Board rates superintendent ‘proficient’ on evaluation

Published Sep 13, 2017 at 4:00pm

Rome school district Superintendent Peter C. Blake’s overall rating for his first year on the job was “proficient,” according to the Board of Education’s evaluation of his performance for the 2016-17 school year that ended June 30.

The evaluation, based on a system from the McREL corporation, involved categories including “purposeful community,” “managing change,” “focus of leadership,” and “management.”

The rating levels in the system, from lowest to highest, include “developing,” “proficient,” “accomplished,” and “distinguished.”

However, the evaluation system’s structure makes it very difficult to reach the “accomplished” or “distinguished” levels, especially for a first-year superintendent, said board President Paul Fitzpatrick. He praised Blake’s work since becoming superintendent on July 1, 2016, including restructuring the district’s central administrative staff plus the conversion to seven K-6 schools instead of six K-4 schools and one that hosted all of the district’s fifth- and sixth-graders.

“I think he’s doing a tremendous job. I think most of the board reflects the same thought,” Fitzpatrick said Saturday. In his first year not only as Rome superintendent but his first year as a superintendent overall, Blake “took the bull by the horns...from day one,” Fitzpatrick added.

Blake “completely restructured the central office” and “hired top-notch people,” commented Fitzpatrick. Among examples were revamped assistant superintendent responsibilities, plus new director positions for various branches of district operations.

For the elementary school realignment, Fitzpatrick pointed out that nearly a year ago the board was considering hiring a consultant for advice on how to proceed; there were no decisions or details at that point regarding what a realignment might consist of. But the consultant was not available at that time, and Fitzpatrick said “I look at that as a gift.” Instead, Blake later developed the realignment plan and school conversion that was carried out this past summer; Fitzpatrick said “everybody in the school district” involved with it “did a tremendous job making that work.”

The McREL process for evaluating school superintendents is “a complicated system” with an emphasis on documentation, Fitzpatrick observed. Explaining the process, he said the evaluation form that is used includes checklists for measures of accomplishment within each of the four rating levels that begin with “developing.” If an evaluator decides not to check off just one checklist item within a rating level, the rating for that category reverts to the next-lowest level, he observed.

Each of the nine board members for the 2016-17 year filled out an evaluation form on Blake, and final ratings were “arrived the most predominant responses” in the various categories, Fitzpatrick explained. The process also included Blake conducting a self-evaluation using the McREL form, with board members reviewing documentation that he provided in support of his findings, Fitzpatrick commented.

Among definitions of the evaluation categories:

• “Purposeful community” includes using assets to accomplish goals that matter to all community members.

• “Managing change” includes understanding the implications and adjusting leadership behavior accordingly.

• “Focus of leadership” includes targeting appropriate areas for school improvement efforts.

• “Management” includes having a system in place for organizing the work of the school district and prioritizing student learning and safety.

The next step after the evaluation is for the superintendent to set goals in conjunction with board members for how to improve in specific areas, said Fitzpatrick. It is geared to “show progress over time,” he remarked.

Blake said Monday of his evaluation results, “given that last year was my first” as superintendent, “being rated as proficient is an encouraging thing. Most people tend to start their careers in much smaller districts and communities, and Rome being one of the larger districts in the state presents a different set of challenges than most other districts could place.”

Blake added, “I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a great staff and a wonderful community that cares about their education, which has helped the learning curve tremendously. I look forward to continuing the efforts of leading our community in the future.”

Blake’s annual base salary through June 30, 2018 is $162,000, the same as for his first year, at his request.

His initial three-year contract is through June 30, 2019.

The McREL evaluation system is “fairly popular” among many school boards, said Fitzpatrick. Alternative systems include one used by the New York State Schools Boards Association, he observed.

The board decided over two years ago to begin using the McREL system, which it considered more comprehensive than a prior process. The previous superintendent, Jeffrey P. Simons who held the position for nine years before departing in July 2016, received a “proficient” rating in 2015 under the system’s first use by the Rome district.