HARVARD – Work is afoot to nail down standard methodologies for evaluating both Harvard’s School Superintendent and for the Harvard School Committee to get introspective and evaluate itself on an annual basis.
A STANDARD SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT EVALUATION PROCESS
School Committee member Susan Mary Redinger said she and fellow committee member Kirsten Wright have been working in concert with sitting School Superintendent Joseph Connelly on constructing a set process and timeline by which to gauge the district’s school superintendent on an annual basis.
Connelly has worked in public education continuously since the 1960s, most recently as the interim superintendent of schools in Gloucester, among several other school districts. So “Joe very kindly went through and dug out [superintendent evaluation] models he’s been using,” said Redinger. “Kirsten and I thought this was a great place to start.”
The plan is to tweak the draft evaluation tool and get it back to the full committee for approval and send the evaluation out to the school committee membership in April before the annual Town Elections change the face of the sitting board. Incumbent Piali De has stated that she does not intend to seek reelection to another term. Hers is the only school committee seat open on this spring’s ballot.
But this is a policy that would set in place a more uniform process in years to come. The evaluation of the superintendent was an annual tumultuous affair for the school committee for former school superintendent Thomas Jefferson.
Records and case law have changed over recent years to require the release of not only the school committee’s final compiled superintendent performance evaluation. but also each member’s individual evaluation that had been used in the final, blended report. As a result, the Harvard School Committee collected individual members’ evaluations and summarily bundled them together to stand collectively as the superintendent’s evaluation without any blending or compiled scoring.
Harvard School Committee Chairman Keith Cheveralls indicated that individual evaluations will continue to be made available. “We went through that a couple of years ago. Everything is public.”
“Whether we want it to be or not,” said committee member Patricia Wenger.
But there will be a compiled score assigned to each ‘grade’ given, with 4 being an “A” or “Exemplary,” down to 1 for the low “Unsatisfactory” grade. The scores will be tallied and compiled, resulting in a final score.
There would be an established School Committee Superintendent Evaluation Subcommittee who develops the composite report. The subcommittee will present its composite evaluation along with the individual five evaluations to the superintendent on or before April 1 annually.
The subject areas of the superintendent’s evaluation mirror the committee’s Goals document. Graded areas include the superintendent’s: Relationship with the School Committee, Communications and Public Relations, Personnel Management, Educational Leadership, General Management, Facilities Management, Budget Management, and the superintendent’s Personal Qualities and Characteristics
Cheveralls praised Redinger for drafting the uniform evaluation form which was presented for the committee’s review. “It takes the subjectivity out of it.”
Redinger said the plan is to have the evaluation tool further revised and ready to utilize at the committee’s second meeting in March. “The goal is to do it before anyone leaves.”
DEVELOPING A COMMITTEE SELF-EVALUATION TOOL, TOO
The committee also reviewed a timeline for providing a uniform annual self-reflective report via a written evaluation of the Harvard School Committee – by the Harvard School Committee. Unlike the superintendent’s open evaluation, it’ s been suggested in the draft report that the school committee members’ self-evaluation reports be kept anonymous, with one committee member charged with collecting the evaluations and tabulating a composite “score.”
While the voters ultimately decide who wins a 3-year term for each of the committee’s five seats, the “report card” will benefit the school committee by prompting an “enlightening and non-threatening discussion” and to allow for “an honest and productive dialogue,” according to a draft report back on the evaluation tool provided to the full school committee.
On an annual basis, the committee’s annual goal and priorities would be developed from June through August. At the mid-year mark in January, there’d be a progress report on the committee’s progress towards its goals.
A School Committee Evaluation Subcommittee would be seated in March which would begin to analyze the self-evaluations filled out by the five individual sitting school committee members. The pooled findings would be shared with the full school committee in April, with an eye towards annual Town Elections and any potential change in the committee’s membership in any given year.
Connelly said the draft tool closely resembles one developed by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC). The draft document presented to the committee on Feb. 13 outlined 16 benefits, from aiding in the public’s understanding of what the school committee does, to building a team atmosphere among committee members, and including helping the committee set its goals and agenda.
“We’ve always done it informally,” said De. “But we never had a general rubric before. We’d always justified what we’ve done.” She called the idea “fabulous.”
The suggested evaluation areas include: governance, operations, member relations, committee/superintendent relations, strategic planning, community relations, fiscal management, and conduct of school committee meetings. Rather than a compiled or individual grade, the draft report suggests a more qualitative review of the committee’s effectiveness and group dynamics.
The draft document will come back before the fully school committee again in March. De pondered whether there needed to be a separately enumerated set of goals set out for the superintendent and school committee evaluations. No, suggested Connelly. “Everyone needs to be committed to the same set of goals. We’re a team. I have the responsibility to carry out your goals, but we need one set of goals.”
“OK,” said De. “I’m good with that.”