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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How students perform key to chief's rating
School board selects form for McGinley's evaluation
By Diette Courrégé
The Post and Courier
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
The Charleston County School Board will base 80 percent of Superintendent Nancy McGinley's evaluation on objective criteria, the majority of which will be the district's academic performance.

The school board agreed in a 6-2 vote Monday night on the criteria it will use to grade the superintendent's performance. It's a three-part evaluation with a total of 10 categories, and 60 percent of her review will be tied directly to student performance. The criteria also will hold McGinley accountable in areas such as finance, operations, capital improvements, human resources and leadership. She will be evaluated for the first time this fall.

McGinley submitted two versions of a document that could be used to evaluate her, and the board chose the one that used more objective criteria. McGinley said she prefers an objective evaluation and was absolutely prepared to be held accountable for the district's progress. The bottom line is student performance, and her job is to lead annual improvement in that area, she said. The criteria used in her review is consistent with what will be used in principal evaluations, she said.

Board members David Engelman and Arthur Ravenel Jr. voted against the evaluation form, and board Vice Chairwoman Nancy Cook abstained.

Engelman said he voted against the form because the two most important factors to show the superintendent and district's performance were the district's SAT scores and graduation rate. He'd prefer to see her review based solely on those indicators, he said. Graduation rates are a component of the way high schools are rated on state report cards, and SAT scores aren't accounted for in the evaluation form.

Ravenel said he voted against the evaluation form because the only way he saw fit to judge the superintendent and district was by the absolute and improvement ratings given by the state on report cards. Those criteria made up a portion of the review, rather than the entirety as Ravenel would prefer.

Cook abstained from voting because she said while the criteria were getting more objective every year, the board didn't go far enough in clearly articulating its expectations for the superintendent. Cook said the board should be more detailed about the targets it wanted the superintendent to meet. For example, it should go as far as to define the number of unsatisfactory- and excellent-rated schools that would be acceptable or specify how much the achievement gap would be closed, she said.

At least one person questioned the board's decision to hold the discussion of the evaluation form in executive session. Jon Butzon, chairman of the Charleston Education Network, said there was no reason for that conversation to be in private and that it should have been public for reasons of transparency and public confidence.

School board Chairman Hillery Douglas said the discussion probably could've been held in open session. The board wasn't intentionally discussing it in closed session to keep folks from knowing what the board was doing, he said. It's been the board's practice to talk about this issue privately, although that doesn't make it right, he said. In the future, he said he'll pay closer attention to items such as this being talked about in public.

Reach Diette Courrégé at 937-5546 or dcourrege@post

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