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School superintendent rated ‘outstanding’ in annual review

Date: 7/20/2023

AGAWAM — Superintendent of Schools Sheila Hoffman again received high marks overall from School Committee members when they assessed Hoffman’s progress toward meeting her goals and rated her performance in several areas for her annual evaluation.

A compilation of individual evaluations resulted in an overall cumulative rating of “proficient” for the 2022-23 school year — the same rating Hoffman received in her previous evaluation. The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education considers proficient to be “fully satisfactory” and an indication of the “rigorous expected level of performance” for a superintendent.

Mayor William Sapelli, who chairs the School Committee, said the proficient designation means Hoffman met all her goals and is “very proficient” overall.

“That is an outstanding rating,” he said. “And the fact that she met, or made significant progress, on all her goals is also quite commendable.”

Five of the seven committee members — Shelley Borgatti-Reed, A.J. Christopher, Dawn DeMatteo, Michael Perry and Sapelli — voted unanimously to approve Hoffman’s evaluation at the June 27 meeting. Kerri O’Connor and Wendy Rua were not present at the meeting, but completed the comprehensive evaluation process developed by the DESE to evaluate superintendents.

They reviewed multiple “evidence-based” documents compiled by Hoffman, including student progress reports and detailed explanations from each school, before noting her performance and progress toward meeting her goals in their evaluations.

In the comment section, committee members generally praised Hoffman’s leadership and the significant progress she made in meeting student learning goals. However, they also pointed out areas where they feel improvements are still needed.

Perry said Hoffman has provided “strong leadership” using data-driven strategies to deliver and implement district-wide improvements. But he said there’s still concern regarding the academic performance of students who were hampered by coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions.

“While some improvements have been made and goals have been met, or nearly met, the relatively low proficiency rates in math, reading and early literacy indicate a need for significant improvements,” he said.

In her evaluation, O’Connor said she’s “very proud” Agawam educators went “above and beyond” as the district came out of the coronavirus pandemic. She said school administrators provided “strong leadership” for staff and students, but said there’s still “a strong need” for improvement by the superintendent in several areas.

“I strongly encourage improvement in the areas of professional development for staff in the areas of social-emotional needs, mental health, substance abuse and cultural awareness for the school district as a whole,” said O’Connor.

Christopher said Hoffman has continuously focused on school security as well as social-emotional learning to create a school environment where students and staff feel safe. The superintendent “has improved communications and has established a proactive approach with the community” to ensure everyone is informed about what’s happening within the schools.

DeMatteo said during the past year, standardized testing scores in the district continued to rise, showing Hoffman and the entire school staff are committed to the “academic health” of students in the district. She said Hoffman is an “enthusiastic educational leader” who strives to “make her mark” in Agawam and make the school district “educationally successful” for all students.

“Sheila is committed to making decisions in alignment with the strategic plan and monitors progress to ensure continued efforts and initiatives are moving forward to accomplish goals set in the plan,” said DeMatteo.

Borgatti-Reed said evidence submitted by Hoffman shows she’s an “exceptionally strong” leader regarding curriculum inclusiveness, teacher evaluation logs and the diverse needs of students. She said Hoffman frequently discovers new ways to improve student engagement. “Her focus is always directed at supporting students.”

Hoffman is “a very ambitious and committed superintendent” who is “extremely approachable, is “an excellent communicator” and has a “strong vision” for Agawam schools,” Borgatti-Reed said. “She continues to move our district forward. We are fortunate to have her on our team.”

Following a review of Hoffman’s progress toward meeting goals and assessing her performance, Rua said Hoffman is “an exceptional” superintendent.

“It’s easy to find evidence of exemplary performance in each category,” Rua said.

Among areas where Hoffman  has shown strong leadership, said Rua, are making student well-being a priority, acknowledging learning gaps, and reviewing testing data to create a tiered intervention and enrichment strategy.

Rua said Hoffman “works tirelessly” and is dedicated and committed to students, families, staff and teachers. “We’re fortunate Superintendent Hoffman has committed to remain an Agawam and I thank her for her outstanding leadership.”

Hoffman, whose new five-year contract began July 1, has been superintendent since December 2020 after serving several months as interim superintendent. Prior to that she served two years as the district’s assistant superintendent.

Following the vote on her evaluation, Hoffman thanked the committee for their feedback. She said it will be helpful moving forward into the next school year.

“I promise to continue to set very ambitious student learning goals. I think that’s really important,” Hoffman said. “If they’re met or not met, I think it’s more important that they’re ambitious, because we need to close that learning gap. So, look for some more ambitious student learning goals next year.”