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Medford schools superintendent gets high marks

Medford schools Superintendent Brian Shumate made a good impression on School Board members during his first eight months on the job, according to his first evaluation.

In a letter to Shumate, board members praised his work toward establishing "pathways” in the district’s secondary schools, his “leadership on the question of full-day kindergarten,” his focus on improving the graduation rate and his work with the Information Technology Department to mine data that will drive future decisions.

At a board retreat last August, board members decided not to conduct a full performance review of Shumate until March 2016, giving him time to prove himself, and instead agreed to provide him with a letter outlining his progress on meeting the board's five goals.

“There was no effective and meaningful way for us to evaluate him when he’d been with us less than six months,” said board Chairman Jeff Thomas.

At Monday’s meeting, the board presented Shumate with the letter, drafted by Kim Wallan and signed by each member.

Wallan said each member had a chance to review and weigh in on the letter prior to it being published and presented to Shumate.

“The letter shows that (Shumate) understands our board goals and is now putting in place processes to achieve those board goals,” said Thomas.

The letter contained no negative feedback.

Board member Ron Andersen said Shumate played a role in writing the board goals, which call for all students’ mastery of Oregon State Academic Standards, an 80 percent graduation rate by 2017, and additional opportunities for students performing below grade level, among other things.

“We had a vision of what we wanted to see happen and that was reflected in our goals,” Andersen said. “When we met (with Shumate) last August, he fine-tuned those goals to be more specific and created even more work for himself.”

However, board members Monday were quite confident in Shumate’s ability to meet the goals and execute his vision for the district.

“I've been impressed with his whole notion of finding pathways for every student that will provide the skills and direction they need for decent, middle-class jobs,” Andersen said, adding that Shumate’s “low-key, aw-shucks” attitude makes him a likable leader.

Thomas and Wallan said Monday that Shumate is a good communicator and keeps all the board members in the loop.

“You could argue that he overcommunicates,” Thomas said. “He sends out emails on a daily basis, sometimes three times a day, letting us know what’s going on in the district and the community.”

“His communication is phenomenal,” Wallan said. “He is letting us know things all the time so that we’re not surprised when they come out in the paper.”

Shumate said Monday that he was pleased with his first assessment and promised to continue to work hard.

"I appreciate the board's support," he said. "We got off to a great start last summer when we identified the five board goals, and I left that retreat with a good sense of the vision of the board, the board goals and the work ahead of me. I credit them with being clear on the frontend of what they wanted from me. It made my job a lot easier."

In the future, Shumate will be graded by each board member on his work in the following areas: leadership and district culture, policy and governance, communication and community relations, organizational management, curriculum planning and development, instructional leadership, human resources management, values and ethics, and labor relations.

The district's current Superintendent Evaluation Tool was created and adopted by board members using guidelines provided by the Oregon School Boards Association. 

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.