The Conduct of a Superintendent’s Evaluation

Type: Article
Topics: Board Relations, School Administrator Magazine

December 01, 2016

Board-Savvy Superintendent

While the typical school board performs an annual evaluation of its superintendent, the formality and structure of the process varies considerably nationwide. In some states, the process is required by state statute. In others, although the process is encouraged, it is left to the local school board’s discretion to decide when or if an evaluation will be performed.

The process of evaluation, the type of instrument used and the system for validating performance criteria are all important. However, a crucial aspect of any evaluation process is how the evaluation results will be shared with the employee.

This is particularly critical in the superintendent evaluation process when the school board’s evaluation results must be shared with the superintendent, especially if the evaluation has identified areas in need of performance improvement.

Proactive Steps

The type of performance evaluation instrument invariably will affect the process a board uses to share evaluation results with the superintendent.

A predominantly objective evaluation instrument affords fewer opportunities for private interpretation because it is guided by tangible data. The latter is important for two reasons.

First, school board member evaluations are less likely to contain huge disparities in their assessment of performance from one member to the next when using objective data, and second, because the assessment follows objective criteria, the superintendent can reasonably predict his or her performance results before ever receiving the formal evaluation results from the board. Consequently, sharing the objective assessment results is much easier and offers fewer potential surprises than when sharing those from a more subjective tool.

Savvy superintendents always should be proactive about their evaluation, realizing the school board often relies upon their expertise in the overall evaluation process. Additionally, superintendents understand that board members often are operating well outside of their comfort zones when conducting the superintendent’s evaluation and that it can be unnerving for them to deliver an assessment in performance areas and against criteria with which they are not all that familiar.

Consequently, putting board members at ease throughout the process is critical, from the timely delivery of the data for the board to consider in its deliberations to the actual performance review. It is important to ensure board members are comfortable with the process being followed, that they understand the evaluation instrument and that the data provided for consideration are clear.

A Deliberate Review

The timing for the annual evaluation should come at a point when the board and superintendent can each allocate sufficient attention to the process. This means the evaluation process should be a deliberate exercise involving the entire school board and not hurriedly completed to meet an obligatory policy, statute or contractual requirement.

After the board has finalized its evaluation, the board president should present the results to the superintendent for his or her private review, with a follow-up meeting scheduled within a few days with the entire board to collectively review the evaluation with the superintendent, provide clarification and answer any questions the superintendent may have.

The ultimate goal of a formative evaluation process and the formal review is for the superintendent’s personal/professional growth and improvement. With that goal in mind, the proactive superintendent always is prepared to offer suggestions for professional improvement and personal growth in response to the board’s evaluation, as well as to ask questions to ensure the evaluation results and expectations are completely understood.

Lastly, a question arises, “Should the superintendent’s evaluation be shared with the public?” Although the evaluation instrument and process can and should be shared, the completed evaluation should be treated as a confidential record. Nonetheless, a board generally can share that the superintendent satisfactorily met or failed to meet the evaluation criteria. However, the board never should share publicly specific evaluation results unless state statute dictates otherwise.

Michael Adamson is director of board services for the Indiana School Boards Association in Indianapolis, Ind.


Michael T. Adamson, director of board services, Indiana School Boards Association