Book Reviews

Principal Peer Evaluation: Promoting Success From Within

by Libia S. Gil

Reviewed by Perry Berkowitz
Assistant Professor of Education Administration, College of Saint Rose, Albany, N.Y.

For those of us who thoroughly enjoyed Libia Gil’s article in The School Administrator titled “Principals Evaluating Peers” (October 1998), this book is a treat.

Gil has been superintendent in the Chula Vista Elementary School District since 1993. The district is set in an area between San Diego and the Mexican border and contains 37 elementary schools enrolling almost 25,000 students. Sixty percent of the population is Hispanic.

In her book, Gil shows how she uses the principles of transformational leadership in working collaboratively with principals to continuously improve their practice.

The Chula Vista system emphasizes student results. Accordingly, the phrase “site-based decision making” has been changed to “student-based decision making,” and they mean it! Principals are expected to lead and are given the tools they need. They help one another by becoming critical friends, and assistant superintendents are required to assist at the sites.

Evaluation of principals is conducted solely by the superintendent. Confidentiality is honored and thus the support system fosters high levels of trust. Judging from Gil’s depiction, the process is demanding but results in significant growth. One principal describes a painful but rewarding journey that began with placement on the superintendent’s “assistance plan” in October 1997 and led to the principal’s turnaround success about 18 months later.

The framework for peer evaluation is described carefully and includes a rich collection of documents used in Chula Vista. Principals’ performance standards focus on student learning, community and parent satisfaction, competent management and leadership. Principals are expected to be role models, exemplars of ethics and fairness, inspirational, considerate and intellectually stimulating.

(Principal Peer Evaluation: Promoting Success From Within, by Libia S. Gil, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2001, 88 pp. including index, $55.95 hardcover, $24.95 softcover. Available from Amazon.com.)