More than halfway into his first year on the job, Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith seems to be pleasing his boss, the board of education.
Superintendent evaluations from all nine board members, released this week, show Smith is meeting or beating their expectations. The board gave the superintendent high marks for understanding the needs of the school system, devoting time effectively to the job, serving as an effective spokesman for the board and dressing professionally.
Smith's lowest overall scores were in issues of communication and planning. The evaluations showed room for improvement in keeping the board and community informed of progress and plans, developing an overall plan that includes strategies, goals and projected outcomes and seeking staff and public opinions on proposed policies and reporting those findings to the board.
Smith was evaluated in February after starting the job in June. Board members bought out the contract of five-year Superintendent Jim Scales in May, then elected to fast-track Smith, a former science teacher, principal and central office administrator with nearly three decades of education experience, to the post.
Board attorney Scott Bennett said the superintendent is supposed to be evaluated around the same time each year to help in planning for the upcoming year.
"Mr. Smith is supposed to take your suggestions to heart and incorporate them into the strategic plan," Bennett told board members at a Thursday meeting.
Smith said he will do just that.
"I have read it and I take it very seriously," Smith said. "I think it's very important for me to look at my first nine months of service as a baseline and see where I need to improve."
While scores varied, most board members rated Smith at or above expectations on a five-point scale.
"I think the evaluation speaks for itself. There are places for improvement -- but that's the whole reason for it," said board member David Testerman. "I'm really pleased with how he's leading."
Board member George Ricks marked the superintendent right down the middle with a 3 for "meets expectations" on all 50 categories, while board member Chip Baker said it isn't fair to assess Smith's performance in such a short time period.
"However, he is doing a good job and on the right path," Baker commented on his evaluation.
Board member Linda Mosley cited communication as one of her biggest concerns.
"Communication is very lacking -- I would appreciate more information concerning critical events as well as the vision/mission for his position," she wrote.
Board member Jeffrey Wilson found several issues with Smith's leadership and attached two pages of typed comments to his evaluation. Wilson said the board isn't notified of controversial issues happening within schools, such as a recent gang-related fight at Central High School.
But even his list of issues ended on a positive note.
"While Mr. Smith has some areas to improve in, particularly in areas involving communication with the elected school board, he has shown adequate zeal and drive necessary to become an effective superintendent," Wilson wrote.