SHERIDAN — The Wyoming State Board of Education voted during an online meeting Thursday afternoon to approve changes to evaluation systems for school administrators — superintendents, assistant superintendents and principals — across the state. The board voted 9-1 in favor of adopting the rules after the proposed changes didn’t receive enough votes during a May meeting, mainly due to concerns about time constraints.
The rules had to be updated after a change in state law during the 2017 legislative session.
The new rules create a comprehensive performance evaluation system, which includes definitions for district and school leadership and professional standards.
Seven professional standards will comprise the core of the state-defined evaluation system: unwavering focus on maximizing the learning and growth of all students; instructional and assessment leadership; developing and supporting a learning organization; vision, mission and culture; efficient and effective management; ethics and professionalism; and communication and community engagement.
The new rules allow for flexibility among school districts to either follow the state model or propose a local model — likely one that school districts already use to evaluate administrators — that adheres to state guidelines. School districts have until Feb. 1, 2019, to notify the SBE if their evaluation models will be state-defined or defined locally. The SBE will approve the school district models by June 1, 2019. Then, beginning with the 2019-20 school year, districts will provide annual updates on their evaluation models to the SBE by Nov. 1.
Under the state system, leaders will need to be evaluated on six of the seven core standards every year and all seven standards at least every five years. The SBE discussed the five-year window, with some members expressing concern that it was too long because of turnover among administrators. However, five years is a maximum, and school districts can evaluate administrators every year if they so choose.
SBE vice chair and former Sheridan County School District 1 superintendent Sue Belish said she supported the five-year idea because boards of trustees and superintendents need flexibility. Belish voted in favor of the proposal but raised concerns about the challenges facing a school district that wants to do something different than the state plan.
With the changes approved, school districts in Sheridan County will begin discussing their options going forward.
Sheridan County School District 3 superintendent Charles Auzqui said SCSD3 will start focusing in August on whether to follow the state or propose its own system.
“I think the guidelines are broad enough that they’re going to allow districts to kind of use their own method of evaluation,” Auzqui said. “It just has to comply with what they’re asking it to comply with.”
The SBE also discussed additional training for boards of trustees to evaluate superintendents, something Auzqui mentioned as well.
“It is a professional evaluation, so my board does a great job of asking questions, [but] we’ve never been trained on evaluations,” Auzqui said. “We need to get a little support in that piece.”
Sheridan County School District 2 assistant superintendent Scott Stults said the state system is fairly similar to SCSD2’s model, which evaluates administrators every year based on 10 standards.
Stults said the administration’s initial plan is to keep its locally-run evaluation system, and the district will begin having more serious conversations this summer about which direction to head.
“It provides us an opportunity, too, to reflect on the current system we have,” Stults said. “Is it measuring what we want it to measure? Is it providing that specific feedback targeted to areas to celebrate the things that leadership is doing well, and then at the same time, provide feedback to help improve and enhance effectiveness?”
The changes shouldn’t be drastic but could subtly alter school administrators’ evaluations in the future.