How the super stacks up: Bodie evaluation draws more highs than lows

Kathleen Bodie

Five members of the current School Committee who evaluated Superintendent Kathleen Bodie rated her highest on reaching out to various groups in town and in putting curriculum into effect. Completion of annual objectives drew the lowest scores.

"The results in this area point to a very real communication problem around informing all committee members about progress in the area of district accountability," a memo by committee Chair Joseph Curro says.

The April 25 memo, read to the School Committee two days later, makes these points about Dr. Bodie's performance:

— Scored highest in the area of educational and professional leadership, with a mean rating of 3.6, a median of 4.2, and a range of 1.5 to 4.2 (on a scale of 1 to 5). 

— On annual objectives, members awarded a mean rating of 2.9, a median of 3.0, and a range of 1.5 to 4.0.

"As is often the case," the memo says, "the evaluation instrument tells us as much about our own committee as it does about the superintendent."

Overall, one member said she is meeting expectations, two said she is exceeding them, one said she needs to improve and one rated Bodie's performance as unsatisfactory.

The memo does not say who offered the last rating, but, according to scores on all questions, Joseph Curran gave the lowest, averaging 1.8 on all categories.

Cindy Starks also provided lower ratings, but hers averaged a full point high, at 2.8.

Curro's scores averaged 3.5.

The highest scores came from members Jeff Thielman and Leba Heigham, at an average of 4.0 each.

The memo said the responses indicated ongoing communications gaps between individual School Committee members and the superintendent. "Efforts to address these problems should be a special area of concentration over the coming year," the memo says. 

Issues surrounding communication were among negative rating in September 2007, when the evaluation of then-Superintendent Nate Levenson was made public. Levenson resigned in August 2008 a year after firing two Ottoson employees. In Febbruary, the case spurred a lawsuit in federal court.

Bodie served as interim superintendent from August 2008 until March, when the School Committee declined to choose three candidates for the full-time position and Bodie withdrew her candidacy in Swampscott and took the job, which pays $160,000 a year.

Full text of the April 25 memo:

To: Dr. Kathleen Bodie and Members of the Arlington School Committee 

From: Joseph A. Curro, Jr., Chair, Arlington School Committee 

Subject: Executive Summary of Superintendent Evaluation 

Please find attached the numeric superintendent evaluation ratings compiled by immediate past chairman Mr. Curran in accordance with File CBI - Evaluation of the Superintendent, which can be found in the policy manual of the Arlington School Committee. 

Many thanks to Mr. Curran for recording all ratings and computing their mean values (rounded to the nearest tenth of one point) within and across categories and members. The evaluation was completed by all continuing members of the 2009/2010 

School Committee: Mr. Curran, Mr. Curro, Ms. Heigham, Ms. Starks, and Mr. Thielman. 

On average, Dr. Bodie was rated highest in the area of educational and professional leadership, with a mean rating of 3.6, a median of 4.2, and a range of 1.5 to 4.2. 

Within this category, she was rated highest around making a concerted effort to reach out to all cultural, racial and linguistic groups (albeit with two members feeling they had insufficient information to evaluate this) and assessing, designing, recommending and implementing curriculum consistent with the mission and priorities of the Arlington Public Schools. A competency flagged as needing improvement was communicating effectively with staff members, the School 

Committee, and the public; some members stressed the need for proactive public communication, while others specifically highlighted Town Meeting as a forum requiring improved communication from the Superintendent. 

The overall area where members -- on average --ranked Dr. Bodie the lowest was around the completion of annual objectives; members awarded a mean rating of 2.9, a median of 3.0, and a range of 1.5 to 4.0. Given the widely varying comments of members regarding the level and specificity of achievements (including one case of a member lacking sufficient information), the results in this area point to a very real communication problem around informing all Committee members about progress in the area of district accountability. 

In addition to the above, selected competencies where the Superintendent was ranked highest included: communication with school building committees and staying informed on progress of building projects (with one member lacking sufficient information); maintaining a professional working relationship with the School Committee; interpreting, supporting and executing the intent of all School Committee policies, and goals and objectives of the Strategic Plan, and providing recommendations as requested (with one member abstention); and clearly defining roles and responsibilities of Central Office employees and other administrators. 

Competencies flagged as needing improvement included: offering professional advice to the School Committee on items requiring School Committee action, with appropriate recommendations based on thorough study and analysis; promoting partnerships among parents, businesses and other community agencies; responding effectively to identified problems of all groups and individuals; and overseeing the development and execution of procedures to assure the safe and orderly maintenance of all facilities. 

As is often the case, the evaluation instrument tells us as much about our own committee as it does about the Superintendent. Overall and on average, one responding member felt that Dr. Bodie is meeting expectations; two felt she is exceeding expectations; one felt she needs improvement; and one member rated the Superintendent's performance as unsatisfactory. Verbatim responses ran a similar gamut, indicating ongoing problems with asymmetric information and communications gaps between individual School Committee members and the Superintendent. Efforts to address these problems should be a special area of concentration over the coming year. 

Prior to filling out evaluations, individual members were provided with a copy of File CB.I, which includes the following admonitions: "Committee members are urged to think carefully about all aspects of the evaluation, and to provide honest, objective feedback that is free of politics or personal agendas. Committee members are also reminded that their evaluations are public documents; they should refrain from personal attacks, and strive to maintain a respectful tone befitting of civil discourse." 

At this time, Committee members and the Superintendent are reminded once again that full evaluations -- including verbatim comments -- are available to any interested member of the public through the School Committee office. Thank you to all who participated. 

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