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Elia gets another year as Hillsborough schools superintendent

TAMPA — Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia is officially staying on for a 10th year as the school district's top official.

The School Board voted 4-2 Tuesday to extend Elia's contract for another year, with board members Doretha Edgecomb, Carol Kurdell, Candy Olson and Stacy White voting in favor.

“You're a professional,” said White, who is finishing up his term this fall and running for county commission. “We're fortunate to have you.”

Board members April Griffin and Susan Valdes voted against the motion; member Cindy Stuart was absent.

Elia is in charge of running the country's eighth-largest school district and earns more than $283,000 per year. She oversees 200,000 students and 30,000 employees.

Each year, board members rate her in areas that include policy, communications and curriculum planning on a 1-5 scale, with 1 “unsatisfactory” and 5 “outstanding.”

In evaluations turned in last week, board members awarded Elia 223 out of 315 points for the 2013-14 school year, rating her “above satisfactory,” 19 points higher than the “satisfactory” evaluation they gave her last year.

Kurdell, White and Olson gave Elia 4's or 5's in every category.

“I think it's important to really make sure communication from the grassroots up to the district is strengthened,” Olson said. “Sometimes, we have groups that don't feel they can be heard at the highest echelons of the district.”

Edgecomb gave mostly 4's and 5's, with the exception of 3's — or “satisfactory” — in policy and governance and human resources management.

“In some areas, she has done well,” Edgecomb said. “There's certain areas she needs to work on vigorously, and we've had an ongoing conversation about that.”

Stuart's overall evaluation of Elia fell four points from 29 last year to 25, with 2's and 3's in every category this year.

Last year, Griffin and Valdes gave Elia the lowest possible marks in every area, and Griffin called for either a change in leadership style or in leadership.

This time, Valdes gave Elia across-the-board 2's this year and a total of 20 points, the least of any board member.

Griffin gave the superintendent a 2 — or “conditional” — in four categories and a 3 in four others. She rated Elia a 1 in one category, policy and governance.

Before board members voted to extend Elia's contract, Griffin and Valdes said they want the board to discuss revamping the way it evaluates the superintendent.

“We had three board members that rated the superintendent fairly low, yet her evaluation is above satisfactory,” Griffin said. “It's a flawed tool.”

The topic came up last year, but at the time, Elia did not agree to talk about changing the evaluation process.

Prior to the vote, Griffin made a motion to postpone the decision on extending Elia's contract until all board members were present, but her motion failed 4-2. She cited a recent vote about whether the board should hire its own financial auditor, which was postponed so all board members could be there.

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Twitter: @ErinKTBO

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