Superintendent scores ‘effective’ rating by board

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While some scores and goals felt COVID-19 impacts, Rome school district Superintendent Peter C. Blake for the third straight year has been rated as “effective” overall by the Board of Education in its annual performance review.

The evaluation results, signed at the end of last week by Blake and outgoing board President Stephen P. Hampe, represent the second-highest among four rating levels that include “highly effective,” “effective,” “developing,” and “ineffective.”

For Blake, superintendent since July 2016, Hampe said Tuesday “there was a strong, nearly unanimous, board consensus for the overall summary scores” covering the just-completed 2019-20 school year.

Hampe, whose final day on the nine-seat board was Tuesday after being unsuccessful in his re-election bid, said “It is not possible for a school superintendent to please absolutely everyone all of the time.” But he added “many, if not most, of the board felt that Mr. Blake has done good work, demonstrated devotion to students and the community, weathered some significant challenges, shown growth, and with a reservoir of untapped potential.   Many were clear in describing Mr. Blake as an asset to the district.”

After Blake’s first year on the job, he had been rated as “proficient” overall for the 2016-17 year under a different evaluation system than the “SuperEval” system used by the board for the past three school years.

Blake said Saturday regarding his 2019-20 evaluation that unfortunately due to the COVID-19 situation, “a lot of things we set out to accomplish did not happen.” Of his “effective” rating, he said “everyone in every industry...can get better” at their work. He added that an overall goal is to “get better every year.”

School buildings closed in mid-March because of COVID-19 concerns, and instruction continued on a remote basis for the rest of the school year.

When asked about Blake’s performance compared to prior years on the job, Hampe said “given the COVID crisis, I don’t know how this year can be compared to any others.” But Hampe also said of Blake, “I witnessed firsthand the extraordinary time and effort he, personally, put into shepherding the district through the crisis.”

Blake was rated as “effective” in all of the evaluation’s general categories including relationship with the board; community relations; staff relationships; business and finance; instructional leadership; annual goals. Among changes from the previous 2018-19 year, Blake’s community relations rating declined from “highly effective” while his annual goals rating improved from “developing.”

Hampe explained that while the board felt Blake “had expanded his skills and outreach from when he began in the position,” in 2019-20 “there were particular challenges, for example, it’s difficult to be a presence at district events when there weren’t any after the shutdown” from COVID-19. He added that for Blake, “earlier in the year, dealing with fiscal challenges, by his own admission, monopolized his time and attention, resulting in fewer visits to schools and events.”

Meanwhile, for the annual goals category which included five specific goals, Blake was rated “effective” for development of the 2020-21 district budget; development and successful passage of a capital improvement project; and for increased communication with the community through formal and informal events that promote dialogue and feedback.

But Blake received a lower “developing” rating for two goals: organization of a discipline committee along with development of a new code of conduct to be implemented for 2020-21; and to increase visibility in the district by ensuring building visitations at least once every other week.

Both of those goals were affected by COVID-19, said Hampe, including efforts to form a community-wide committee plus he added Blake could not “be in the buildings or at events if nothing is happening” there. He also observed that prior to the school closures, “there was some concern that contacts with staff and the community should be more spontaneous and not linked to specific information-sharing events.”

Hampe further noted Blake “rated himself as developing” for those two goals.

A five-year contract for Blake that was approved by the board in April 2019 “is still in full force,” said Hampe. “At his request, Mr. Blake receives 0% increases in years 1, 2, 4, and 5, and roughly a 3.5% increase in year three” that will increase his base salary from $168,000 to $174,000. Blake’s “base salary and the one increase are all significantly less than other superintendents of similarly sized districts,” Hampe commented.

The Rome school district’s total student enrollment is in the 5,800 range, according to recent presentations for the 2020-21 budget which totals $122.6 million.

Participating in Blake’s evaluation were board members who were in office through June 30 this year. Departing the board along with Hampe is John Leonard, who did not seek re-election.

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