Superintendent gets high marks
Annual review puts James Weiss on the honor roll
If there was an honor roll for superintendents, James Weiss would be on it. Mr. Weiss received high marks for his second year as superintendent of Martha's Vineyard public schools in an annual review recently completed by the All-Island School Committee (AISC) personnel subcommittee.
Twenty-three school committee members Island-wide, including 12 of the 14 AISC members, returned evaluation checklists to the AISC personnel subcommittee, chaired by Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) school committee member Dan Cabot.
Mr. Cabot compiled the data and summarized the findings, noting that "...a wide majority of respondents judged Dr. James Weiss has met or exceeded expectations in every priority category."
"In general, the respondents' comments praise Dr. Weiss for his honesty, professionalism, hard work, careful preparation for meetings, ability to listen well, and clear presentation of ideas," Mr. Cabot wrote.
Vineyard schools superintendent James Weiss and West Tisbury interim principal Ed Jerome. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Many respondents commended Mr. Weiss for all he had accomplished despite the distractions of having to replace principals and deal with the state's statutory assessment formula.
Categories on the evaluation form included the superintendent's relationship with the school committee, educational leadership, general management, budget management, personnel management, communications and public relations, and personal qualities and characteristics.
In the category "relationship with the school committee," Mr. Weiss received high marks for encouraging all schools' cooperation and collaboration, and completing the policy needs of Island schools. Under "educational leadership," Mr. Weiss took notice for the Responsive Classroom initiative and a proposed eighth-grade algebra program.
Mr. Weiss's efforts to meet with local and Island-wide finance committees and his work with administration and school committees also earned a high number of positive responses, as did his regular visits to schools and his attendance at school and non-school events.
"He sets a very high standard, at a level where I would like to see it, and I've been very impressed," said Susan Parker, chair of the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) District school committee and a member of the AISC personnel subcommittee. "He's open to constructive feedback, yet it's difficult to find areas where he's remiss. We're very fortunate as an Island and for the children to have somebody of his caliber who wants to be part of this system."
Tasks targeted by the survey for possible improvement by Mr. Weiss included writing a monthly superintendent's newsletter to the staff, writing letters and articles on a monthly basis, and developing a regular program for MVTV.
Bob Tankard, a Tisbury School committee member who served on the AISC personnel subcommittee, said Mr. Weiss is the first to say that he needs to grow more. "He's open to any ideas, and it's not always his way," Mr. Tankard said. "He's willing to participate and collaborate. He goes out to accomplish what we ask him to do."
AISC chair David Rossi said the response to Mr. Weiss's evaluation was overwhelmingly positive and made it clear he is doing a great job. "He puts in a lot of time and has faced a lot of challenges, and still has a great deal of energy to get the job done," Mr. Rossi said. "We're all very happy with him, the teachers, students, parents, everybody, and we're going to work towards keeping him here."
The AISC approved a three-year contract for Mr. Weiss starting July 1, 2005, following the unexpected resignation of former superintendent Kriner Cash in September 2004. Mr. Weiss formerly served as superintendent of the Sanborn regional school district in New Hampshire.
"Jim came to the Island at a time when the superintendent's position was in a little disarray," Mr. Tankard recalled. "He has come in and been very supportive of what the Island needs, has been able to handle very professionally the different towns, their budgets, and personnel, and has helped people on the school committee learn how to be better school committee members."
Priscilla Sylvia, a member of the Oak Bluffs and MVRHS school committees, offered her perspective as a retired Oak Bluffs School teacher who dealt with several school superintendents in her 35-year career. "Dr. Weiss is marvelous - a wonderful administrator who is personable and easy to deal with and work with - every superlative I can think of," Ms. Sylvia said. "We are a very lucky and fortunate group to have him as our superintendent. He's on top of everything, and keeps us well-informed."
In Mr. Cabot's report summary, he noted that Mr. Weiss's evaluation included sections headed "opportunities" and "future goals," which were not intended to fault him but to encourage him to do more in the directions in which he is headed. Suggestions included more meetings with school advisory councils and FinComs, and more communication with the public.
"We hired him two years ago, and we just got lucky," Mr. Rossi said. "He keeps reinforcing that to us. We're very pleased with the direction he's headed, and he's gained a lot of trust and admiration along the way."