FIRST ON 3: School Board Evaluates Supt. Rick Smith's performance
(WRCB) -- If Superintendent Rick Smith got a report card from his evaluators, the signed comment might read, "meets or exceeds our expectations."
In February, after working with the new head of schools for only seven months, Hamilton County School Board members were asked to rate Smith from 1-5 in fifty different categories (a "1" means "significantly below expectations, while a "5" is "significantly above expectations").
All nine Board members responded, some of whom merely checked the numbers by each statement, while others offered comments. On average, Smith rated a 3.67, placing between "meets expectations" and "exceeds expectations."
Board members Rhonda Thurman, Joe Galloway and David Testerman, all of whom supported Smith as a candidate to replace Dr. Jim Scales last year, gave Smith the highest marks.
Three other Board members, chairman Mike Evatt, Linda Mosley, and Everett Fairchild, were generally favorable, rating Smith average to high in most categories (Fairchild officially resigned from the Board Thursday, citing health reasons).
Chip Baker and George Ricks, who were initially opposed to Smith's hiring in 2011, gave him average marks in almost every category. Baker lauded Smith for "handling the Skillern issue well," referring to an incident last month when Smith fielded criticism from Hamilton County Commissioner Fred Skillern, a longtime ally. But Baker was critical of Smith's decision to shut out media representatives from a February 16 meeting between Board members, Smith and Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman.
The remaining Board member, District 5 representative Jeffrey Wilson, gave Smith mostly low marks, and listed several detailed complaints. Among Wilson's comments: "Mr. Smith has not made sufficient effort to keep the Board informed of controversial issues within the district." Wilson also wrote that Smith has failed to hold any strategic planning sessions or meetings with the Board. He cited the example of the upcoming STEM school (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), about which, according to Wilson, numerous meetings with community and business leaders were held by Smith, without the knowledge of the Board.
However, Wilson concluded that while Smith has some areas to improve in, such as "areas involving communication with the elected School Board," he finished on a positive note, saying Smith "has the adequate drive and zeal to become an effective superintendent."
Smith drew his highest marks (4.0 or higher) in categories rating his ethics, energy, and "devoting time effectively to the job."
His lowest marks came in areas such as "developing plans," seeking staff and public opinions, and then reporting his findings to the Board," "keeping the Board and community informed of plans," and inspiring others to achieve the vision of the school system."
Overall, the marks were higher for Smith than for his predecessor, Dr. Scales, who had fallen out of favor with most Board members in recent years, usually failing to garner more than an "average" overall score. Dr. Scales' contract was bought out by the Board with one year remaining in June 2011.
The two school leaders have one thing in common, according to the evaluations. Dr. Scales consistently received high ratings in the category, "dresses professionally." Smith also got high marks for his attire, inspiring Chip Baker to write, "snappy dresser!"