lakota School District Board of Education formally evaluated the performance of Dr. Mantia at its meeting held on May 29, 2012. This evaluation was delivered to Dr. Mantia verbally. The Board of Education will memorialize this verbal evaluation into a written document in the near future. However, at this time, the District has no written performance evaluation for Dr. Mantia responsive to your public record request.”

New superintendents Curtis Spivey of Madison Local Schools and Paul Otten of Fairfield City Schools have not yet been evaluated.