Doing Your Superintendent's Performance Evaluation Right

By Doug Eadie

School boards around the country have taken very practical steps to ensure that the very precious, high-stakes -- but oh, so fragile -- working relationship with the superintendent remains close, positive, productive, and enduring.

Easily the most important step is implementing a well-designed and executed process for evaluating superintendent performance. Experience has taught me that no tool is more powerful than the regular, formal school board evaluation of superintendent performance in maintaining healthy working relationships. Unfortunately, many, if not most, school boards do a less than effective job of carrying out this responsibility.

Some boards have been known to leave superintendent evaluation to the board president, thereby abdicating their collective responsibility; others have relied on generic checklists that measure functional competence (for example, assessing how well the superintendent handles long-range financial planning), while ignoring critical leadership outcomes.

I also have encountered school boards that have gone for years without evaluating the superintendent’s performance, either because they do not recognize the importance of evaluation as a leadership tool, feel uncomfortable judging the superintendent, or just plain do not know how to evaluate performance.

This month and next, we will examine the evaluation process. In September, I will describe other steps school boards have taken to keep the relationship healthy.

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