Three parents upset that principal evaluations they completed this spring would not be used as part of a principal's annual evaluation spoke out at last week's District 97 board meeting.
"Why on earth should we take the time to do these evaluations?" asked Diane Fascione, a PTO officer at Holmes Elementary School. "We have plenty of opportunities to speak or write to the principal. We assumed that the principal's superiors?#34;the superintendent and the board?#34;would take the evaluations seriously. We thought our experiences and opinions would be respected."
The evaluations?#34;of teachers and principals?#34;sent out by the district are intended only as feedback for educators, and are not reviewed by the superintendent and board, Supt. John Fagan said. Agreements with principals and teachers don't allow the district to use the information for anything other than feedback for teachers and principals, he said.
At a previous board meeting, some board members also pushed for access to the surveys.
New District 97 principals' contracts will require annual surveys to be considered part of a building administrator's performance review, and will be public documents. Board members hope the surveys?#34;to be developed next year?#34;will be the answer to parents' calls for an anonymous means of communicating concerns and a way for the board to hear a broad range of voices, President Carolyn Newberry Schwartz said.
"It will also help us get the perspective of a group that's not widely shared," Newberry Schwartz said. "It's important to be able to point to that."
Tangible, countable results from a survey would bolster the board's ability to get at the truth of a situation, Newberry Schwartz said, instead of one side or another being mischaracterized.
"My hope is that it will give us a better picture."
The board has received and will receive this year information from principal evaluations completed by teachers. The district's "oral contract" with principals won't allow parent information to be shared.
The contracts, adopted in March, require a principal to have a plan to address student performance in general, African-American student performance, and to "lead the school in establishing a climate that promotes a high level of staff, student and family satisfaction."
A plan is to be in place by Oct. 1 each year that will include "empirical measures" to measure progress. Principals will report on progress by April 1 each year. Not meeting the three goals of the contract is one of the means by which the district can terminate a principal's contract.
Many parents spoken with for this article were not aware of the new contract's survey provisions, but said it represented a positive step toward accountability.
But Emily Collins, parent co-chair of the Holmes Leadership Team, asked, "Why hasn't that been happening already?"
"That's just what our agreement was," Fagan said, pointing to the idea of "360," or employee feedback coming not just from superiors but from colleagues and subordinates.
Given the feedback from the surveys, principals are supposed to adjust their job performance accordingly, Fagan said.