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School board chief gives Elia an ‘F’

Hillsborough County’s school board chairwoman has deemed schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia “unsatisfactory” in all nine categories on her annual evaluation.

In her evaluation of Elia, Chairwoman April Griffin described the superintendent’s leadership style as “oppressive, autocratic and unyielding.”

On Wednesday, Griffin was the last of the seven school board members to turn in an evaluation of the superintendent for the 2012-13 school year.

Board members rated Elia 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.

Elia’s contract is on the agenda for a 5 p.m. board meeting Tuesday. Because the majority of the board members gave her a satisfactory evaluation, her contract will automatically be extended one year unless the board votes otherwise.

Griffin gave Elia 1’s in every category. In five categories, she marked her rating with an asterisk to indicate zero was not an available option. Those categories were labor relations, human resources management, communications and community relations, policy and governance, and the values and ethics of leadership.

“My individual opinion matters in this evaluation,” Griffin said Wednesday. “I needed to be honest. Last year was a bad year for our district.”

In more than two pages of comments posted on the school board’s website Wednesday, Griffin detailed her issues with Elia’s leadership, ranging from how she handled the deaths of two special-needs students last school year to a lack of regard for low morale among school district employees.

Elia would not speak about Griffin’s specific evaluation Wednesday. But she said she values feedback from the board on her performance.

“The concept of continuous improvement is critical,” Elia said. “That’s my agenda — to work in a constructive way and continually get better.”

In January 2012, a student died one day after having a medical emergency on a bus on the way home from school. And in October, a student with Down syndrome wandered away from gym class and drowned in a pond on school property.

As a result, two aides were fired and a principal and assistant principal were demoted. Additionally, the head of the exceptional student education department left the job.

Griffin wrote that she was unhappy the board did not hear about the first death until a news conference was held.

“The way you addressed the concerns regarding the issues in ESE from parents, the community and the board was abysmal,” Griffin wrote.

Griffin, who is serving her second term on the school board, was elected in 2006.

She wrote in her comments that in her 2006-07 evaluation of Elia, she indicated that the superintendent did not effectively collaborate with the school board on divisive issues, a problem that Griffin says still lingers.

This year, the district is putting more than $1 million toward enhancing school security.

“I felt the monies the superintendent was recommending for security would have been better spent in the ESE division,” Griffin said.

Board member Susan Valdes also gave Elia 1’s in every category.

Even though two deemed Elia’s performance “unsatisfactory,” the five remaining members rated her “satisfactory” or above.

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.

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.

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Twitter: @ErinKTBO

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