Soon before town meeting on April 30th, the Lynnfield School Committee held a meeting in the Middle School Library. At one point in the meeting, Chairwoman Dorothy Presser read an evaluation prepared by school commitee members of Superintendent Thomas W. Jefferson as he prepares to wrap up his first year in the district. Below is the full text of the committee's evaluation of Dr. Jefferson so far.
Goal Area 1: Communication
Overall Rating – Proficient
Committee members commended the Superintendent for being visible and available in the schools and the community and for representing the schools well. The Superintendent is encouraged to continue his visibility in the schools, both announced and unannounced.
Members found the newsletter articles provided by the Superintendent to be timely and informative. It has been used as a venue to advocate for the district and recognize student and staff achievement. Members believe the Superintendent has communicated well with the School Committee and has kept the committee informed on the progress toward the goals, both by presentations at meetings and through periodic updates. The Superintendent’s entry plan was thorough and included appropriate recommendations for action where required.
Members noted that the Superintendent has made progress in implementing changes to the website and on posting of homework and on-line grading, but that this goal is not yet complete. Members noted that they realized these issues involved a significant amount of work with staff to ensure a successful implementation. Members expressed confidence, however, in the Superintendent’s ability to complete the goal satisfactorily.
Goal Area 2: Review of Academic Structure and Support Mechanisms
Overall Rating – Proficient
This is a broad goal area, with individual goals that members felt varied in the degree to which progress had been made on the different components. More specific and prioritized goals would allow for better assessment on progress.
Members felt that significant work had been accomplished on the goal regarding the preschool and expressed confidence that more progress would be made in the future. The Superintendent recognized the strengths and deficiencies of the program and worked to address them. In addition, members are confident that work will continue in this area to ensure that preschool program will be well aligned with student needs.
Members agreed that the goal regarding the METCO program is not yet completed. Communication with both the Lynnfield and Boston communities continues to need improvement and support for students and families still appears lacking. At the same time, members felt the Superintendent has been following the appropriate steps on the issue and complimented his communications with METCO Inc. and other North Shore superintendents on broad issues that are shared by districts.
The broadest goal in this area was Goal 3, reviewing both the Middle School and High School structures with regard to strengthening student achievement and engagement.
Most members agreed that significant progress had been made at the Middle School level. The Superintendent was recognized for the work he did with the Middle School administration and staff to bring about these changes. More progress was seen at this level in one year than had occurred in the past. Members pointed to the changes in structure in Grades 5 & 6 that will reduce class size and increase math instructional time. The inclusion of more tutoring support earlier this year for all grade levels was also mentioned. Members look forward to continued progress in addressing remaining concerns at all grade levels.
At the same time, some concern was expressed that less was done to address the upper two grades, especially given the math and science MCAS scores at the Middle School. Class size and math instruction time should have been examined at all four grade levels. Reallocating teachers between schools was a suggestion that was made, but was not part of the Superintendent’s budget to the school committee nor was it part of the final budget.
Members also expressed concern over the lack of progress at the high school. The areas of student achievement and overall culture continue to be a concern, with no definitive changes in place for next school year at this point. While definitive changes were put in place at the middle school, changes at the high school remain only unimplemented suggestions. It is hoped that the Superintendent will work with administration and staff at the high school to instill a culture where academics once more becomes a top priority.
The Superintendent’s mantra this year was “evolution, not revolution.” Members do recognize that progress was made on several fronts this year, and that thoughtful progress can take time. All members look forward to continued focus and progress in all aspects of this goal area in the second year of the Superintendent’s tenure.
Goal 3: Curriculum and Instruction
Overall Rating: Exemplary
All members rated the Superintendent as Exemplary in this area.
Members agree that work done to align our curriculum to the Common Core Standards has been thoughtful, comprehensive and well-communicated.
Members recognize that significant work has been accomplished in the area of vertical articulation and believe that this will reap benefits for students and staff. The Superintendent identified the issue and formulated a plan to address it. In addition, the Superintendent’s effort to implement a curriculum review cycle that covered all subject areas was recognized as an initiative that has the potential to reap significant benefits for students.
Members were also complementary of the work done in the area of technology. While not yet complete, significant progress has been made and the district seems well poised to make strides in the next year. The creation of the Technology Committee was a way to make good use of resources to explore and evaluate the potential for technology in the district.
In the area of the new educator evaluation, members noted that the significant progress the Superintendent has reported puts the district ahead of schedule in implementing the new system. This demonstrates the Superintendent’s ability to work with staff on difficult issues.
Members also recognized the efforts of the Superintendent to make on-line courses more accessible to students. The Superintendent recognized deficiencies in this and courses will now be more available to students, in a cost effective manner for the district.
Overall, members were impressed with the strides made in the area of curriculum and instruction in one year. Members felt that the Superintendent’s approach has been restrained, that he has been thorough and thoughtful in his recommendations rather than leaping into new initiatives. Again, members look forward to continued progress in this goal area.
Goal 4: Budget/Financial
Overall Rating: Exemplary
Members recognized the Superintendent’s work on the budget in several areas. The budget he presented fit within the fiscal constraints of the Town, while making progress in areas of need within the district and despite the loss of Federal grant funding. The Superintendent appeared to work closely with the Special Education Director and the Finance Director to identify savings that were both fiscally responsible and educationally sound. He worked with the Middle School principal to implement an education plan that addressed instructional needs. In both the current year’s budget and next year’s budget, he has been entrepreneurial in his thinking, looking for ways to maximize available resources to benefit students.
His budget presentation and his communication with both the School Committee and the community on the budget have been thorough, professional, transparent and informative. He has articulated the vision and needs of the district well. He has established good working relationships throughout the town that have benefitted the budget process. His plan to disseminate budget information and post the information on the website is an example of his efforts to keep the community informed.
He has identified a funding source, Educatius, which will, in the future not only bring revenue to the schools, but will enhance the learning experience of our students. While the process of implementing the program has taken longer and been more complex than anticipated, the committee looks forward to its implementation next January or the following September.
Goal 5: Policy
Overall Rating: Proficient
All members rated the Superintendent as Proficient in this area.
Members agreed that policy issues had been appropriately addressed. The Superintendent worked with the administrators to review policies and recommend changes as needed and expressed confidence that the prescribed work of the Policy Subcommittee can be complete by the end of the school year. Members recognized the work the Superintendent is doing to align bussing practices with the established policy.
Members used this area of the evaluation to address areas of responsibility not covered in the specific goals as well as to make summative comments.
Regarding searches for administrative positions, one member felt that full searches should consistently take place in order to hire the best-qualified candidate. This was done for the Food Service Director and the Community Schools Director, but not for the Special Education Director when the Interim Director was appointed permanently to the position.
Members noted that the Superintendent has a thin central office staff. This means that he may be required to attend to some detail work not required of district leaders with a larger staff. In implementing new initiatives or in the day-to-day operations of the district, the Superintendent needs to take care that he is thorough in his attention to detail so that the vision and initiatives that will drive the district forward are supported with adequate attention to detail and follow-through.
Overall, members expressed confidence in the Superintendent. Members were impressed with what had been accomplished during his first year in the position. His approach of “evolution, not revolution” was appropriate for coming into the district. He has engaged the community, is approachable and a good listener. His sense of humor, humility and welcoming attitude puts people at ease. He has been energetic, and thoughtful and thorough in his entry to Lynnfield. He is entrepreneurial in his approach, looking for ways to make positive change with available resources. His depth of knowledge on relevant topics is impressive.
In conclusion, members are looking forward to Dr. Jefferson’s continued leadership in the coming year and to continuing progress on the goals for which the groundwork was laid this year.