When Higley Unified School District governing board members evaluate Superintendent Denise Birdwell, they will likely have a new evaluation tool to use after members discussed a revised version last week.
However, the revised version has caused some turmoil within the board.
Board member Venessa Whitener and former board member Nancy Eugenis spent several months last year working on a 19-page evaluation document to evaluate former Superintendent Joyce Lutrey, who left the district in December.
The board approved the new evaluation tool in November 2008, which was based on standards established by the American Association of School Administrators and the National School Boards Association and adapted to align with Arizona’s Professional Administrative Standards.
However, board president Greg Land and board member Kim Anderson thought the current document was too “overwhelming.”
Unbeknown to the other board members, they met a couple of months ago and put together a revised evaluation that combines the performance standards Birdwell will be evaluated on.
The other board members first learned of the revised evaluation at a board meeting last month and then discussed the possible new evaluation at a study session last Thursday.
Anderson said she went through the evaluation “thoroughly and tried to take out redundancy.” The nine standards were pared down and combined into five standards, and an old number rating system that was taken out last year was put back in.
“It didn’t need to be so cumbersome,” Anderson said.
The revised performance standards include: leadership and district culture, organizational management, communication and community relations, curriculum planning and instructional leadership, and human resources management.
After each standard, the board member can rate the superintendent from zero to five, with zero as “unacceptable” and five as “excellent.” There is also room for comments after each standard.
The draft of the revised evaluation also includes four goal statements the superintendent will be judged on, including “be nice,” “be happy,” “be clear” and “be gentle.” But a district spokeswoman said those categories are just "place holders" because the board hasn't set goals yet.
Whitener said she was “concerned with the changes.”
“I’m used to the nine standards. Now, I feel like they’re all jumbled together,” Whitener said. “I thought the important things were separated. Now, it’s the exact same tool, (but the standards are) just combined.”
Most of the study session was spent going over each standard, discussing how the information will be compiled and talking about the structure of how the evaluation will be administered.
Board member Denise Standage said she wants Birdwell to come in first with her own evaluation before board members are given the task to evaluate her. This way, board members have background information on what Birdwell has done during her time as Higley superintendent.
Whitener suggested board members give Birdwell their evaluation results, and then Birdwell could come back to comment and defend herself.
However, board clerk Paul Howell, Land and Anderson want the evaluation to be completed in one meeting.
Birdwell suggested she would ask for another meeting if she thinks it’s needed to discuss the evaluation further.
Howell ended the meeting by saying this “wasn’t a perfect process,” but he’s ready to move forward.
The revised superintendent’s evaluation tool still needs to be approved, and it’s anticipated that it will be on the Nov. 19 agenda. At this time, board members will also set the date for the actual evaluation, said board secretary Peggy Carpenter.
According to Higley policy, the superintendent is evaluated in November. However, because of talk of a revised evaluation, it’s likely it will be done this year in December.
In March, the superintendent makes an interim progress report to the board. The deadline to notify the superintendent of nonrenewal of the contract is March 15. The superintendent contract negotiations are completed in May.
The governing board decided in February to keep Birdwell in the top post through the 2009-10 school year.