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Melrose officials evaluate superintendent
By Jessica Sacco / firstname.lastname@example.org
August 02. 2014 10:33PM
Superintendent Cyndy Taymore was put under the microscope last week during her annual evaluation.
School Committee members voiced their opinions, accolades and criticism of Taymore’s performance during the past year during a meeting on July 22.
The committee assessed the superintendent on different aspects of instructional leadership, management and operations, family and community engagement, and professional culture. They marked Taymore with exemplary, proficient, needs improvement or unsatisfactory ratings.
By the end of the night, Taymore received mostly scores of proficient or higher by the majority of members, in all categories.
Mayor Rob Dolan said Taymore sets high standards for herself and her staff and maintains a work ethic and commitment to the schools that is beyond reproach.
"I have seen considerable growth in her leadership skills, her understanding and knowledge of the budget, and her understanding of the values and culture of this community," he said "She takes ownership of all of the responsibilities of this position and accepts the successes and challenges that the district faces."
Committee Chairman Kristin Thorp said she would present an executive summary of the School Committee’s evaluations at their next meeting.
From there, Thorp expects Taymore will bring forward her goals for the upcoming year, which will be partially based off feedback from members.
This section looked at whether Taymore promoted learning and the growth of all students, and in turn, the success of staff through a shared vision and practices.
Members looked at areas surrounding instructional practice, lesson development support and educator goals.
The superintendent earned marks from unsatisfactory to exemplary, with the majority of members scoring her on the higher end of the spectrum.
Member Don Constantine, who doled out exemplary ratings for all eight areas in this category, said Taymore has established and strengthened her administrative team.
"I like how she then works with that team and leads that team, empowering them to collectively work together…and be leaders for this whole district," he said.
On the other hand, the majority of scores from committee member Carrie Kourkoumelis were unsatisfactory or needs improvement.
She pulled MCAS and SAT statistics from the elementary schools and Melrose High School, stating scores dropped from years past. Kourkoumelis said Taymore seems to reside in a realm in which poor academic outcomes are not her direct concern.
"Always, there are excuses. ‘Funds are inadequate.’ ‘Staff members are to blame’ ‘I need more time. ‘Teachers are not trained in this,’" Kourkoumelis said. "Students do not have the luxury of a several-year learning curve before they are held accountable and neither should administrators."
MANAGEMENT & OEPRATIONS
Members evaluated Taymore on her ability to develop a budget that supports the district’s vision, mission and goals while properly managing expenditures.
Taymore once again earned mainly high marks in this section.
Member Jessica Dugan gave Taymore an exemplary rank and stated she seeks alternative and creative funding sources, and is also vigilant about spending strategically and making every dollar count.
Member Chris Casatelli, who concluded this area needed improvement, said although Taymore is creative in meeting short-term needs for the district, "a better process for long-range financial planning is needed to ensure district initiatives and [state Department of Education] requirements can be adequately funded."
The School Committee looked at how effectively Taymore collaborated with families and community stakeholders to support student learning and development.
Members principally scored Taymore in the needs improvement/proficient categories.
Thorp, one of three who marked "proficient," wrote on her evaluation that this is an area of continuous work, but there is clear forward progress.
Member Margaret Driscoll, who gave the superintendent a needs improvement rank, said Taymore speaks often and thoroughly about engaging families.
"As her administrative team comes together in a more cohesive way, she will need to set for them high, clear and consistent expectations around understanding and valuing students with combined and diverse cultural, socioeconomic, social/emotional and academic profiles, and to hold administrators accountable for meeting those expectations," Driscoll added.
Taymore said this is an area of admitted weakness within the administration and district, but is something staff is actively working to improve. There is now a clear expectation for school personnel to address calls and emails in a timely manner.
In their final category, members evaluated Taymore on her commitment to high standards (teaching and learning), communication skills and ability to engage stakeholders in a shared educational vision.
