District shortens written superintendent evaluation to one sentence
DARIEN —Last year, Superintendent Dan Brenner received a two-page evaluation from the Board of Education on his performance during his first year as superintendent.
This year, Brenner’s evaluation was one sentence: “The Board of Education held the Superintendent Evaluation on June 7, 2017 and the Board determined that the Superintendent is effectively performing his responsibilities.”
According to Board of Education Chairman Michael Harman, the board shortened the review for the sake of efficiency.
“It became apparent that there was no requirement to transcribe the actual evaluation as had been done in the past,” Harman said in an email. “The summary was considered sufficient to meet the policy requirements.”
Evaluation guidelines are set by the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education but only dictate what the boards touch upon in the evaluation. The guidelines have evolved over the past several years to focus on the performance of students, which reflects upon on the performance of the superintendent.
“The biggest change is when boards evaluate the superintendent, the focus is not on what you’re doing, but how are we doing performance-wise,” said Nick Caruso, senior staff associate for field service at CABE. “That’s the big conversation we’re trying to get boards to do. The emphasis is not whether the teacher taught, but if students learned.”
The superintendent’s evaluation on June 7 occurred the day after a regularly-scheduled school board meeting and was later signed by both Brenner and Harman on June 21.
In his 2015-16 evaluation, the board praised Brenner for quickly meeting district goals following the special education scandal that shook the town’s confidence in the school system. In particular, the board praised him for his involvement in the schools, with the community and with curriculum, saying his job performance was above average.
“His personal engagement, extensive experience, and desire to make a difference have made him a very effective educational leader of the Darien Public Schools,” the evaluation read.
However, the board also suggested Brenner involve the board more in making decisions.
“Dr. Brenner has established a strong working relationship with the Board, but the challenge lies in his ability to further leverage the expertise of the Board while seeking to maintain the pace of improvements and changes that the Administration has put in place,” the board wrote. “Dr. Brenner keeps the Board involved, has improved the materials provided to the Board for their deliberation, and worked to make the Board meetings a more inclusive environment, now the challenge remaining is how to best incorporate the Board’s deliberations in the process. The Board acknowledges the tension but would challenge Dr. Brenner to seek to raise this two-way process, as the Board is a valuable resource.”
Brenner’s evaluation also encouraged him to articulate expectations for staff in a clear manner and strengthen financial management.