published Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

Hamilton County Schools Superintendent's performance in the eye of the beholder

Superintendent Rick Smith listens during a meeting in this file photo.
Superintendent Rick Smith listens during a meeting in this file photo.
Photo by Doug Strickland.
School board's evaluation of Rick Smith
School board's evaluation of Rick Smith

Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith is either terrible at long-range planning or about as good as he can be — depending on which school board member graded him on his annual evaluation that became available Friday.

Of the nine board members, seven gave Smith at least a three, or "meets expectations," in all 50 questions on the four-page evaluation form. The evaluation comes three years into Smith's four-year contract, under which he takes home about $150,000 a year.

Member Donna Horn gave Smith a two, or "below expectations," for keeping the board informed, but scored him three and above in all other categories.

Member Jonathan Welch, who was elected in 2012 to represent Signal Mountain, took the dimmest view of Smith's performance. For example, he gave Smith's strategic planning skills a score of one, or "significantly below expectations."

"Have had one hour presentation, no follow up. Many goals are extremely unmeasurable," Welch wrote in the margin of the 50-question form.

Board member Joe Galloway scored Smith at 4.67 out of a possible five, "significantly above expectations," on three questions that constitute strategic planning -- though Galloway didn't write any comments in the space provided.

Smith is too close to the Public Education Foundation (PEF), wrote board member Rhonda Thurman, who along with Welch, George Ricks and Horn wrote comments in the space provided. Five board members -- Mike Evatt, David Testerman, Galloway, Greg Martin and Jeffrey Wilson -- didn't write any comments.

"Too much PEF influence," Thurman indicated several times. "[Smith] allows them to pick principals and train teachers."

Horn gave Smith the highest marks -- fours and fives -- for personal qualities.

"Always!" Horn wrote in the category for "dresses professionally."

"Thank goodness!" she wrote in response to the "writes effectively" category.

"Dealing with an array of personalities can be difficult," Horn wrote. "Rick fosters good relationships among board members as much as possible."

In his evaluation, Ricks agreed that, "Rick works well with all board members."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or twitter.com/TimOmarzu or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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