September/October 2015

Cathy Talbert, IASB associate executive director for field services and policy services, answers the question for this issue.

When f ield services directors at the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) receive calls for information on governance responsibilities, a frequent question is, “Can you assist our board with our superintendent evaluation?”

The caller may be looking for information on what is required, when the evaluation should be done, or whether we have evaluation forms available. Whatever the question on this topic, our answer begins with our belief that an effective superintendent evaluation involves a process over time, not a single form or event. We believe that the investment of time and effort in this process will yield considerable benefits to the board, the superintendent, and the district as a whole.

Beginning with the end in mind, there are several purposes for superintendent evaluation. The Illinois School Code requires a school board to evaluate its superintendent. Equally important, the IASB Foundational Principles of Effective Governance state in part that a fundamental duty of the school board arising out of its trustee role for the community is to employ, evaluate, and hold accountable the superintendent.

The success of the school district requires a strong board/superintendent working relationship. Any good relationship is built upon a high level of trust and clear communication. A thoughtfully crafted contract and job description; clear written mission, vision, goals, and other board policy; and an evaluation plan developed and agreed upon by the board and superintendent will support that trust and communication and strengthen that critical board-superintendent relationship.

In summary, a good superintendent evaluation process will provide legal compliance, accountability to the community, and a stronger board/superintendent relationship.

The first step in putting a good superintendent evaluation process in place is to make sure that both the board and the superintendent have a clear, common understanding of their respective roles and responsibilities, the purposes for superintendent evaluation, and the benefits they intend as a result of this process.

The next step is to define accountability. The IASB Foundational Principles of Effective Governance provide that the board holds the superintendent accountable for district performance and compliance with written board policy. The superintendent’s contract and job description or other district documents such as the district’s mission, vision, goals, or district or school improvement plans may further define that accountability.

The superintendent evaluation process can and should be a natural extension of the district planning process. If the district does not have current district goals, the board should consider engaging in goal-setting work in connection with the community to develop clear written expectations for the district. These district goals then provide a basis for establishing superintendent goals. These superintendent goals should be collaboratively developed and agreed upon by the board and superintendent. Once goals are established, the board and superintendent need to develop and agree upon key performance indicators or measures. In other words, how will the board know there has been compliance with board policy and progress toward goals?

Once the above steps have been completed, the board and superintendent are ready to develop an evaluation instrument. The board may be tempted to seek an evaluation instrument from another district or source, but a board that views the evaluation as part of the district planning process will recognize the need to develop an instrument based upon its own unique expectations and needs.

This article provides a brief overview of the superintendent evaluation process. For more information, please see or contact your field services director. An IASB field services director is available to work with the board/superintendent team in your district to develop or review and implement a superintendent evaluation process.