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Superintendent earns satisfactory review from school board members

When it comes to his job description and how he's performing, there's no guesswork for McDuffie County School Superintendent Mark Petersen. Dr. Petersen underwent his annual evaluation at the end of September with good results.

"Using the Georgia School Boards Association Superintendent Evaluation Instrument, the McDuffie County District-Wide Balanced Scorecard 2007-08 and the McDuffie County Action Plan, Dr. Mark Petersen received a satisfactory annual evaluation," said Georgia Hobbs, the vice-chair of the McDuffie County Board of Education.

The instruments used to evaluate Dr. Petersen are compiled into a check-list that is approximately 70 pages long. McDuffie's evaluation is used as an example for other school systems to follow on the Georgia School Board Association website, and McDuffie BOE members and Dr. Petersen are invited to present their evaluation at regional training sessions.

According to Tony Arasi, the director of professional development for GSBA, Georgia law requires school boards to evaluate their superintendents annually, but gives them no standards to do so. In 2004, the McDuffie school board joined a GSBA pilot program of developing evaluations for superintendents.

"McDuffie was one of the first to come up with a different way to evaluate superintendents," Mr. Arasi said in a telephone interview. "Now it takes a lot of work on the board and superintendent on the front end to agree on all the stuff, and McDuffie has done a great job. ... Your superintendent and board ought to be applauded and they are leading the way. They really are."

The standard instrument by the GSBA for superintendent evaluations involves a list of six tasks with less than 10 dimensions for each task. Each dimension has a rating of one through five, with one being unsatisfactory and five being excellent.

Mr. Arasi said the standard instrument works, but it isn't specific. He said if a board member is in a bad mood, they could decide to circle the ones because there is no criteria.

The new instruments used by McDuffie County involve a list of goals that were agreed upon at the beginning of the year, a list of expectations on how the superintendent should meet those goals, and uses data as evidence to measure progress.

"So it's hard to disagree on whether somebody did what they were supposed to or not," Mr. Arasi said.

The first on the McDuffie County list of goals is "to improve academic achievement as reported by the state and other standardized test results." There are 23 objectives listed to reach that goal. Each objective has a time frame, strategies, a means of measuring, a target percentage and resources.

The first objective, that "all schools make Annual Yearly Progress," fell short by one this past year. But the school board members are looking at the over all picture.

"Thomson High was just one of six schools not making AYP," Mrs. Hobbs said. "The point there is we have had tremendous progress, but the state keeps raising the bar. We are already in the 90's and the graduation rate has really soared."

In addition to academics, the evaluation addresses safety, facility maintenance, community collaboration and personnel.

"It is an awesome task when you put all these things together in one place, and it took us several attempts to finish," Mrs. Hobbs said.

Web posted on Thursday, October 11, 2007

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