I got several quizzical looks when I suggested that school boards should pay close attention not only to the achievement of district-wide goals and targets when evaluating superintendent performance, but also to the superintendent’s “CEO-centric” targets. I was presenting a “board-savvy superintendent” workshop for superintendents and superintendent-aspirants a couple of weeks ago as part of the Midlands Superintendents’ Academy at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. We were discussing how a well-designed process for board evaluation of superintendent performance was a critical tool for keeping this extremely important but often quite fragile relationship healthy.
The operative word was “well-designed.” I explained that over the years I’ve seen a number of board-superintendent partnerships unravel even through there weren’t serious district-wide performance shortfalls. The problems causing the partnership to fray more often than not, in my experience, related to superintendent behavior having nothing to do with district-wide educational and managerial performance: for example, how the superintendent was handling communication and interaction with his board members. I saw several workshop participants nod their heads in agreement as I explained that a sure-fire way of making sure these behavioral issues are not brushed under the rug is for the superintendent to negotiate a set of “CEO-centric” targets with her board relating to such matters as board-superintendent communication and the superintendent’s help in building the board’s governing capacity.
In this informative new podcast, Superintendents Khalid Mumin (Reading, PA) and David Pennington (Ponca City, OK) discuss how they reach agreement with their boards on their CEO-centric performance targets and how their districts handle the evaluation process. Hearing Khalid describe how his evaluation is eventually published on the district’s web site every year for anyone to see got us to thinking about how evaluation of superintendent performance could serve as a powerful tool for familiarizing the community with the many facets of the superintendent’s leadership role. And, of course, being so transparent about a process traditionally protected from public scrutiny might also help to build public trust in in this era of widespread alienation from established institutions.
I’d love to hear from readers about their use of the evaluation process to strengthen the board-superintendent partnership and widen public understanding and support.