TAMPA — Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia deserves either the highest or the lowest grades possible from the school board on her annual evaluation, depending on which member you ask.
The evaluations were posted on the school board website Friday afternoon. Board members rated Elia’s skills in nine areas – which include leadership, policy, communications and curriculum planning – on a 1-5 scale, with 1 “unsatisfactory” and 5 “outstanding.”
The six board members turned in their evaluations by Monday evening doled out to Elia a total of 195 points, which falls into the “above satisfactory” range.
Chairwoman April Griffin was the only board member whose evaluation has not been turned in. On Monday, Griffin declined to comment on her opinion about Elia’s performance as superintendent.
Elia’s contract was originally on the agenda for today’s 9 a.m. school board meeting, but Griffin asked that it be removed and tabled for Sept. 24.
“I had that pulled off the agenda because the public didn’t get appropriate notice,” Griffin said.
Griffin and Elia have not always seen eye to eye.
When Griffin was named chairwoman of the board in 2012, she said her goal was to change the perception that the board was a rubber stamp for the superintendent.
Board members Carol Kurdell, Doretha Edgecomb and Candy 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.
Edgecomb describes Elia as a strong instructional leader.
“She has a good grasp of where the needs are in our district in order to move our kids to a certain point of achievement,” Edgecomb said.
Edgecomb said she would encourage Elia to continue working toward stronger communication practices.
“Communication is always a challenging thing,” Edgecomb said. “It’s about finding the most appropriate way to communicate with the various stakeholders. I ask her to continuously make it a priority. We’re all held accountable and I think the superintendent understands that. It’s about getting better no matter what.”
But board member Susan Valdes gave Elia a 1 – or “unsatisfactory” – in all categories.
In nine paragraphs of comments about her evaluation of Elia, Valdes wrote to the superintendent that “you clearly do not understand your position or even who employs you.”
“You do not demonstrate a climate of tolerance, acceptance and civility,” Valdes wrote. “You do, however, in an intimidating manner, impose your authority to promote your agenda.”
Board member Stacy White gave Elia 4’s and 5’s, with the exception of her organizational management skills, which he rated 3, or “satisfactory.”
Cindy 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 said Monday that every year, she tries to discuss each board member’s evaluation of her with them individually.
“I always use the opportunity to get feedback and think of things I could do to improve,” Elia said. “I feel teachers, principals and superintendents can all get better.”