What's next - gold stars and smiley faces? - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

What's next - gold stars and smiley faces?

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Posted: Thursday, November 12, 2009 7:58 pm | Updated: 1:55 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Our View: Consider a public administrator who must make decisions every day that can affect the future of hundreds of people. How much confidence would you have in this administrator if you learned that person's job performance is judged by goals such as "be nice," "be happy," "be clear" and "be gentle"?

Consider a public administrator who must make decisions every day that can affect the future of hundreds of people. How much confidence would you have in this administrator if you learned that person's job performance is judged by goals such as "be nice," "be happy," "be clear" and "be gentle"?

These four items were listed on a revised evaluation form for the superintendent of the Higley Unified School District that the governing board is expected to vote on Nov. 19. A district spokeswoman told Tribune writer Hayley Ringle these items were just place-holders for goals still to be identified. But the fact that these phrases appeared in a draft formally discussed by the governing board last week provides insight into how Higley is approaching this issue.

Granted, the public views the role of school superintendent differently than, say, a city manager or a police chief, because young minds and their education are the central reason for a superintendent's existence.

But superintendents spend most of their time managing adults and adult problems. Do we really want the criteria to determine if they are succeeding or failing to boil down to Bobby McFerrin singing "Don't Worry, Be Happy"? And just how nice is a superintendent supposed to be when a teacher fails to teach or is accused of misconduct?

Part of Higley's problem could be the board is spending more time on writing an evaluation form than it probably will ever spend in actually evaluating a superintendent.

Ringle reported the Higley board originally adopted a 19-page evaluation form a year ago based on national and state performance standards. But board president Greg Land and board member Kim Anderson spent months revising the form in an attempt to simplify it and make it less "overwhelming."

Simplicity can be good for focus and common understanding. But Higley still needs concrete, quantifiable goals to fairly review the superintendent's work. "Be nice" and "Be happy" don't make the grade. 

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