“I think what I’m hearing is we need to bring the constituency in, in setting the goals up front…”
~Board President Elizabeth C. Brown (D), 8 years on the Board of Education
“I’m not pleased with it. I look forward to revising it for our kids’ sake. We need to actively search for a better method…”
~ Board Vice President Karen Harvey (D), 14 Years on the Board of Education
Two years ago when our organization investigated the methods and outcomes of the superintendent of schools evaluation we were stunned to learn that the board doesn’t use any data or documents during their evaluation of Waterbury’s superintendent. It should be noted that it is held in an executive session, which is not open to the public. It was and still is an ineffective and exclusionary process. Mostly because it is impossible for any one individual to commit to memory dozens of board meetings, data snapshots, district leadership reports, and presentations. Secondarily we were devasted that the superintendent at the time was given a perfect score on nearly 80 generic measures. After our attempt to gather support from the community and elected officials, some who have been on the board for over a decade we thought based on their responses (seen above and below) we would see a new and much more responsive superintendent evaluation. That didn’t happen. Its the Boards responsibility and after committing to changing it they have failed epically.
So, why is this important? Put simply institutional racism and white supremacy is always our target. We believe all educators should have those same targets. Institutional racism and white supremacy create instruments to hide and in some cases make oppression disappear from plain sight. The instrument we are talking about in this instance is the superintendent’s evaluation. The board of education has failed to be an anti-racist body and in this instance knowingly promotes a practice that excludes communities of color, the poor, and non-English speaking families. This is one way that school districts transmit racist outcomes and sustain hierarchies of white supremacy from one generation to the next.
“I have for years wanted to change the evaluation process,” she said. “I did not feel it gave an accurate account of performance…”
~Karen Harvey (D) Vice-President
“It’s my hope that before the next superintendent is in place, we do have a better tool with which to evaluate…”
~ Jason Van Stone (R)
Eight years as a Waterbury Board Education Commissioner
The board of education negotiated a contract with Superintendent Ruffin that literally binds both parties to an exclusionary and secretive evaluation process. From its creation all the way through its facilitation. To some degree, Dr. Ruffin is responsible for this and could change course as Bridgeport Superintendent Johnson did. Superintendent Johnson made hers open to the public where all “board members were provided three-ring binders that Johnson compiled, detailing her work in eight areas.” In Waterbury, the board of education uses nothing in executive session to aid them in completing the evaluation. Furthermore, the contract forcefully excludes the community and is uniquely oppressive because it codifies who is responsible for the creation of the evaluation. The contract states it must be “mutually” agreed upon. Simply put the superintendent can participate in the design of her own evaluation format. If this sounds strange to you, you feel the same way as us.
If the board of education won’t do its job then we are calling for Dr. Ruffin to change course and open this process to the public. Ironically she will be evaluated on how well she engages families and the community without families or the communities input on the evaluation. This is another way racist systems steeped in white supremacist hierarchies commit violence on communities by telling them we need you but discard them at every important step that would require giving up power. That’s oppressive!
The new evaluation looks slightly different and has somewhat different categories as well as some different language. One welcomed addition is having the superintendent held accountable for decreasing the number of Turnaround Schools and Focus Schools—see page 1. However, the state department of education doesn’t report on the status of schools based on those ratings until after July 1, 2019, which is the negotiated deadline for completing the evaluation. So how will the board rate her performance on this goal? This isn’t a silly oversight it is incompetence. Tragically this is directly connected to the ineffectiveness of the members of the board of education. Some have been on the board since 2005. Its time for a change, don’t you agree?
*Quotes were taken from the May 2, 2018, April 8, 2018 and June 19, 2017 Waterbury Republican Newspaper stories.
Categories: Current Issues