Establishing Performance Goals Must Be Next
I ran for the Madison School Board because I believed the Board needed to change how it did business. The majority of voters agreed with me.
I have now been on the Board for five months, and it is fair to ask whether my election really will make a difference. Will it result in the change I called for?
I am hopeful it will.
One very positive sign is that the Board is finally doing a performance evaluation of Superintendent Art Rainwater. Supervising the Superintendent is one of the Board’s most important jobs, and a major component of good supervision is regular and meaningful performance evaluations. Meaningful performance evaluations require the Board to examine how the Superintendent’s performance compares to the Board’s priorities and expectations. Good performance evaluations should identify areas of strength, and areas of recommended improvement. No one is perfect, and it should be expected that the Board identify recommended improvements for Superintendent Rainwater.
An important part of the performance evaluation process is the need for the Board to examine its priorities and expectations for the Superintendent’s performance. What does the Board expect? Has the Board communicated its expectations to the Superintendent? How will the Board measure whether the Superintendent’s performance is meeting the Board’s expectations? These questions require the Board to look at its own performance. If the Board has not established expectations, has not communicated expectations, or has not established performance standards to measure progress towards its expectations, it is the Board who has failed in its performance.
In many ways, the Superintendent’s review is a review of the Board. It requires the Board to look internally and this can be uncomfortable. Perhaps that is why the Board has not reviewed the Superintendent since 2002.
But the fact that the Board is conducting the Superintendent’s performance evaluation now is a positive sign. The Board is engaging in discussions that need to be held. Will we come to consensus on every point in the evaluation? I am sure we will not. Will the final evaluation represent the views of all Board members? I doubt it will. But whatever the final product, I believe the Board’s discussions that have occurred because of the need to conduct the evaluation have been valuable.
After the performance evaluation process is complete, the next step for the Board is to set performance expectations or goals for Superintendent Rainwater for the next year. Setting these expectations is important because it ensures that the Superintendent and the Board are moving in the same direction, on the same priorities. This is the time the Board can ensure that its expectations are communicated to the Superintendent. And it is on these expectations the Superintendent’s performance should be measured next year.
As with the evaluation, it may be difficult for the Board to come to consensus on its expectations for the Superintendent for the upcoming year. But this can be no excuse. Each of us asked to be elected to the School Board and we must do the job we were elected to do.
Will there be real change on the Madison School Board? I hope so. Change doesn’t happen overnight. It happens one step at a time. Conducting the Superintendent’s performance evaluation will be one step in the right direction. Setting priorities and expectations for the Superintendent for the 2005-2006 school year will be another.