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Lang Wins $5,000 Bonus in Chelmsford

September 1, 2018

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CHELMSFORD -- Superintendent of Schools Jay Lang was awarded his $5,000 annual performance bonus last week, but not without a contentious evaluation process.

For the secondSkaar did not complete Lang’s annual performance evaluation, saying there was not enough “evidence” of his work for her to base it on.

The committee voted 4-1 at its Aug. 21 meeting to approve Lang’s evaluation as “proficient” and 4-1 to award him the $5,000 performance bonus based on the evaluation results. Skaar was the opposing vote in both.

“All teachers are required to supply evidence to support their evaluations,” Skaar said, reading from an email she sent to Chairman Dennis King. “Why does our superintendent fail to supply evidence?”

She said she was “unwilling to accept anecdotal memos” as evidence, referring to an overview of the year Lang had provided to the committee. Skaar said administrators have a whole year to evaluate teachers, but the School Committee was limited to two weeks to evaluate “the highest paid employee in the district.”

King said the evaluation is an “ongoing process” and one of a School Committee member’s “principal responsibilities.” He said the committee witnesses how the superintendent works throughout the year, the information he provides and the initiatives he accomplishes.

The committee agreed upon the evaluation timeline at its Aug. 7 meeting, which Skaar did not attend, King said. He said he and the superintendent’s office emailed her the next day to provide her with the timeline, form and overview.

King said he also gave Skaar ample additional time to complete the evaluation at more than one request. The third time, she said she needed more information, he said.

“You are making up excuses as to why you didn’t complete your evaluation for the second consecutive year,” King said, and suggested Skaar hadn’t been paying attention throughout the year.

Skaar said she expected Lang to compile something similar to the “entire tabbed binder filled with evidence” previous Superintendent Frank Tiano would give to the committee for his evaluation. She said it was “unacceptable” and “unsatisfactory” that Lang had not.

Lang said no such binder was requested of him, and thought what he had been providing was sufficient given the committee completed earlier evaluations using this format.

“The first year you were provided with it, you found it satisfactory, and you gave me an evaluation based --” Lang said.

“My expectation was not high,” Skaar said, interrupting him.

Lang said an evaluation shouldn’t be “an ‘I gotcha’ type of thing,” and that there must be communication and clearly set expectations. He said he felt it’s critical that committee members bring up questions and concerns.

“You need to talk about them so we can act on them and try to have some kind of an avenue to move forward,” he said.

Committee Secretary Donna Newcomb said she felt the year summary Lang gave was helpful, and she used that plus observation and conversations with parents and town officials to complete her evaluation.

“I feel it’s our responsibility to seek out that information, and to weigh it all, both the positive and the constructive,” she said.

Newcomb said she’s already taking notes to assist her with next year’s review. She said it might be more efficient to have all of the information compiled in one place, but didn’t feel it should get in the way of completing an evaluation.

Other committee members felt private conversations with parents and community members can be considered as usable evidence, but Skaar felt if it’s not documented, it’s just “hearsay.”

Newcomb said the committee should set expectations now and try to find an agreement as to what constitutes evidence.

Lang was given an overall rating of proficient based on the input of the other four members of the committee. In specific areas, they ranked him as follows: leadership: proficient; management and operations: exemplary; family and community engagement: proficient; professional culture: split 2-2 proficient and exemplary.

“Despite some difficult situations that arose during the year, the majority of the committee feels the superintendent has demonstrated the in-depth knowledge, leadership, professionalism and composure needed to manage the school district,” King said.

King noted such accomplishments as: successful implementation of full-day kindergarten and modular classrooms; successful negotiation of contracts with multiple employee groups; creation of an elementary therapeutic classroom program; addition of support positions; budget meets district needs and stays within financial constraints; clear financial audit for second consecutive year.

Follow Alana Melanson at facebook.com/alana.lowellsun or on Twitter @alanamelanson.

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