Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Thursday, July 18, 2013
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Schools chief is evaluated

Superintendent of Schools Mark Porter this week received his first interim report card from his bosses: the Monroe County School Board.

Porter received a grade of 3.51 out of a possible top score of 5 from the board members, who also were allowed space for comments about the man they hired 11 months ago to turn the district around.

All five were posed 52 questions scored on a five-point scale, with a 1 being "not acceptable," 2 being "developing," 3 "proficient," 4 "accomplished," and 5 "distinguished."

The superintendent was also asked to complete a self-evaluation, which was similar to the forms filled out by the board, but also contained questions specific to his leadership.

Not all members answered every question, having queries of their own about some of them, and District 1 member Robin Smith-Martin didn't add comments to his form, but the results appear to be a cautious endorsement of Porter's leadership, albeit with strong reservations from some members.

District 3 member Ed Davidson, in particular, pulled few punches as he put to paper concerns he has been verbalizing at School Board meetings for months.

In assigning his "2" grade for Porter's handling of his strategic planning process, Davidson described the superintendent's efforts as being "largely in-house personnel dominated, and old-guard sponsored."

"Failed to reach many elements of non-school community who pay taxes," Davidson wrote.

On three occasions, Davidson scored the super as low as he could. The only other grade of "1" assigned to Porter came from Smith-Martin, on the question of an internal and external communication plan.

By contrast, the superintendent was much harder on himself than the board, awarding himself three grades of "1" and a number of "2s"as well.

But the marks that matter to Porter, who is 11 months into a three-year contract at a salary of $150,000, came from the five board members.

Their scoring of Porter is as follows:

• Chairman Andy Griffiths: 3.58.

• Vice Chairman Ron Martin: 3.65.

• Robin Smith-Martin: 3.46.

• John Dick: 3.55.

• Ed Davidson: 3.33.

In addition to the grades and comments, all members' evaluations, save Davidson's, contained references to the difficulty of accurately scoring the superintendent so early into his tenure. Griffiths' evaluation, in particular, was rife with comments such as "too early," and "always a work in progress."

District 4 member John Dick, commenting on the strategic plan process, wrote, "The process is ongoing and until it is completed, this evaluation is not an accurate judgement."

Dick listed the super's strengths as including his ability to "keep an even keel even when confronted by conflicting personalities in the public arena. Does not get flustered!!"

On the downside, Dick suggested that Porter "might be influenced more than he should be by some employees," a sentiment echoed by Davidson, who implied that the super could be "overwhelmed by old guard urban advice and pressure, which has repeatedly blunted needed reform initiatives." Davidson also called Porter "naÃØve about bias and ethical lapses in district and community elements," but allowed that he was, at the same time, "professionally proficient."

Davidson also asserted that employee "morale is in the dumpster."

tschmida@keysnews.com

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