Lenox schools chief gets solid marks on report card

Wednesday August 1, 2012

LENOX -- The superintendent of the 800-student Lenox district has received his annual report card from the town's School Committee, and it shows a mix of good to excellent grades.

Superintendent Edward W. Costa III told The Eagle he will double down on several categories as he enters the second year of his three-year contract.

Costa says he's in for the long haul, has moved his family to Lenox, and hopes that the "3s" he received in four out of five categories (on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best) will top off by next spring, when his next annual evaluation is scheduled.

The written evaluation, submitted by School Committee Vice Chairman Don W. Fitz gerald, awarded ratings of "3" (described as "good") to Costa on leadership, administration, communication and relations with School Department staff, committee members and the community.

On policy and governance, the overall rating was a "4," or excellent. Costa was lauded for knowledge of policy, regulations and mandates, and strong organizational skills to keep the district in compliance with state and federal regulations.

The superintendent also received high marks for transparency and communication in order to keep the department and the public in the loop.

On leadership, a "3" or "good" rating, the evaluation acknowledged Costa's "great efforts in re-establishing the strength and presence" of the superintendent's role, but cautioned that "your efforts to re-establish leadership could be misconstrued by those unfamiliar with your particular style."

"I'm never happy with ‘3,' I always strive for the ‘5,' " Costa said. He described the School Committee as "very conservative" because of high turnover in the superintendent's position before his arrival.

Costa is the fourth superintendent to serve in the district over the past decade.

"I think the School Committee doesn't want to jump off into something flowery, everything is perfect," he suggested. "They've given me some very tall orders, trying to have efficiencies from transportation, food services, other things, trying to maximize every dollar that we spend. There are some things, that, for whatever reason, in the past may not have clicked for Lenox that were part of those tall orders."

Costa emphasized that he loves working with the School Committee. He called the members extremely dedicated, "very diverse," and hard-working, especially during budget season.

"They come at it from different directions and angles, they make strong decisions, and that's what the electorate wants, not a rubber stamp," he added.

"A year from now, having three years under my belt, you'll see ‘4s' and ‘5s,' " Costa promised. "That's what I strive for, that's what I will be working for. But there's lots to do."

He also stressed that he wants to stay on for another contract period.

"This is long-term for me, it was a request from the board that hired me, they actually said that in my final interview. They said they were looking for someone who would stay and make a positive impact, and I want to do that."

On his punch list of steps to further strengthen his grades, Costa said that "I would want to have more achievements; efficiency is never done, there's always another step, but maximize those goals each and every year."

Costa also characterized his relations with town government, including Town Manager Gregory Federspiel, the Select Board and the Finance Committee, as "very good."

In fact, the evaluation praised Costa's effort to "establish a clearly professional relationship with town officials amd media, especially in a time of seemingly only bad press."

On communication, Fitz gerald's evaluation called the superintendent's efforts to keep the school committee in the loop "welcome and refreshing," but called for a similar level of attention to town officials, parents and staff.

The evaluation also des cribed "organization, follow-through, preparation and coordination" as excellent and urged Costa to "stay the course."


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