Super’s evaluation reveals fractured board

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NAUGATUCK — Both the teacher’s union and the Board of Mayor and Burgesses last year cast symbolic votes of “no confidence” in Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Tindall-Gibson, sending a clear message that they were unsatisfied with his job performance in the midst of budget problems and community unrest.

But the Board of Education, which works more closely with Tindall-Gibson than either of those entities, has submitted the embattled school chief’s formal, annual review, and it’s clear no strong consensus exists among its members. The school board, it appears, neither has full confidence nor fully lacks confidence in its CEO, who announced earlier this year he will not seek a contract renewal in 2012, when his current contract expires.

The school board praised Tindall-Gibson's commitment to education and professional demeanor while pointing out his alleged weaknesses in organizational management and community relations.

The board’s hot-and-cold responses are outlined in the evaluation, which includes both a prevailing board opinion and individual, anonymous responses in the following categories: educational leadership, organizational management, community and board relations and personal and professional qualities.

The board rated Tindall-Gibson’s performance as strong in the areas of educational leadership and personal and professional qualities. One board member praised him as a “proponent for education” and a “gentlemen” who “always display[s] professionalism, ethics and honestly.” The same board member pointed out the superintendent’s alleged “lack of urgency to address deficiencies.”

Only one member felt Tindall-Gibson had performed poorly as an educational leader; others credited him with expanding the borough’s early education programs and setting a new high bar in terms of test scores.

“The board acknowledges that the achievement gap for our students is closing and test performance has improved under your supervision,” the report, which board Chairwoman Kathleen Donovan prepared, noted.

But even as individual board members commended Tindall-Gibson’s educational acumen and professional manner, others—or perhaps the same ones—called his communication with the board and community as “ineffective,” and the full board recommended he increase “the frequency of school visits … for the benefit of students and staff to strengthen and enhance your relationships with those groups.”

A minority of the board felt Tindall-Gibson hasn’t always reported fiscal problems to the board in a timely manner, or had reported to individual members at different times.

“Poor communication still exists,” one member noted. “Effective and consistent communication could have tempered the unprecedented outcry by the public and staff over financial issues.”

Another member felt “certain [board] members are given privilege[s] that others are not and information is shared with some and not others. Communications to members is sometimes via [a] newspaper or calls to parents.”

Tindall-Gibson wrote, in response to the evaluation, that its “most striking aspect” is its “struggle to meet its stated goal of developing consensual expectations” for the superintendent.

While acknowledging “internal and external stressors” and the national recession, he continued, “The difficulty the board had setting aside individual difficulties and reaching consensus on issues concerned many people on the board and in the community.”