School district turns
At the beginning of the school year, Port Charlotte Middle School’s principal went “out on a limb” after sensing concern among the school’s teachers over a new evaluation system. Using the new standards, principal Demetrius Revelas posted a self-assessment on a Web-based bulletin board that was accessible to every staff member.
“I basically sat down with a clear mind and appraised myself with the new system,” he said. “I wanted to be honest with myself, and I found that I really needed to improve in a variety of ways, particularly in the area of communicating with my teachers.”
He also posted the evaluations the superintendent had conducted on his performance over the last few years, an act that Revelas felt would have been unheard of in the past.
“I was really nervous to put it all out there,” he said. “But afterward, I was almost relieved. I felt like it opened the barrier that often exists amid leadership roles down to the classroom.”
Starting this year, for the first time, teachers and principals districtwide will be evaluated with a new system of criteria designed to increase student learning, improve the quality of teaching and leadership, and prioritize communication between teachers and administrators. Everyone, from classroom teachers to district leaders, will be affected equally.
In the past, teachers’ assessments were what Revelas refers to as “a dog and pony show,” where instructors were given an exact time, once a year, when the principal would come and observe a lesson.
“I knew what the lesson would be in advance, and they knew what they would be evaluated on,” Revelas said. “They gave it their all for the 55 minutes I was there.”
Under the new system, administrators will conduct a series of observations, the first of which will take place in the next two months and will be completely impromptu, followed by ongoing feedback and comments by both parties. Revelas said the timetable allows the opportunity for improvement before a more formal observation is conducted in January, for which teachers are alerted in advance. As part of their evaluation, teachers and administrators must assess themselves.
“The self-assessment is when all the brutal facts come out,” Revelas said. “It’s a humbling experience, but there is no shame in improvement.”
While Revelas set an example at his school, the School Board is planning to set a standard across the district.
On Tuesday, members of the Charlotte County School Board discussed a new model to assess superintendent Doug Whittaker’s performance that would mirror the appraisal given to teachers and school administrators. Board members also are creating one for themselves, a portion of which will take public input into account.
“We feel like we should set an example for what an assessment is supposed to do, which is show us how we can improve,” School Board Chairwoman Andrea Messina said.
Board members decided that this year they would conduct a self-evaluation based on a model of the Florida School Board Association, then next year they will ask the public to evaluate their performance. They have solicited outside opinion in the past, but the role was reserved for people who were more informed about school policies, like state legislators, student advisory councils and principals.
However, next year, the feedback will include “some element where the general public can give their input,” although the details still need to be addressed.