One of the big responsibilities your school board has each year—and it’s required by Texas law—is to evaluate your superintendent’s performance. If you’re approaching it with trepidation or just finished it feeling unsure about anything, it might be time to rethink how your board approaches the process.
The appraisal of your superintendent isn’t a one-time annual obligation—it should be thought of as the culmination of a year-long cycle. The superintendent evaluation is a critical board governance tool. The key to success is to treat the evaluation of the superintendent as an extension of the district’s planning process. Think of it as a three-step process.
Approaching the evaluation cycle as an ongoing process ensures continuous communication between the board and superintendent that regularly revisits:
First: Assess the evaluation instrument and set goals.
Immediately after your superintendent’s annual evaluation, a new cycle begins. Your board will:
- Assess the evaluation instrument and process used in the recently completed evaluation, including any changes that might be needed.
- Hold a goal-setting session with your superintendent to discuss and articulate essential goals and expected outcomes.
- Work together to identify major priorities for the new evaluation cycle and discuss the superintendent’s role in fulfilling them.
- Develop key performance indicators to measure progress toward goals.
Second: Hold at least one formative conference
Your board must hold at least one formative conference. This is like an interim checkup. It’s an opportunity for the board and superintendent to touch base on expectations and discuss the progress toward goals.
During the formative conference:
- The superintendent will update the board on progress made toward key performance indicators developed following the goal-setting session.
- The board can see how it might assist the superintendent and administration in meeting expectations and goals.
Formative conferences are not a substitute for periodic discussions related to reporting and monitoring progress during the normal course of board meetings.
While your board is only required to hold one of these conferences, you could hold them more frequently—quarterly or even monthly. Ideally, the formative conference should be scheduled well before the summative conference. This gives the board and superintendent time to address any issues identified in these conversations.
Last: Complete the evaluation and hold a summative conference
The final steps to complete are the written component—typically an evaluation instrument of some kind—and the summative conference. The written component of your evaluation of the superintendent will inform the discussion between the board and superintendent about your board’s findings and the performance goals for the coming year. This is the summative conference that “sums up” the cycle.
If the board and superintendent have done a good job of articulating goals and expectations, and are regularly checking in on progress toward goals, the summative conference itself should bring no surprises.
That’s the broad overview. We’ve answered some common questions and pulled together resources your board can use to dig deeper in this process. Use them to ensure your superintendent evaluation is a well-planned and executed process that provides a framework for effective communication, reflection, and action.
Q. Can my school board use the same appraisal instrument it used in prior years to evaluate the superintendent?
A. Probably. Before 2016–17, the commissioner's recommended appraisal system for a superintendent evaluation had many more requirements than the current streamlined system. If school boards used an appraisal instrument based on the old commissioner rule, the instrument would have included a student performance domain as well as other appraisal criteria. A district may continue to use an appraisal instrument from prior years, as long as it includes a student performance domain and primary consideration of the information in the district’s annual performance report.
Q, Can my school board develop a new appraisal system without consulting with the district's site-based decision-making committees?
A. Yes. As long as the district’s appraisal system includes the commissioner’s general requirements for an annual evaluation of the superintendent and a student performance domain, then the district may develop a new appraisal system without consulting with site-based decision-making committees. A new appraisal system should be developed in sufficient time before implementation to provide adequate notice to the superintendent and comply with any contractual requirements.
Q. Does TASB offer a superintendent evaluation instrument as a recommendation?
A. Yes. The TASB instrument includes the legal requirement of student performance and additional items the board might want to consider. These additional items include annual goals as adopted by the board and other areas of performance responsibilities. Items in the district’s annual performance report not included in the student performance domain should be added as well.
If you have questions about the superintendent evaluation process, e-mail Bill Rutherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 512.505.2460.