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Answers to frequently asked questions about Superintendent Evaluation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When schools closed in mid-March, any thought of business-as-usual came to an abrupt halt. However, as we settle into new routines, at least for the near-term, committees are beginning to consider the ongoing work and responsibilities of the committee, including the evaluation of the superintendent.
Several reasonable options exist for handling the superintendent’s evaluation this year. In fairness, any options should be mutually discussed and agreed upon with the superintendent.
Consider working with the superintendent to adjust the timeline for the evaluation. Superintendents are focusing right now on a myriad of issues involving students and staff. This needs to be the first priority, not gathering evidence for the evaluation.
For committees that time the evaluation cycle to precede spring elections, there are a couple of factors to consider. In many communities, spring elections are being postponed, alleviating the need to meet the original timeline. Adjusting the timeline to fit the new election date might be the most practical solution. If, however, it makes the most sense to delay the evaluation until after elections, perhaps until the summer or into early fall, there is the possibility that membership of the committee could change. If this is the case, there should be a conversation about who participates in the summative evaluation. Members that have stepped off the committee can still be invited to participate in the evaluation and their input can become part of the composite. Additionally, the decision might be made that new members not contribute to the composite. MASC’s advice has consistently been that new members participating in the evaluation process only contribute from the time they step on the committee to the time of the evaluation. This would not change. Any conversations about changing the timing of the evaluation vis-à-vis the election should take place before the election so everyone is clear on the process.
Superintendents have been working on goals during the entire school year. While the focus of everyone’s work certainly changed in mid-March, progress would have been made up until that point.
Given this reality, the committee could choose to evaluate goals a bit differently. Goals could be evaluated on the progress expected up until the mid-March closures. Committees and superintendents should discuss whether the goal was on track for completion. It would be inappropriate to label a goal as “Met” if there is still work to be done once school begins again. However, the committee and superintendent could agree that a goal that was on track to be met by the end of the evaluation cycle could be labeled as “Significant Progress” and would have the same weight as “Met” in the final rating.
The standing advice from MASC has been that superintendents need not produce different pieces of evidence for the goals and for the agreed-upon standards and indicators. However, the focus of districts has changed so drastically that there may be value in reconsidering.
While it would be unfair to the superintendent to make significant changes to goals or to the standards and indicators that were agreed upon, there may be a case for including in the evaluation evidence about how the issues relating to the closures were handled. Certainly, expertise in all four of the Standards – Instructional Leadership, Management and Operations, Family and Community Engagement and Professional Culture – came into play as superintendents led, and continue to lead, districts through the school closures. Evidence of this critical and unexpected work could be included for the ratings on the Standards. However, do remember that this is an evidence-based model. So, ratings and narrative about the superintendent’s performance should be supported by evidence.
The disruption to students and staff, and to the best laid plans can’t be overstated. As committees and superintendents begin to consider goals for the next evaluation cycle, there will likely be new priorities to address. Goals that would have seemed unimaginable a year ago may be reasonable and important to include in the next evaluation cycle.
As goals are set, though, there are a few tenets to keep in mind. The vision and mission of the district does not change. While some past priorities may take a back seat for a while, the vision, mission and over-all district strategy should remain in place as a guiding document for goal setting. Conversely, while there may be a temptation to forge ahead once school begins again, remember that the number of goals must be reasonable and appropriate. Having too many increases the chances that none of them will be accomplished well. So, take time to focus on what’s important in the short term to ensure that students are being well-educated and well-served. Focusing on doing the short-term well will enable the district to return to the long-term work more quickly and with better success.