TAMPA – Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia will keep her job.
Hillsborough’s school board voted 5-2 Tuesday night to extend Elia’s contract for another year, with “yes’ votes from members Doretha Edgecomb, Candy Olson, Cindy Stuart, Carol Kurdell and Stacy White.
Board members April Griffin and Susan Valdes gave Elia votes of no confidence, citing issues such as poor communication with the board and low employee morale.
When conducting their evaluations of Elia, the board members rated her on areas that include leadership, policy, communications and curriculum planning on a 1-5 scale, with 1 “unsatisfactory” and 5 “outstanding.”
They gave her a total of 204 out of 315 points, which falls in the “satisfactory” range.
Griffin and Valdes gave Elia 1’s in every category. In five categories, Griffin marked her rating with an asterisk to indicate she would have given the superintendent a zerio if that was an option.
Griffin kept up her criticism at Tuesdays meeting, saying communication has been a consistent problem “that has been documented by the majority of this board for years.”
“You have demonstrated a complete lack of professionalism with staff members and board members by cussing, yelling and bullying,” she said.
Valdes said some employees are afraid to talk about their concerns.
“There’s much more work to be done,” she said. “I need to see the culture of this district change.”
The five board members who voted to renew Elia’s contract rated her “satisfactory” or above.
Kurdell, Edgecomb and Olson gave Elia across-the-board 4’s and 5’s. Kurdell gave her a total of 40 points, the highest score awarded by a board member, and said some board members have behaved unprofessionally.
“I stand by my evaluation,” Kurdell said during Tuesday’s meeting. “I believe we have a great leader in MaryEllen Elia. She’s proved that over and over again. Does she have some rough spots? You bet. I don’t put comments on my evaluation because I take that up with the superintendent in private. I have been on this board a very long time. I have never been more disappointed in the behavior of the board than I am now.”
White gave Elia 4’s and 5’s, with the exception of her organizational management skills, which he rated 3, or “satisfactory.”
White and other board members said they would like to look at the way the board evaluates the superintendent.
“I believe the evaluation should be a development tool,” White said. “My biggest issue with the instrument is it doesn’t give us a chance to grade the superintendent on improvement.”
Stuart’s rating of Elia ranged from a 2 — or “conditional” — in her leadership in shaping school culture and human resource management, to a 4 — or “above satisfactory” — in instructional leadership.
Elia is the top official for the eighth-largest school district in the country and makes more than $263,000 per year. She oversees 2000,000 students and 30,000 employees.
Before the board members voted, Elia told them that she believes in continuous improvement but that “bickering and disagreements that occur don’t help to move the district forward.”
“I work really hard to make sure we focus on schools,” she said. “Student achievement and support for our employees is absolutely critical. It is up to this board and me to make this a working relationship. If that occurs, the district can only move forward.”
During the public forum at the beginning of the meeting, about a dozen community members spoke in favor of Elia, including state Board of Education member Kathleen Shanahan. She described the superintendent as a role model for the state and nation.
“She and her team have put Hillsborough in a place of leadership,” Shanahan said. “Personal, petty comments are reflected poorly in judgment. Where you could be such a difference is to be out promoting what Hillsborough has accomplished.”