Superintendent evaluations released

MARIETTA – Some Washington County school superintendents received high marks on their recent evaluations, while others are awaiting assessment by their boards of education.

The Fort Frye and Wolf Creek Local school districts and Washington County Career Center boards completed annual evaluations of their superintendents in December.

According to the composite evaluation form filed Dec. 20, Fort Frye board members are quite happy with the performance of Superintendent Tom Gibbs, on the job since the middle of May. Gibbs either met or exceeded expectations in 21 categories (with a couple marked by two board members as “not applicable”). One board member described his tenure as the “best leadership Fort Frye has experienced in over 30 years.”

“He (possesses) the leadership abilities needed at Fort Frye,” wrote one board member in the unsigned comment section. “He follows the laws, contracts and has earned respect of being knowledgeable and fair. … I hope Mr. Gibbs will want to continue to serve at Fort Frye for many years to come.”

Gibbs is the superintendent for both the Fort Frye and Warren Local districts, with his contract at Fort Frye running through July 31. That will mark the end of a trial period of the districts sharing the services of a superintendent and treasurer, and board members plan to talk during January about whether they would like to continue the arrangement. So far, both sides have indicated they would.

Gibbs’ evaluation at Warren was also scheduled for December but it ended up being pushed back to the Jan. 14 meeting. Although he has been criticized by some community members over multiple rejected bond issue votes to build new schools, the board indicated its satisfaction with his performance last year by approving a new five-year contract.

Like Gibbs, career center Superintendent Dennis Blatt was evaluated on less than a full calendar year, having taken over the job on June 1 after 14 years as director of the secondary program.

Six of the seven board members said Blatt either met or exceeded expectations in 25 categories.

One board member described Blatt as “doing a good job, work in progress, a lot to learn in any new job,” while another said, “Dennis is doing an outstanding job. We made the right choice.”

Wolf Creek Superintendent Bob Caldwell is in his 15th year, and the board there rated him as “excellent” or “above average” in 37 categories. One board member noted Caldwell “continues to be a teacher at heart.”

Belpre City Schools Superintendent Tony Dunn’s most recent annual evaluation was not immediately available.

Meanwhile, the next written evaluation the superintendents of the Marietta City and Frontier Local districts receive from the current boards will be their first.

Marietta board President Greg Gault is serving his second term on the board and has yet to conduct a superintendent evaluation, due to the turnover for the position. He expects that to change this year, as Harry Fleming is in the first year of a three-year contract.

“I’ve been here five years now and he’s the fourth superintendent,” Gault said.

Fleming was hired in 2011 as interim superintendent following the departure of Bruce Thomas after one year in the district. Thomas followed Herb Young, another interim-turned-long-term superintendent who also departed early. Young was brought in after Doug Baker left in 2008.

Gault said the board will discuss the evaluation process in the next couple of months.

Frontier Superintendent Bruce Kidder, in his fourth year with the district, said he has not received a written evaluation during that time but board members have given him feedback and direction.

“Have I had informal discussions with board presidents? Yes, I have,” Kidder said. “They know what my goals are, and they give me feedback on that.”

Board policy calls for an evaluation at least once a year, in writing.

Cheryl Ryan, deputy director of board services for the Ohio School Boards Association, said her organization recommends evaluations of superintendents and treasurers once a year, as outlined in the Ohio Revised Code. However, she noted “there’s not really a penalty” for not doing an evaluation.

“It’s just good board practice,” Ryan said.

Evaluations are then available to the public, by law.

The precise format of the evaluation is determined by individual boards. While evaluations are often recorded on a form and added to a superintendent’s personnel file, “that’s not the case 100 percent of the time,” Ryan said.

Kidder said he does not mind not receiving a written evaluation. In March 2011, the board extended Kidder’s contract through 2015, which he took as a vote of confidence. However, he noted that boards change and he’s told the current members if they are not satisfied with his performance, he will leave before that period is up.

“I gave them my word that I wouldn’t hold them to the five years,” Kidder said.

Frontier Board President Jeff Lauer said the last time he checked with Treasurer Frank Antill about needing to do an evaluation of the superintendent, he was told they were “OK.”

Antill said he thought at that time an evaluation had been performed recently, but he plans to recommend to the board and Kidder that they draw up an evaluation form soon. The process can be beneficial to the board and the superintendent, he said.