Hamilton County school board members rated Superintendent Justin Robertson positively in his first evaluation since taking the helm of the district almost two years ago.
The evaluation was grouped into seven categories, including strategic planning, student achievement, staff and personnel relationships, school leadership, post-secondary opportunities, business and finance, and board relationship.
The scores from board member Marco Perez, an independent from Signal Mountain, averaged for the highest rating — a 4.82 out of 5.
Board member Joe Wingate, R- Chattanooga, thanked Robertson on Thursday night for his leadership. Wingate's scores averaged to a 4.29.
"Whether I always agree with the metrics the state uses to judge the effectiveness of school systems and administrations is beside the point," Wingate said. "In the rules that we were asked to play by, you guys solved some jobs. So as not just a school board member but as a parent, I greatly appreciate it."
Across the board, Robertson was rated highest in areas relating to the district's scores for academic growth, ensuring school leaders were well-resourced and following through on initiatives presented to the school board.
The high rating for growth scores was likely a nod to the score of five — the highest possible score — the district was awarded last month through the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, which evaluates student performance year over year to measure growth. This year's score marked a significant improvement over last year, when the Tennessee Department of Education scored Hamilton County Schools as a one, the lowest score.
The scores from board member Rhonda Thurman, R-Hixson, averaged the lowest rating of any board member, a 3.07. In her evaluation, she expressed frustration with being expected to vote on proposals submitted by the district before having the opportunity to adequately evaluate them and her disappointment in not being consulted during the process of creating the school facilities plan released last month.
Other board members also noted the release of the facilities plan in their evaluations. The component about creating a comprehensive building plan was one with some of the most variance in scoring between board members.
"There is an aggressive proposal that has been presented," board member Ben Connor, D-Chattanooga, wrote. "That proposal is not 'comprehensive' as it leaves many details out, and it was not coordinated with the full board for suggestions and support."
Each Hamilton County school board member evaluated Superintendent Justin Robertson on components in seven categories on a rating scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. Board members' score for each component was averaged to produce their overall rating.
From highest to lowest rating:
— Marco Perez, independent of Signal Mountain — 4.82.
— Ben Connor, D-Chattanooga — 4.41.
— Faye Robinson, R-Ooltewah — 4.34.
— Joe Wingate, R-Chattanooga — 4.29.
— Tiffanie Robinson, independent of Chattanooga — 4.19.
— Karitsa Mosley Jones, D-Chattanooga — 3.94.
— Joe Smith, R-Hixson — 3.88.
— Gary Kuehn, R-Ooltewah — 3.71.
— Jill Black, D-Lookout Mountain — 3.19.
— Rhonda Thurman, R-Hixson — 3.07.
— Larry Grohn, R-East Ridge — n/a.
His scores for Robertson averaged 4.41, the second highest of the board.
Robertson thanked board members for their feedback at Thursday night's meeting.
"We talk about this a lot with administrators, but we have this saying — and this is no joke – that feedback is a gift, and I appreciate the feedback and the time that you guys spent to provide your input and just the thoughtfulness that went into it," he said. "I recognize that the evaluation is actually a reflection of the people that are around me and much less a reflection of me, so thank you to the people sitting behind me, beside me, but also to our teachers and kids."
Overall, board members rated Robertson the lowest in regards to the amount of change in the percent of low-scoring students and developing leadership at the district level.
"Although investment in and focus on leadership training programs have fostered the success of teachers and administrators at every level of operations, a fully fledged succession plan beyond the goals of the new strategic plan has not materialized," wrote board member Jill Black, D-Lookout Mountain.
Black's scores averaged to a 3.19, the second lowest of the board.
Robertson was picked as the district's next superintendent in a 7-2 vote in December 2021. He is almost halfway through the four-year contract the board approved later that month. Board member Karitsa Mosley Jones, D-Chattanooga, voted no, as did Jenny Hill, now a member of the Chattanooga City Council.