Falling in line with her previous assessments, Taymore scored predominantly in the proficient/exemplary categories.
Casatelli said Taymore has a clear vision for academic achievement, sets the bar high for all learners, and has an open mind, as she’s known to change direction if a different approach is needed.
"The superintendent is direct in her communication," Casatelli continued. "Some people may not appreciate her candor but many others find it to be refreshing and effective."
Kourkoumelis disagreed. She stated as a whole the School Committee is not kept informed of potentially controversial issues (grievances, lawsuits) and Taymore is not apologetic about her practices.
"Under this superintendent, transparency is worse than at any other time in recent memory, with claims of protecting confidentiality or lack of documentation generally offered as consolation," she said. "Lack of documentation is itself not acceptable — adequate documentation is a basic requirement of the job — and issues of confidentiality should not be used as an excuse for secrecy."
Is everyone just too addled with their frozen beverages to care about what was done last week in that crazy evaluation? This article and the one in the Evening News confirms what I thought I heard. Must watch that video, grim though it is (so much rather watch anything else).
How do parents think it is acceptable for MHS to be getting scores like what were pointed out (in low 500s where good districts are in the 600s)? Do they really think that there is time for the administrators to improve things quickly enough that their kids will do okay? Just because some kids are going to good schools means absolutely nothing. That would happen no matter where those kids attended. All that fluff by the defenders of the administration about the so-called great progress that is being made, and how great the MHS students will do if only they take the AP courses and play sports, etc., just does not cut it. Just in two years the scores have dropped, and they were pretty awful to begin with.
In most of those SC meetings the camera shows an empty chamber, or maybe one or two people sitting there. Community Engagement is just a joke with this committee. They really do not want the public involved because then those pesky facts might surface along with people who might care enough to say things they do not want to hear.
The superintendent cannot stand anyone referencing MCAS scores. We all heard that (and understand that this is just another deflection strategy, especially right before she demands another large raise!). (She especially works fast when CKK reveals uncomfortable facts, though she never minds when CKK tells good things, which she also does in a balanced way.) We get that most of the school committee is invested in this administrator because they chose her, and their pride and perpetual reelection is far more important than the education of the students, after all. So super doesn\\\'t want the MCAS to be used. But if parents are to understand correctly, the superintendent doesn\\\'t want SATs, APs or much of anything else that is made public to be used as a measurement either. Parents are supposed to take it on faith that things are on the upswing, even when the facts say something else. Thank goodness there is one committee member who tells the truth.
(have to do this in small bits because this system doesn't like more than a paragraph, just like the attention span of Melrose voters!)
It is too bad, but our students do not have a choice. Their admissions officers are going to use those lousy scores. They have to, first because that is part of how everyone gets measured when it comes to ACTUAL accountability (a world these politicians and administrators pretend doesn't exist). Furthermore, the district has earned a poor reputation overall that these admissions officers are aware of (part of their business, after all)--administrative revolving doors here the last few years, and trends in overall student achievement that are anything but positive. Oh sure, they'll see that these brilliant administrators have added AP Bio for freshman--joke! (along with a lot of other hokey courses that no admissions officer would even take seriously). (Look at the pathetic ramblings from the teacher online about the summer requirements and compare them to the professional page from, say, Lexington. Pathetic.) Just because some local yokels need to bathe in feel-good reassurances and look the other way, does not mean that responsible parents can afford to if they are concerned about the futures that their kids will possibly be cut off from because of poor overall performance by the kids (in many cases not their fault).
In looking at the pathetic stuff coming from some of the teachers, the lack of any caring by too many of them (who fail to show up for before or after school help and leave students hanging), the drivel coming from administration excusing it all (or the unconvincing fake-tough talk from a super who can't even manage basic civility or common decency), and then looking at preliminary scores coming home (along with crazy grading, some reasonable, but some just punitive and anything but helpful), we can't be anything but discouraged, despite seeing hard-working and sincere kids.
