ARLINGTON — The Marysville School District’s Board of Directors and superintendent met with those of the Arlington, Everett and Mount Vernon school districts on Saturday, May 11, at the Byrnes Performing Arts Center in Arlington to take a tentative new method of measuring superintendent performance out for a test drive.
Phil Gore, director of leadership and development services with the Washington State School Directors’ Association, led the school districts’ respective personnel through the six-hour training session, which included a series of simulated scenarios which tasked the boards with evaluating superintendents by applying the latest draft of WSSDA’s proposed rubric.
“I hope this can be used more as a training tool,” Marysville School Board President Chris Nation said at the outset of the exercise. “If the evaluations become inflated, though, it won’t be effective.”
“My fear is that this will become just another process, rather than an actual conversation,” said Dr. Tom Albright, legislative representative for the Marysville School Board.
Nation also suggested that a continuity of training be instituted, to help bring new school board members quickly up to speed on any such in-depth rubric.
Following the case applications, Albright noted the gulf of difference between the relative brevity of such hypothetical evaluations versus a review of an actual superintendent that board members might have worked with for years, while Nation pointed out that certain standards of professionally appropriate conduct can vary regionally between the west and east sides of Washington state.
“Rather than looking at it in terms of what we didn’t screw up, this rubric challenges us to ask ourselves what we’ve done to change our culture for the better,” Marysville School District Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland said at the May 11 joint school board meeting.
Following that meeting, Nyland explained to The Marysville Globe that the state has required new evaluation standards of teachers, principals, central offices and superintendents, but has not provided a format for evaluating central offices and superintendents, which is where WSSDA’s proposal comes in.
“Eight districts, including Marysville, are piloting an evaluation system that could be used,” Nyland said. “The superintendents have met half a dozen times on this already. I think we’re on draft seven now. Nothing is finalized. We’re still seeing how this fits with our strategic plan.”
While Nyland acknowledged that the earlier drafts were a bit daunting in their scope, he believes it’s evolving into a useful tool to foster discussions.
“This profession is becoming more professional,” Nyland said. “It’s about more than whether the superintendent and the board just get along. Everyone from teachers and principals to the school boards and superintendents are working harder to hold themselves accountable and learn what works.”