Jan 31 2015

OPINION: Evaluation of Future School Superintendent

How should the new Superintendent be evaluated?

The District Superintendent is the Chief Executive of the District reporting to the School Board.  Any school is as good as the quality and dedication of its teachers and principals, and the Superintendent commands these resources, hiring teachers and principals, giving or denying tenure, and making assignments within the constraints set by the California Education Code. The position commands a substantial compensation package.

The hiring and management of the superintendent and the setting of education vision are the prerogative of the Board. The public has every right and responsibility to hold the School Board accountable for hiring specific public employees and producing appropriate results. It is clear that the selection of the new superintendent is the most important decision that the Board has to make: it will have a direct impact on the quality of education for years to come.

The District web site home page publishes a set of score cards under the banner “educational success and student outcomes”. The cards currently cover academic performance, finance, student community service, and student participation in extracurricular activities. We can only encourage the District to expand the set to include adult education, special education, counseling, and any other area where the District delivers services to our community.

In the private sector, it is common for enterprises to assign yearly goals to the corporate score cards and to tie these goals to the parts of the business each executive controls. For example, a Vice President of Engineering in a High Tech company may have reliability, availability, and a measure of customer satisfaction assigned to each new products. He/she typically parcels the score cards and goals to his/her direct reports, and ties their bonuses to them. It is an effective process to ensure accountability. The goals are often overambitious, and failure is viewed as an opportunity to learn and improve. These score cards and goals are public to all employees to ensure that everybody is on the same page.

It is my understanding that district and assistant superintendents are employed at will by the School Board, typically in increments of four years. Why not have the Board assign goals to the score cards so that the community, administrative staff, and teachers are clear on the Board’s impetus and can all pull in the same direction? The superintendent could then parcels these goals among its assistants, ideally all the way down to principals and heads of departments. In addition, the Board could survey School Alumni every year to give a solid basis on its continuous improvement policy. Clearly the implementation of such a system would have to stay within the law, as California public employees have a right to non-public evaluations of their performances.

The superintendent candidates’ interviews could be focused on whether such a system would work in a public education environment and what rewards compatible with the California Education Code should be considered to entice and further motivate staff and teachers.

Thank you for serving our community as Board Members,

Bernard Pech, Piedmont Resident

Editors’ Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association. 

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