Sped costs are exploding. Why? Supposedly (if we were to believe all the boasting assertions of the administration), great things were being accomplished and SPED costs were decreasing. Not so at all. Who is being held accountable? Answer: No one. And the administrators now all got raises. So scarce dollars now have to be spent answering lawsuits from desperate SPED parents and fixing messes that could have been dealt with if only these administrators had been doing their jobs all along and being held accountable by the school committee. Not! But watch the superintendent blame everything else and take not a shred of responsibility.
Look at that disaster of a budget just in its presentation. It's a mess. Look at virtually any other district and see professional documents. Not here. Why would anyone trust in the veracity of the numbers looking at the unprofessional mess these people put out? If most of us produced this poorly in our own jobs, we wouldn't have a roof overhead, let alone six-figure salaries.
There needs to be a huge mounting of community pressure against those in the political sphere who are giving Exemplary grades to such a disgraceful overall performance by the top leaders. Anyone who gave those good scores to the administrators should be ashamed of themselves (if only they had any shame).
I blame the airheads in this city who continually vote for these school committee members, especially for Casatelli, Thorp, Driscoll, and Constantine! The saying is true, "You get the government you vote for"!
We can only hope that the citizens of this city will eventually wake up from their slumber and begin making changes to this committee at the next election.
This is a revealing thing. I wish they wouldn't schedule these important things for summer when everyone is gone. In any case, all of us should be worried. I had high hopes for this new administration two years ago. Not now. It's worse than before, which didn't seem possible. Can't believe anyone would give Exemplary or even Proficient grades for such obvious poor performance and conduct.
Their performance evaluations are a big fraud and most of them giving her a exemplary or even proficient grades in many categories only reinforces this conclusion! They don't even have the courage to be honest with themselves or the public. All you need to do is look at their written PE's and compare them to one written by Carrie Kourchoumelis and that is all you need to know what kind of dishonesty is going on here.
Well, the harsh reality of being back in Melrose and having to face this school system again has hit. It's not a nice reality, unfortunately. Our kids work hard and will do well regardless, but that doesn't mean that it will be a positive experience. There is so much that is wrong now. This administration honestly has come to make the previous one look good, which is beyond the pale because it was pretty awful. The previous guy at least knew when he was in trouble, sly and sneaky and slippery though he was. He wouldn't have dared demonstrate the brazen attitude that is now the way it is. This crew now is in our faces with their arrogance, even when they couldn't more obviously be wrong and failing. No wonder the Malden staff did the happy dance when their "top" two got hired here. We should have listened (and some did try to tell us!). What idiots we are!
Here is where to find each school committee member's individual Performance Evaluation rubric from July 22:
Decide for yourself who looked at the "evidence" and who didn't.
Reading CKK and the other member evaluations of Ms. Taymore at the city website for the July 22nd school committee packet of information is an eye-opener. CKK lays out in great detail and presents facts and information while the other members give their nebulous and vaguely worded evaluations. Quite a contrast!
Why doesn't the committee wait until the latest MCAS exam results are available soon before giving the superintendent any raise? Because of they did, she probably would not get a rise based upon these results. Folks - we have a bunch of cowards who refuse to admit they made a mistake hiring her and of course the biggest coward of all is our Mayor! But then again, why should this be a surprise to any of us!
Good points, but even the results already in should have been sufficient to shut down any enthusiasm, let alone the gushing praise, for this administration.
