10 Do’s & Dont’s for Evaluating Your Superintendent

by Diane Sandifer 5 Comments October 18, 2010

Additional contribution by Bill Sampson

We’ve compiled our top 10 Do’s and Don’ts for Evaluating Your Superintendent.  Here goes.

1. Do create and approve the evaluation instrument ahead of time.
Your superintendent should know BEFORE the evaluation period exactly what he/she is going to be evaluated on!

2. Do use templates to develop your evaluation instrument.
You don’t have to start from scratch when developing your Superintendent Evaluation instrument.  The first place to look for a tool for this is your state school board association.  Some states might even require that you use a certain instrument or tool.  Most do allow you to modify or customize the instrument according to your specific needs.

3.  Don’t make ‘em guess.
The superintendent should provide evidence for the reviewers to make educated and informed decisions as to whether he/she has met a specific goal.

4. Do balance positives and negatives.
Be wary of treating the superintendent evaluation as the form of a “gotcha” for past mistakes rather than as a means for future growth and as a way to improve the school system as a whole.  Instead of rating your superintendent either as “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory,” you might want to consider a choice of “improving” so credit can be given for strides even if a goal has not been totally met.

5. Do allow for anonymous feedback and comments.

Feedback helps the superintendent continue to grow.  Clear communication from the board as a whole is critical as the leadership team collaborates in implementing the plans of the system.

6. Do set aside time for review together.

A retreat setting is a good time to consider going through the superintendent’s evaluation.  It’s also very important to decide what time during the year is appropriate for this exercise.  Looking at the system’s budget cycle and evaluating the superintendent shortly before budgeting begins allows for any salary adjustments and resources needed to reach the goals to be reflected in the next year’s budget.

7. Don’t forget to hire or appoint a facilitator for reviewing the responses.

Coming together to review the work of the superintendent is important.  The individual responses need to be compiled so that the overall rating of the board for each indicator can be determined.  An outside facilitator can be helpful in this role. The evaluation process is very difficult for some board members and superintendents and a facilitator can ask the questions that must be addressed.

8. Don’t forget to create action steps as outcomes from the review process.

The school board hires a superintendent and evaluates that person.  Then what?  Creating action steps from the evaluation results is the next piece.  As the board examines the status of  completion of the system’s goals, next steps involved in “getting where you’re going” are critical. Who is to do what and by when?

9. Don’t ignore the legal implications.
What are the legal requirements for evaluating the superintendent?  Are the results public or confidential?  As an employee of the school system, the superintendent’s evaluation is completed in executive session.  In the case of a glowing evaluation, some superintendents may choose to make the results public.

10. Do it for the right reasons!
Are you doing this evaluation just to be compliant  to a requirement or state law?  For improvement.  As punishment?  If your superintendent has indeed been successful in leading the school system to follow its strategic plan, he/she should be rewarded.  Investigate what superintendents’ salaries are in systems with a comparable enrollment.  See what the average salary for a superintendent in your region is.  The hiring of a superintendent is one of the most important decisions a board of education will make.   Remember that evaluating the work and determining the appropriate compensation package is the responsibility of the school board, too.

More help and resources


Note: Bill Sampson is a former Superintendent and Consultant for the Georgia School Boards Association. Diane Sandifer served as board chair for the Harris County BOE,  is Past President of Georgia School Boards Association and was  member of the NSBA Board of Directors in 2007.  She is currently the Account Executive for eBOARDsolutions.

Do YOU have any tips or resources you’d like to share with everyone.  If so, please add your comments to this blog!

Click here to download a PDF of this blog post!

Categories: Accountability, eBOARD, Evaluations, Evaluations, Leadership, Paperless, PlanningTags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
5 Comments to “10 Do’s & Dont’s for Evaluating Your Superintendent”
  1. Lisa Dubernard asked me to comment here on your superintendents’ evaluation “dos” and “don’ts”. Not having ever been a superintendent nor had the opportunity to formally evaluate a superintendent, I am probably not the most qualified person. However, from my experience as an educator (34 years), especially in the field of educational technologies, I would recommend one addition.

    The one word that I believe describes 21st century education is “conversation.” New kinds of conversations flowing through new conduits. We are no longer limited to face-to-face or real-time conversations. Via e-mail, twitter, texting, etc. a superintendent has the ability to engage the entire learning community in conversation, and a part of this conversation is, typically, an ongoing evaluation of all concerned. As a blogger, every article that I post is evaluated and responded too — and I learn from the experience. I blog so that I can learn.

    I’m not sure how this might be entered as a tip. But I would suggest that some statement be made to facilitate and harness the ongoing conversation among the schools’ stakeholder community as a form of ongoing evaluation.

  2. avatar JD says:

    No one can serve several masters. By bringing the board together to reach agreement as to expectations of the superintendent and then evaluating her/him on the collective expectations, the superintendent has a better chance of success. Sad is the day when the superintendent attempts to respond to several ‘bosses.’

    • Absolutely agree. The evaluation instrument must be agreed upon by the superintendent and board upon prior to the period of evaluation.

      Oh, and thanks David for posting a comment!

  3. avatar Peter Pappas says:

    @eboardsolutions asked me for feedback on your post via Twitter. While I never held the position of superintendent, I did serve as assistant superintendent for five years and worked closely with two superintendents.

    I think that whenever possible the entire school organization should model what we want to see in the classroom – engagement, collaboration, innovation, critical thinking. While school boards and superintendents have a contractual relationship, your post does a good job of addressing how that relationship can meet those mandates AND inspire an entire learning organization. Items 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 8 could all serve as classroom models.

    Since evaluation is one of the highest levels of thinking, whenever possible both the BOE and superintendent should be reflecting on their process and growth. Your readers might enjoy my post “A Taxonomy of Reflection: Critical Thinking For Educational Leaders” http://bit.ly/4xdDhF It provides a framework for that process.

    BTW… As a 25 year teacher I can’t keep from pulling out my “red pen.” In #4 you mean “past” mistakes (not “post” mistakes.)

  4. #4 is changed; thank you for pointing out the typo!

    I appreciate your sharing your post and will indeed read it. As a former board of education member and chair, I do indeed have deep convictions about a board’s going through a self assessment every year. Our local board completed this exercise in a retreat setting. It was always a healthy reflection on work completed as well as a time for our visionary planning for the future. This is a best practice I encourage for all boards of education.

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