Q: I recently got a letter from TASA addressed to all superintendents in Texas outlining recent changes to the superintendent appraisal process. What does our board need to do before the evaluation can be completed?
A: TEA adopted new rules regarding administrator appraisals in July making substantial changes to the annual appraisal of school administrators. Districts must now set their superintendent evaluation process and performance criteria at the local level using a planning committee, rather than relying on a Commissioner-recommended process. Once the committee has developed an appraisal procedure, your board will need to approve the process and performance criteria before the superintendent can be evaluated.
Texas Education Code §21.354 gives two options for administrator appraisals. First is the option to use the “commissioner’s recommended appraisal process and performance criteria.” Under the former rules, TEA actually provided a recommended process for superintendent appraisals. After these rules were repealed, they were replaced with only a recommended process for principals and other campus administrators. This means that currently the Commissioner has no recommended appraisal process for superintendents. Therefore, the first option for appraisals is not available to districts for their January superintendent appraisals.
The second option under the statute is for a district to develop its own annual appraisal process and performance criteria. In order to set the superintendent appraisal process at the local level, two steps must be taken before the superintendent is evaluated: 1) the appraisal process is developed in consultation with the district and its campus-level committees, and 2) the process must be adopted by the Board. Since the new rules require board adoption of the process and criteria before evaluation, your district should consider the time needed to take these two steps in light of any changes made. Note that while many superintendents are evaluated in January, there is no hard and fast rule on this calendar. The evaluation schedule is a local decision that can be modified or shifted depending on your district’s timeline. What’s important here is that the evaluation be conducted within 15 months of the previous year’s evaluation (TEC §21.354 requires that the superintendent be evaluated every 15 months in order to be paid) and that the superintendent be provided sufficient time to complete tasks assigned should new criteria be developed by the committee.
We suggest having your district and campus-level committees meet as soon as possible to prepare a recommended appraisal process. This can be a simple recreation of last year’s Commissioner-recommended appraisal process or a totally new appraisal system. Note, however, many superintendent contracts (if using the TASA form) provide that if the evaluation instrument, format and/or procedure is to be modified by the school board and such change would require new or different performance expectations, the superintendent will be entitled to a reasonable period of time to demonstrate the expected performance before he or she is evaluated. Be sure to look for this language in your contract. Regardless, as mentioned above, if substantive changes to criteria are made, fundamental fairness and basic due process will require sufficient notice of the board’s expectations before the evaluation can occur. As this is a unique situation, and factually dependent upon the recommendation of your committees, it is advisable to talk with your school district’s attorney about timing and board agenda language.