Board Gives Superintendent Low Marks

By , September 27, 2012 11:43 am

Those paying close attention to the relationship between the Hartford Board of Education and Superintendent Kishimoto knew this was a long time coming. Initially, the BOE was hesitant to speak up; one member of the school board said that because the Superintendent is female, they had tiptoed around in an effort to be sensitive to potential gender dynamics issues.

That free pass, however, has been tossed.

The Board of Education is recommending that Dr. Kishimoto “pursue services offered for additional professional development,” to address areas in which she received low grades from the board in her annual performance evaluation.

In the area of relations with the board, she earned the unsatisfactory grade of a 1.6 out of 5. They said the training provided for new board members in 2012 was weak and inadequate attention was given to this transition.

This score was also earned because of her expectation that decisions would be rubberstamped. The evaluation states:

The continuous drive towards getting the Board to simply approve or concur with the actions of the former Board demonstrated a lack of understanding and judgment. Reminding the Board of the previous Board’s support was not a successful approach for moving forward with reform.

Specific examples of troubles ranged from keeping the BOE from reviewing appointments of principals and other senior leaders, to her unauthorized presentation to the Education Committee at the General Assembly, to her nebulous approach to special education, to specific upheavals:

In the area of stakeholders’ engagement, Dr. Kishimoto earned a 2.4. She was commended for her support of the School Governance Councils and for creating or expanding partnerships with institutions like Trinity College, University of Hartford, and the Connecticut Science Center. However, the board found that “critical constituencies” were not engaged, including that of parents, who had expressed concerns about personnel changes. The board listed public communication as another area that needs improvement:

Regarding public communication, the District has taken a piecemeal, reactive approach that has failed to align the range of activities and initiatives. In addition, there’s a lack of message consistency and measurement of impact with insufficient communications about priorities.

She earned a satisfactory grade for educational leadership, with the board saying that attention must be paid to the “unprecedented” number of departing principals.

There was criticism for placing too much emphasis on standardized tests at the expense of “excellence in instruction, culture, climate and student’s academic exploration.” According to the Board of Education, “[l]imited course offerings and narrow school themes may diminish the overall quality of education.”

Another area of concern was the “lack of significant progress measured by the redesigned neighborhood high schools.”

Dr. Kishimoto was commended for her Strategic Operating Plan and Hartford School Leader Rubric.

The highest qualitative mark she earned was in the area of strategic resource alignment: a 3.3 satisfactory grade. She was described as being able to work within and provide budgets to the schools. Still, she received criticism in this category, with the board expressing concern about the unequal distribution of resources:

The budget process systematically penalizes schools with a high percent of students in poverty, those with disabilities and those who are ELL. The Superintendent must engage with the Board to find alternative methods of funding to eliminate the negative impact on these schools.

In total, for the qualitative section of her evaluation, she earned a 25%. She fared better — 31% — in the quantitative segment of her evaluation, which is primarily data related to standardized tests. Typically, graduation rates and postsecondary enrollment are included in this, but that data was unavailable at the time her evaluation was conducted; the points that would have been assigned there were distributed to other categories.

Noting that she had some successes, the board stated that other areas needed “immediate improvement.” The board expects her to focus on:

  • Establishing a communication process with the board that ensures proactive information sharing to support effective decision-making and governance.
  • Modeling and maintaining the values of candor, openness and inclusiveness
  • Demonstrating political savvy in managing relationships with stakeholders and establishing partnerships
  • Leveraging data to gain insights and effectively evaluate the effectiveness of strategies and initiatives
  • Providing clarity on execution approaches and systems of accountability for highly visible initiatives
  • Recognizing when there is a need for change and effectively managing both the areas that need to remain stable and those that need to change
  • Maintaining and fostering a sense of urgency throughout the organization for driving achievement gains for all students

Responding to her evaluation, Kishimoto told Matt Poland, Chair of the BOE, that she would not “engage in political debate with Board Members,” to which he responded: “the Board is not interested in engaging in a ‘political debate’ that does not exist.”

The Superintendent agreed to immediately take some steps toward strengthening her communication with the Board of Education:

At Tuesday’s meeting with the Board of Education, Kishimoto was publicly informed that the “dysfunctional dynamic” would be put to a halt.

6 Responses to “Board Gives Superintendent Low Marks”

  1. Nora says:

    Re: that line: “The budget process systematically penalizes schools with a high percent of students in poverty, those with disabilities, and those who are ELL.” I’m just so excited to see those words in print, it’s a truth that has gone unstated too long.

  2. While I do not disagree with most of the piece, it is ironic that we are again pointing blame at yet another superintendent.

    Specifically, “…She fared better — 31% — in the quantitative segment of her evaluation, which is primarily data related to standardized tests. Typically, graduation rates and postsecondary enrollment are included in this, but that data was unavailable at the time her evaluation was conducted…”

    It is no secret that the schools are a mess, and are in drastic need of change. What also is no secret is that the job of superintendent seems impossible, that test scores measure arbitrary standards, and that more time is being spent acknowledging what people do not do, instead of what they accomplish.

    It is a system that requires failure, to measure success.

  3. Matt Poland says:

    With all due respect to my board colleague who suggested that the Board is concerned about gender dynamics and that we tiptoed around the issues as a result, I can assure you that that issue never was the subject of any discussions that I had with Board members. Just want to set the record straight on this point.

  4. Rich Wareing says:

    Kerri, first and foremost, thank you for focusing on specifics. Contrary to what some are suggesting, this isn’t a political food-fight. This is a serious disagreement over the effectivenss of Dr. Kishimoto’s leadership. You have brought focus to that point with respect to the subjective criteria against which she was evaluated. Second, I don’t doubt what a board member told you in confidence, but I can say that issue was never raised in any conversation to which I was a party or of which I am otherwise aware. I think the board tried to tread lightly for a long time because a majority of us were new (watch, listen, and learn b/f you speak), Dr. Kishimoto is new to the job and we wanted to give her a fair chance to get her feet under her, and because constant public bickering is no healthier a dynamic than the one I described on Tuesday night.

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