Ask around and find out from other parents just how really bad things are (no, not those elementary mommies who think they know everything but actually have no clue; these head-bobbing idiots actually believe the fairy tales of mind-numbing crap that the administration puts out, in poor English no less!). Ask a parent of say, a junior, or sophomore, or someone who has had a few kids graduate in the last five or six years or someone with an eighth grader who is getting straight A's but whose kid has gotten zero math or science education (and don't even talk about history), hasn't read a single decent assigned book, or for that matter, a sixth grader who arrived last year not being able to do multiplication even while getting all A's. Ask around and you will find a lot of parents who never get a return phone call, email or if they do, they are treated like pariahs just for asking a simple question (respectfully). Try calling the superintendent's office and see just how much fun it is to deal with the rude women who answer the phones and treat everyone like they are the enemy or like it is such a chore to have to talk to members of the public. Ask your kid how many of their teachers used Aspen to post their homework, or how many teachers ever return their work. Look at the misspellings and grammar errors in the assignments the teachers give out, or read the bilge the administration puts out (either rehashed directly from the DESE with all of its errors, or reconfigured by the genius administrators who can't put a simple sentence together properly). Find out how many kids are given a poor grade but for which there is not a single parent notification. Oh sure, Exemplary and Proficient says it all.
Yes, all true. To give the MEF their due, they are the ones responsible for any (and it is actually significant) "Community Engagement," not the administration. The "administrative team" is awful by and large, just spouting and rehashing the garbage they are learning as they go, most of them rookies trying to look knowledgeable but who clearly aren't, who really have no idea what education is or should be, and who in their own spheres are generally unresponsive if not downright dismissive and rude to their own parent populations. The school committee has zero "Community Engagement" which anyone can see if they watch the broadcasts. They spend their time fulminating new "strategies" and "communication plans" which have no connection to the reality that any student or parent can see. The MEF actually gets a certain bunch of parents to attend pretty enthusiastically, though it's hard to understand how those parents can't see beyond the flimsy jargon that substitutes for actual administrative leadership. You really don't have to look very hard to understand just how miserable the district is generally. Lots of pretty pictures of playgrounds and school emblems on the website are supposed to convince us that "It's All Good," as the previous "great" (Dolan quote) administrative "leader" used to say OFTEN (and even had a cap emblazoned with that). No, not All good. Not so much at all.
And these are the same folks who will be whining about lack of funds and passing out fliers to get us to support an Override. Nosirree. Plenty of funds somehow for $40,000 in administrative raises last month and now whatever these bums bless CT with on Tuesday.
I want to see a comprehensive audit of all the city's funds. I want to know how the mayor thinks he has the right to dole out all that city tax money into that educational foundation so that a bunch of unvetted and unelected politically connected mothers (some of whom are direct staffers for politicians like Clark) decide what to do with tax dollars that should have just gone directly to the school budget. I want to know how the Aldermen think it was okay to do approve that or how they could have even taken seriously the budget document submitted by this incompetent school administration.
Hey Conn, where were your great convictions and scrutiny on that vote? Or ClarkCloneLemming or Forbes2, for that matter? Don't even bother to ask about FreeFoodGICMorty or CrocodileTearsGICMM or snoozing GICJT or tsktsking RB or FrankWrong. Not one on that board demonstrated a single bit of oversight or political courage when it came to the bottom line.
And where did any of them scrutinize all these summer promotions/salary increases that seem to happen as off-the-radar as possible every year under King26%Robbie?
Maybe they'll try to slide through another 26% raise for the King before summer is out, too.
Never mind the supply list, the High School kids have no idea who their teachers are, and none of their teachers posts a supply list. They won't get their list until they show up for class, and then families will spend the first two weeks of school scrambling to get stuff, making multiple trips to Staples, long after the sales are over, and most of the stuff is sold out. Even though they obviously have already assigned classes, it's too much work to post the information on ASPEN.
Oh, and no more parent/teacher conferences! Apparently two evenings a year was too much for our teaching staff. If you want to talk to your child's teachers, you will have to take 6 afternoons off of work to see them in the afternoon, at their convenience, since they all offer different days, times and weeks for their "office hours".
And no more Connect-Ed calls about important academic matters and deadlines, no more guidance blog, and good luck finding the info on the school calendar.
They still have the guidance blog....not sure what you mean by Connect-ed.