Pittsfield School Superintendent McCandless will be evaluated, too


PITTSFIELD -- Like all other educators in Massachusetts public schools, Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless is being evaluated this year under a new, more comprehensive statewide formula. For the leader of the Pittsfield schools, however, the process will be condensed to about half the normal amount of time.

"We knew this was coming, but we had an interim superintendent, and we didn't get a jump on it," said School Committee Chairwoman Katherine Yon, referring to the 2012-13 school year. "I was panicking, so I asked if we could do a six-month review."

Interim Superintendent Gordon S. Noseworthy filled in during the 2012-13 school year while the committee conducted the search that led to hiring McCandless, who began work July 1. That period also coincided with beginning of implementation of the Massachusetts Educator Evaluation System around the commonwealth.

This school year, it took time for McCandless, the former superintendent in Lee schools, to become acclimated here, Yon said, and later for the School Committee to welcome four new members following the Nov. 5 election.

And so, at its Jan. 8 meeting, the committee heard a presentation on the evaluation system and now is planning an abbreviated evaluation format for McCandless that will conclude in July.

As with the new formula for evaluating teachers and other educators, the state's model format is far more detailed than the districtwide evaluation process used here in the past. Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, said in his presentation to the committee last month that the first step should be for a few committee members to meet with the superintendent to discuss goals and ground rules for evaluating performance.

Yon said Thursday that McCandless is drafting a set of goals and methods of evaluation to be used, and she will go over them with the superintendent before they are presented to the full committee. "We have to figure this out," she said. "We are doing a modified form this year because [of the shortened time frame]."

As McCandless said recently about teacher and principal evaluations, Yon said she is concerned about the amount of time required to complete the new evaluation process. She noted that key aspects -- such as the evaluation reports -- come at busy times of the school year, when teachers and administrators are focusing on standardized testing, preparation of the next fiscal year budget and other duties.

"We are trying; it is all new to us," Yon said.

Referring to teacher evaluations, McCandless has said the new format "is well-intentioned, but there is a lot of work going into this." He also acknowledged that the constant feedback the process demands should be valuable to instructors and administrators alike.

Superintendents -- like teachers, principals and other educators -- are required under the format first set personal and professional goals with their designated evaluator, which in McCandless' case is the committee. The superintendent would then assemble evidence of progress toward those goals and prepare the two reports for review by the committee.

Committee members are expected to gather their own evidence of progress or the lack of it within the school system and offer feedback to the superintendent. Comments from the public also will be sought.

Superintendents are evaluated under four standards in the state model, including Instructional Leadership, Management and Operations, Family and Community Engagement, and Professional Culture.

From four to six elements of his or her performance to be considered are listed under each standard, such as Commitment to High Standards, Cultural Proficiency, Communications, Continuous Listening, Shared Vision, and Managing Conflict -- all of those listed under the Professional Culture standard.

In the end, the superintendent's performance will come down to a rating of Exemplary, Proficient, Needs Improvement, or Unsatisfactory for each general standard, as well as for the overall rating.

The state model, available at www.doe.mass.edu/edeval/model, also offers descriptions of what type of performance should result in each ranking under each standard. Under the Community and Business Engagement element, Exemplary would include, "Establishes strategic partnerships with community organizations, community organizations and businesses that improve district effectiveness."

An Unsatisfactory rating could include, "Limits work to the immediate context of the schools. Does not make efforts to reach out to community organizations."

To reach Jim Therrien:jtherrien@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6247


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