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Committee OK's Ingram's performance

Date: 11/23/2010

Nov. 24, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- The School Committee made a unanimous vote of confidence in the performance of School Superintendent Dr. Alan Ingram at last week's meeting, but gave him a lower score in its evaluation than his last one.

The evaluation addressed Ingram's relationship with the School Committee, the community and his staff; educational leadership, business and finance; personal qualities; and whether or not he met goals he set for himself.

In every category, Ingram's scores fell from last year, but none of the aggregate scores dipped into the "failure to meet expectations" category.

His highest score, as it was from the evaluation from the 2008-09 school year, was for his personal qualities. His lowest this year was a 4.86 for reducing the number of schools in the district that have been identified as "Level Four" schools -- those with serious academic achievement problems.

A score of nine represents outstanding, while one was the lowest possible score.

School Committee member Christopher Collins said of Ingram "he is very very competent in many ways and like all of us there are areas in which he needs to grow."

Attorney Melissa Shea, the School Department's executive director of human resources, told the committee that, because of the way it was created, state law protects the performance appraisal and that it was privileged information that couldn't be revealed.

Ingram waived any privacy rights he had and said he would be "very happy to make it public."

There was some heated discussion over the survey questions and whether or not committee members had access to the information required to make an informed assessment between Ingram and committee member Antonette Pepe -- enough of which for School Committee Chair Mayor Domenic Sarno to call for a recess.

Pepe believed she could not answer such questions such as how he evaluates the performance of staff members. She answered "no data" in response.

At one point in the discussion Ingram told Pepe, "It might have made sense if you had called [with questions.]"

Collins said the evaluation process was "a learning experience for us, too." He said he believes there will be revisions made for next year.

On the members' forms, some added comments with their scores. With the question of reducing the number of Level Four schools, one wrote, "This is not going to happen overnight, but he's on the right track." His aggregate score for this question was 4.86, falling into the satisfactory range.

On improving the school district's attendance rate, he received a 6.29, and one committee member wrote, "Making progress here. This is not going to happen overnight, but the percentages have increased toward the positive and he's headed in the right direction.

School Committee member Peter Murphy said he had "a lot of confidence in the superintendent," but "at the end of the day the student achievement gap is paramount."

"The test scores for last year were not where they need to be," Murphy continued. "There is plenty of blame that can go around."

"With 10 level Four schools, there's a lot of chaos," Murphy added.

Pepe extolled Ingram's honesty and his hard work to improve attendance.

"I do think you're making progress," she said. "You stepped into something just like Obama."

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