Bourne Public Schools Superintendent Kerri Anne Quinlan-Zhou, who recently completed her first full year in the administrative position, received a positive evaluation from the Bourne School Committee during its meeting on September 1.
The committee assessed the superintendent on four areas: instructional leadership, management and operations, family and community engagement and professional culture. Each committee member ranked her on a scale from “unsatisfactory” to “exemplary,” and the overall ratings were compiled by chairwoman Emily Berry and committee member Ryan Bagdonas.
In instructional leadership and family and community engagement, Dr. Zhou received an 85.7 percent proficient and a 14.3 percent exemplary rating. She was rated 71.4 percent proficient and 26.6 percent exemplary in management operations and professional culture.
“Proficient is where a superintendent wants to be,” Ms. Berry said. “Exemplary is above and beyond.”
Last year was Dr. Zhou’s first full year as superintendent. She stepped into the position on March 2, 2020—about two weeks before schools went completely remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leading up to the 2020-2021 school year, the superintendent’s goal was not only to keep schools running but also to continue to work toward educational initiatives that were set in motion before she got to the district.
To keep school on track despite pandemic challenges, Dr. Zhou reached out to a remote learning company she had worked with in the past and secured a free trial for the district. Additionally, the superintendent took “learning walks” in the buildings to observe student and teacher needs up-close.
“With students behind screens and masks, and learning being experienced on many different platforms, the big question was: How do we know that they are still building relationships? Because relationships are essential to learning,” she said.
These learning walks gave her and other administrative staff a better understanding of how they could support teachers, both in the classroom and online, she said.
Ms. Berry said faculty and staff were worried about health and safety, both for their students and themselves, at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. She said she was impressed with Dr. Zhou as the superintendent navigated between maintaining a good relationship with the teachers’ union and making the school year seem as normal as possible.
“The fact that she was able to manage the staff and all of the accommodations that need to be made, and still open school, it was just nothing short of a miracle,” she said.
In addition to keeping the schools open and running, Dr. Zhou implemented new programs and policies into the district.
Bourne schools began administering districtwide benchmark tests three times per year to track student progress. The data collected from these tests will help put in motion new programs for specific, individualized learning this year.
Additionally, the district launched an Inclusion and Equity Committee. Dr. Zhou said the purpose of this committee is “making sure that every child feels welcome and that every staff member can see themselves in the culture of the district.”
The committee is focused on diversity and equity in cultural responsiveness, special education and support for the LGBTQ+ community.
The Bourne District Multi-Tiered System of Supports committee had begun to develop benchmark testing and the Inclusion and Equity Committee before Dr. Zhou stepped into her role in 2020. The superintendent said one of the reasons she was drawn to the district was because of the work that had already been done on these projects.
“One of the reasons why I felt that Bourne was such a great fit for me and why I applied here was because I saw all of the initiatives that were in formative stages, and I could see myself leading that,” she said. “I’ve seen these things work and I’ve implemented them in other districts, but, more importantly, Bourne was ready for it.”
During the school committee meeting, Mr. Bagdonas, a committee member who helped put together the evaluation, said she felt the superintendent accomplished more last year than anyone expected, given all the challenges of the pandemic.
“It would have been enough for most people just to get us through it, to get the logistics done and just let the school year happen,” Ms. Bagdonas said. “I truly feel that you not only did that, but you put us in a better position than we were before. There were a lot of new things that came, and I think there’s a lot of excitement moving forward.”
This coming year, Dr. Zhou said she is excited about new professional development opportunities that will be open for faculty, staff and community members.
The Inclusion and Equity Committee will be rebranded as the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and will dive deeper into evaluating diversity in all aspects of student life, from academics to social and emotional learning.
“I’m really energized,” Dr. Zhou said. “If you look at the evaluation, yes, it is a reflection of me, but superintendents are the only ones who get publicly evaluated. None of this could happen if I didn’t have everyone else working together. Everything we’re doing moving forward this year is only because of what we did last year.”