Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 3, 2013

A helping hand in marking progress

Local school administrator developed tool designed for evaluating superintendents

Mike James
The Independent

LLOYD — A Greenup school administrator and a former Ashland superintendent have developed an evaluation system for superintendents they say aligns with new, more stringent state requirements.

The process is adapted from industrial evaluation systems and draws on goal-setting and staff surveys to draw an accurate picture of superintendent performance, said Matt Baker, who is evaluation director in the Greenup County School District.

Baker, who has been working on the system as part of his doctoral studies, is collaborating with former Ashland Superintendent Phil Eason, who now is a consultant with the Kentucky Association of School Administrators.

Greenup has been using the system since 2010 and several other districts also are using it, Baker said. Still more districts have made inquiries and may implement the system.

Kentucky needs an effective superintendent evaluation process because it doesn’t have one, Baker said. State law on the subject is rudimentary, only requiring school boards evaluate the superintendent annually and make their findings public.

However, school board members for the most part don’t see their superintendent doing his or her job so it is hard for them to accurately assess performance, Baker said.

His and Eason’s system calls for administrative staffers who work with the superintendent as a matter of course to complete anonymous surveys early in the year. The surveys, typically done online, assess the superintendent’s leadership skills in the office and out in the district.

School boards talk about the surveys in closed meetings, discuss them with superintendents and use them to develop long-term goals.

The system calls for boards to publicly deliver their evaluation and the goals they have set in June.

Then the superintendent and administrators develop action plans based on the goals.

The following year, the district develops new questions for the assessment based on current goals and district needs.

The system enables the board to set direction for the district while giving the superintendent clear directions, Baker said. In other words, the system sets out goals and procedures for achieving them.

Baker and Eason based their system on research that shows successful districts are goal-oriented, their boards are involved in setting the goals, boards and superintendents have clear lines of communication, and administrators and others in the school and community are involved.

The surveys could have helped in two high-profile cases of alleged superintendent wrongdoing, in the Mason County and Dayton Independent districts, Baker said.

In those districts, now-retired superintendents are under investigation for alleged overpayments of salary and various expenses. Investigations so far by the state auditor, the Education Professional Standards Board and the Office of Educational Accountability have pointed to lack of oversight for enabling the alleged overages.

If the system had been in place in those districts, administrators aware of discrepancies could have revealed them anonymously in the surveys, Baker said.

Districts across Kentucky are under the gun to improve evaluation systems; Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday said earlier this year at the Kentucky School Boards Association’s conference that he wants new requirements and that evaluations be based on fiscal management and student achievement, among others.

Holliday has called for more top management transparency and the Kentucky Department of Education this summer will begin posting detailed superintendent pay and benefit information online at the department’s website.

MIKEā€ˆJAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.