An administrator admitted today that performance evaluations dating back to 2015, all posted to the district’s website, contained formatting errors that mischaracterized the board’s assessment of Superintendent Sybil Knight-Burney.
Every fall, school board directors evaluate Knight-Burney’s job performance for the past school year. They use a form outlining nine performance standards – including professional leadership, communication, resource management and teamwork — and grade Knight-Burney as exemplary, proficient, needs improvement or unsatisfactory on each one.
Board members each complete their own, individual evaluation for the superintendent. But the district has posted a single evaluation on its website each year since 2016.
The PDF documents had shaded boxes next to the “exemplary” grade on all nine performance categories, and appeared to reflect the consensus of the nine-member board.
But board Secretary Carol Kaufman said today that the documents were never intended to indicate a general ranking for the superintendent. Rather, they were meant to be uploaded as blank template forms to share the board’s ranking methodology, which has been the same for all three years.
The boxes indicating “exemplary” ratings were shaded as the result of a formatting error, Kaufman said.
“They should not look like that at all,” Kaufman said. “That was not the intention. It’s just supposed to be a template so people know what the objectives are.”
However, the “exemplary” evaluations have already been cited in news reports and in social media groups as the board’s official, uniformly favorable evaluation of the superintendent.
Kaufman acknowledged the confusion that the forms could have created. She could not say if the erroneous documents had been viewed by state officials, job seekers or other parties monitoring the district.
An evaluation for the 2017-18 school year, indicating exemplary grades on all nine categories, was uploaded to the district website on Tuesday morning and replaced with a blank form by Wednesday. Kaufman said she switched the documents once another district official brought the error to her attention.
When she learned from a reporter that the 2015-16 and 2016-17 evaluations contained similar errors, she said she would replace them with unmarked forms.
Board Solicitor Samuel Cooper is responsible for providing the evaluation form and giving Kaufman permission to upload them, she said.
He did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
At a board meeting on Monday, Cooper delivered an oral report of Knight-Burney’s 2017-18 evaluation. Three board members rated the superintendent’s overall performance as exemplary, two as proficient, one as needs improvement and two as unsatisfactory.
Kaufman said her record of the vote differed from the tally published by news outlets, including TheBurg: her notes indicate that Knight-Burney got two “needs improvement” grades and one “unsatisfactory.”
Cooper offered similar oral reports in 2016 and 2017. Last year, Knight-Burney received four exemplary ratings, one proficient rating, and two unsatisfactory ratings, according to board meeting minutes. Two board members did not submit evaluations.
In 2016, the superintendent received four exemplary grades, according to meeting minutes. Two members gave her a proficient, and two members said she needed improvement. One new board member was exempt from submitting an evaluation.
The minutes from 2016 also say that the evaluation criteria “and general results” would be posted on the district’s website.
View all of the superintendent evaluations here, including the 2018-2019 review that was replaced with a blank document.