On Tuesday, June 24, the Falmouth School Committee approved the final version of their performance review of superintendent Bonny L. Gifford’s first year on the job.
The evaluation is now a public document. For an overall score, five committee members rated Dr. Gifford as proficient, and four gave her a “needs improvement” rating.
Former teacher and school committee member Donna L. Mattison-Earls wrote, “The uncertainty that many staff experienced over job loss and/or reassignment over the past five months has had a negative impact on all staff.
Rationale for cuts and changes was unclear to many of those affected. Although Dr. Gifford has put forth many articles and books to engage administrators in current best practices in education, which has shown her interest in improving district procedures, building team capacity and collaborative decision making is not clearly evident. Decisions that affect many teachers’ current practices need to be carefully explained so that they can fully understand why these decisions are being considered ... Otherwise, the changes these decisions cause creates negative feelings that can impact student learning. Staff should be informed of changes through clear communication before they become public. I am concerned that most classroom teachers do not have opportunities to provide input before decisions are made.”
School committee member Leah L. Palmer wrote “Dr. Gifford has had both a challenging and rewarding first year. She went into the year ready and was able to keep up with the intensity of the pace. Dr. Gifford’s deep knowledge of curriculum and instruction along with her consistent outreach to the community and local stakeholders is apparent in her exemplary progress on those areas. I commend her on a successful first year of superintendency.”
Committee member Alan Jacobs rated Dr. Gifford as “needing improvement” in the categories of management operations and professional culture. Mr. Jacobs wrote that, “Ratings of ‘Some Progress’ and ‘Needs
Improvement’ can be difficult to accept given the challenges Dr. Gifford has faced during her first nine months on the job. I stand by the statement I made earlier this year that, ‘A lesser team would not have been able to handle the difficulties.’ I think the Falmouth Public Schools are fortunate to have Dr. Gifford as our Superintendent and I look forward to continuing to work with her and support her in the years ahead.”
Former school committee chairman Judith Fenwick wrote that, “Dr. Gifford’s strengths are evident in instructional leadership, especially in curriculum, instruction, and assessment, and in family and community engagement.
Improvement is most needed in management and operations ... and in professional culture, particularly in managing conflict. I am concerned that the School Committee does not collaborate enough with Dr. Gifford and that we may have done her a disservice in not collaborating more closely at the outset.”
Emily A. Davern, who resigned from the school committee in May, wrote, “Inclusive communication, respectful conflict/problem resolution, follow up to questions and concerns raised, attention to sensitive and culturally relevant practice, outreach and meaningful family and community engagement, are all areas in need of critical attention.”
School committee members Terri A. Medeiros wrote that, “I think it is important to note in this evaluation of Bonny that she began her tenure at FPS in a special situation in that over half of her administrative team is composed of individuals new to their positions. Also, Bonny began each school committee meeting in a professional and enthusiastic manner even though there may have been some contentious matters on the agenda.”