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Shumate scores high marks from school board

Medford schools Superintendent Brian Shumate has earned high marks from the Medford School Board in his annual review.

The evaluation was Shumate’s first comprehensive review since he started with the district in July 2014. Last year, the board issued a letter to Shumate, in lieu of a formal evaluation, because he hadn’t been on the job long enough for the board to assess his performance.

Board members individually and anonymously rated the superintendent on a scale of “commendable” to “unsatisfactory” on 52 expectations related to his performance in the areas of board and district goals, leadership, communications, labor relations and more.

Since December, the board has met six times in executive session to discuss the evaluation. Shumate attended four of those meetings to field questions, address concerns and provide additional data.

The evaluation process, although cumbersome and time consuming, is required by state law and guided by the Oregon School Boards Association, said school board Chairman Jeff Thomas.

A letter from board members to Shumate was published in the last meeting's agenda. The evaluation form was later obtained through a public records request.

Overall, Shumate received 158 “commendable” marks, 184 “proficient” marks and 13 “needs improvement” marks.

In the comments, board members commended Shumate for increasing the graduation rate by 9.75 percentage points to 74.95 percent in 2015, hiring a communication specialist, reorganizing his cabinet, developing Pathways in the high schools and, more than anything, using data to inform decisions.

Shumate has challenged the school district to be more data driven and started collecting and analyzing more data around credit retrieval, attendance, enrollment and dropouts.

“(Shumate) presents the data," Thomas said. "The data tells the story, and once the story has been told, then we can do what we need to do."

One comment in the evaluation read: “His emphasis on quality data collection and review to inform decision-making means decisions will be based on actual results vs. anecdotal evidence.”

Shumate scored especially high — receiving “commendable” marks from at least six of the seven board members — on his ability to facilitate community processes, articulate the district’s vision and mission to the community and media, and model and promote a professional code of ethics.

“Dr. Shumate is excellent at networking and community engagement,” praised one board member. “... His renewed emphasis on college and vocational training empowers students to reach high levels of performance and achieve the district’s vision of 100 percent of students graduating college- or workforce-ready.”

In the evaluation, board members asked Shumate to update the district’s technology plan, improve the grading and recording system, include more parents and community members in committees and decisions, use his phone less during meetings and ensure professional development techniques are being used effectively.

Their suggestions included:

  • “Encourage staff to continue to include as many parents and community members who are willing to be involved in committees and decision-making.”
  • “Need to leave phone out of reach or silence(d) when meeting on a one-on-one (with) community leaders.”
  • “Continue to work with the charter schools in the district to partner with them rather than working against them.”
  • “Continue to develop and fine-tune the teacher evaluation system and work on (Human Resources) relations and practices.”
  • “An area of focus for next year should be long-range planning for the use of computers, internet, networking, online learning and other technologies in educational programming.”

Shumate said Wednesday that he thought the evaluation process was thorough and the board comments were “thoughtful and fair.”

“There were areas of growth and things I can continue to work on, but overall as a school district, there’s been a lot of systemic improvement,” he said. “And I think there is a good energy right now where people, for the most part, are excited about the direction of the school district.”

In the coming year, Shumate said, he intends to formalize the district’s strategic plan; continue his Pathways work in the secondary schools; and expand career, technical education and dual-credit offerings through partnerships with Rogue Community College and Southern Oregon University.

He said the district is committed to technology, as seen in its recent purchase of 3,266 Google Chromebooks, and will work out a plan for training staff and making technology part of the classroom learning.

In March, the board decided to renew Shumate’s three-year contract a year early so that the third year of his current contract overlaps with the first year of his new contract, which goes into effect in July.

“Essentially, we wanted to lock him in for another three years,” Thomas said.

Shumate’s $200,000 salary will remain unchanged during the third year of his old contract and first year of his new contract. He is set to receive a $7,000 raise in 2017-18 and a $5,000 raise by 2018-19 so that he will be making $212,000 by the fifth year of his tenure.

“It was a show of commitment on both of our parts that we want to continue to make this work,” Shumate said. 

In the letter to Shumate, the board praised him for meeting board goals and for "effectively changing our District culture to a student-first, learning-above-all focus."

“I, as one board member, feel that his performance has been outstanding,” Thomas said. “(Shumate) has exceeded my expectation and continues to exceed them every day. We made a big step forward in this district hiring Brian, and his leadership has made me excited about where the district is going.”

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