TRENTON BOARD OF EDUCATION
STATEMENT FROM THE BOARD PRESIDENT
I am taking this opportunity to send this message to clarify the confusion surrounding the Superintendent’s 2017-2018 Merit Award process. The annual evaluation of the Superintendent is made up of two components; performance against the district’s goals, and performance against merit goal targets. The process of evaluating School Superintendents is not unique to Trenton but occurs in every school district across the State of New Jersey. Each of these components are established at the beginning of each school year in collaboration and negotiation between the Board of Education and the Superintendent. As it relates to Dr. McDowell, the Superintendent of the Trenton School District, the district goals and merit goals were established in September of 2017. The merit goals were approved by the Trenton School Board and then subsequently accepted and approved by the Mercer County Office of Education. The evaluation of the Superintendent’s performance against the merit targets was completed on Monday, September 24, 2018.
I think it is important that concerned residents and partners understand the process of Superintendent Evaluation. The evaluation of the Superintendent’s district goal performance was completed prior to July 1, 2018. The Superintendent’s performance against the established district goals is divided into two parts;
Superintendent Evaluation Compilation Part I (District Goals) and
Superintendent Evaluation Compilation Part II (Standards of Leadership). The standards associated with Part II are:
Standard I – Mission, Vision and Core Values;
Standard II – Governance, Ethics and Professional Norms;
Standard III – Operations Management;
Standard IV – Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment and School Improvement;
Standard V – Community of Care, Equity and Family Engagement;
Standard VI – Professional Capacity/Community of School District Personnel
The establishment of merit goals was defined in the Superintendent’s contract of employment and were aligned with the district goals. The possible total payout is established at the beginning of the process and the goals are divided into 5 key areas; three quantitative goals and two qualitative goals. In each of the goal areas, the percentage is based on the evidence associated with the attainment. During the review and discussion of the Superintendent’s performance the Board spent nearly 90 minutes of rigorous review and inquiry before approving. We must keep in mind, that not only was evidence produced for the merit goals, the evidence from the district goals also contributes to the decision-making process because the merit goals are aligned to the district goals.
The performance review of the Superintendent of Schools is the most rigorous of any district employee. This is unlike the majority of district employees, where raises are determined by the level attained within “salary guide”. Because the Superintendent’s job is crucial to the success of the district as a whole, it is only appropriate that his performance is evaluated in such a manner. Dr. McDowell has spent one year in the Trenton school district which is still considered a low performing district and has numerous challenges even though the QSAC scores have gone from a low of 27% in the area of Curriculum and Instruction in 2016-2017, to 61% in 2017-2018. There has been continued improvement in both reading and math scores; overall improvement of students in PARCC; the rehiring of 65 Paraprofessionals and there has been much more parent, community and stakeholder engagement via townhalls and strategic planning sessions. The district is now in compliance with the Amistad legislation (Bill A1301) that was passed in 2002. The district has gone from being totally privatized as it relates to transportation to now the district owning 21 buses (eleven 54 passenger, nine 24 passenger and 1 wheelchair assessible). Additionally, the City’s freshman high school students now attend a brand-new state of the art 9th Grade Academy.
There is still much work to be done in the area of Special Education and a report developed by an independent reviewer has outlined the areas of deficiency in that department. There is a lack of adherence to processes, policies and procedure. Staff will now be held accountable at every level to ensure a high quality of service to these most vulnerable children and their families. In a recent discussion there was discussion about poor communication and the need to establish service level agreements to ensure appropriate response times to phone calls and email inquiries. The district has currently of culture of no accountability, no sense of urgency and a sense of entitlement; the only people that should be entitled are our students. There is even in some instances intentional and unintentional sabotaging of progress because the is a lack of understanding of the connectiveness of the work and no comprehension of the importance of systems thinking. During Dr. McDowell’s tenure as Superintendent, the Board has received detailed weekly updates and the Superintendent publishes monthly updates after Board meetings with the latter being shared with broader networks. All in an effort to share what is actually taking place in Trenton Public Schools separate and apart from the noise. The Superintendent has also established multiple advisory councils and committees to help inform the direction of the school district. There was an unfounded vote of no confidence against the Superintendent and the Board President. Change is never easy, but we must be resolve in our efforts to transform the district, because the status quo is unacceptable and the children of Trenton deserve better.
As a concerned citizen, I reject individuals playing divisive politics with the future of the children of Trenton because of the high poverty rates that exist, and the volume of people without hope wandering aimlessly in the streets of Trenton is because the school system has historically failed them. In my nearly two-year tenure as a member of the Trenton Board of Education, I have worked with three Superintendents and had multiple board members resign due to the toxic culture causing me to issue this statement. The lack of consistent and sustained district leadership contributes to the problems that we have experienced. Transformation is uncomfortable for some and downright painful for others. We are interested in working with any and all solution-minded community members. Anything less serves as a distraction and contributes to the dysfunction that keeps the school district from making progress and the great City of Trenton from rising from the ashes like a Phoenix. As a City of Trenton resident, I choose to be part of the solution and work collaboratively towards total transformation.