Voting ‘NO’ on the Superintendent Evaluation: it’s about the process, not the person.

The Board of Education last night 6–1 on accepting the Superintendent’s self-evaluation as his annual evaluation and provided a summary of his performance. In accordance with the ‘one voice’ policy, I am sharing the statement from the Board of Education first, and then I will share my rationale for voting ‘no’ last night.

The Board of Education relied upon the Superintendent’s monitoring reports and self-evaluation document and concluded that all baseline measures have been accomplished and measurable progress has been made towards achieving the Board’s Ends Policies. These Ends Policies serve as the point of reference to compare future performance, and the Board of Education will approve a new set of measures in the first half of the calendar year 2023. The Board of Education expects to see significant upward trends in student outcomes from Dr. Marrero and the district.

The following statement is the rationale statement behind my ‘no’ vote.

Among the most important responsibilities of this Board are hiring and evaluating the Superintendent. I voted enthusiastically to hire Dr. Marrero in June of 2021. Last night I voted “no” on his annual evaluation. I want to be absolutely clear: my vote last night reflects concerns about the Board’s process, not about the person. I supported Dr. Marrero’s candidacy; he was interviewed during the most important milestone of my life, the birth of my son, and I voted for his contract extension to ensure he has the ability to build a strategic plan and hire a district leadership team to help execute this plan.

The Superintendent deserves a more robust evaluation than what we provided last night, as do the students and employees of this District. I am hopeful this will happen as the Board will take time to set criteria for the next evaluation in the first half of the 2023 calendar year.

While performance against goals is the foundation of any evaluation, this Board cannot skip stakeholder feedback. Such qualitative information provides important, necessary context that is just as important as data narratives.

A self-evaluation drawing from data can and should be part of any evaluation. Feedback from supervisors also should be part of an evaluation. Because the Superintendent is the leader of a public school system, it is also important to include feedback from our employees and communities.

Only two of these things happened tonight.

I would share that the prior Board undertook a robust evaluation of our former Superintendent, the first Latina Superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, that incorporated all needed elements. We did this following difficult contract negotiations, a strike, a sizable central-office reorganization — and soon after COVID first began. The Board at that time engaged staff and community; we examined data. We considered her self-evaluation as one data point. The Board worked through disparate viewpoints about celebrations and areas for growth.

That prior process was far from perfect, and we should learn from what did not work well. That said, I believe the current Board has over-corrected: This Board’s use of policy governance cannot mean a less robust evaluation of the Superintendent.

Not only did the Board’s evaluative process not include inputs or feedback from our communities and employees, but it also did not include the recent state testing data, district testing data, or graduation rates to hold the Superintendent accountable. I cannot endorse a process that does not hold the Superintendent accountable to these data points according to ENDS 1.2 Teaching and Learning point number five.

Policy governance, as we are implementing it, means this Board has less influence over the day-to-day, how the Superintendent prioritizes and makes decisions, and, ultimately, what gets done with our employees and our students. I continue to have reservations about the current implementation of Policy Governance.

If nothing else, stakeholder feedback is important to ensure our Superintendent is acting with, not doing to. This is an important element of undoing white-supremacy culture in our District, which is necessary if we are to meet the spirit of the Consent Decree and the Black Excellence Resolution — and the Board’s own End statements. The Board also has a fundamental responsibility to ensure the academic outcomes our schools and our system are producing with and for students and families are central to any evaluative findings for the Superintendent.

To my Board colleagues, the Superintendent’s evaluation has heightened importance in the era of “policy governance.”

This is not a rubber-stamp exercise.

Let’s do better and be better for our students, employees, and communities because they deserve much more from this Board.

Auon’tai M. Anderson, Vice President

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The Honorable Auon’tai M. Anderson

The Honorable Auon'tai M. Anderson, is a former Denver School Board Member and CEO of the Center for Advancing Black Excellence in Education.