TAMPA — Hillsborough schools Superintendent MaryEllen Elia has improved her performance in the last year, according to the overall “above satisfactory” evaluation by the seven school board members who oversee her.
The board awarded Elia 223 out of 315 total points for the 2013-14 school year, 19 more than the “satisfactory” evaluation board members gave her last year.
She was scored the highest in the areas of labor relations, ethics and instructional leadership. She received her lowest marks in her dealings with the school board.
Each year, board members rate Elia — who is entering her 10th year as superintendent — in areas that include leadership, policy, communications and curriculum planning on a 1-5 scale, with 1 “unsatisfactory” and 5 “outstanding.” Her contract is on the agenda for a 3 p.m. board meeting Tuesday, poised for approval by the board for another year.
Last year, two board members — April Griffin and Susan Valdes — gave Elia the lowest possible marks in every area, and Griffin called for either a change in leadership style or a change in leadership.
This time, Griffin gave the superintendent a 2 - “conditional'' in four categories and a 3 in four others. She rated Elia as a 1 in just one category, policy and governance.
Despite the higher marks Griffin gave, she was still critical of the superintendent in the evaluation, writing that communication continues to be a weakness and that the morale across the district is at an “all-time low.”
“It is this board member's observation, based on a myriad of actions, that the superintendent seems to lack a basic understanding of an elected school board member's role and responsibility to constituents,” wrote Griffin, who is running for a third term on the board this fall. “I believe this issue lies at the core of the dysfunction amonsgt the leadership team and if not resolved will continue to cause unnecessary problems that will ultimately affect students, staff and the district as a whole.”
Griffin did note in the comments section that, “The superintendent is probably one of the hardest working people I know.”
Board members Carol Kurdell, Candy Olson and Stacy White gave Elia 4's — “above satisfactory” — or 5's in every category.
“The superintendent is doing better, from my perspective, on the roles of the board members (versus) the roles of the superintendent,” White wrote. “She continues to collaborate well with me.”
Doretha 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 her comments, Edgecomb wrote that while the district has seen academic success in many areas, she continues to worry about the students who are lagging behind and the achievement gap between minority and white students.
Edgecomb also wrote that she was disappointed to see that Elia didn't mention this as a focus area in her self-evaluation.
“There have been some improvements to close the gaps and support these students for greater success,” she wrote. “However, I believe stating it in your evaluation and comments would offer additional assurance that it remains an important part of the goals and work of our district.”
Member Cindy 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. She's pleased to see the superintendent's efforts to educate the public on Florida's new education standards. Areas of frustration include communication with the board.
“The superintendent needs to find better avenues for making all seven relationships productive,” Stuart wrote.
Valdes gave Elia across-the-board 2's and a total of 20 points, the least of any board member. In her comments, she wrote that Elia has moved toward improving employee relations.
“Work closer with me to address the concerns of the Hispanic community during this school year,” Valdes wrote.
The board will meet at 3 p.m. Tuesday at district headquarters, 901 E. Kennedy Blvd.