Superintendent Lou Cavallo is approaching the end of his first year as District 91’s top administrator and expects in the coming weeks to hear from board members on the quality of his work. During a closed meeting held Saturday, April 5, the school board discussed the criteria it will use in its evaluation and as early as the end of the month could present its review to the rookie administrator.
For Cavallo, who joined the K-8 public school district in July 2007, this is his first stint as a superintendent.
“As strange as it sounds I always look forward to a performance review because it gives me my marching orders for the year,” Cavallo said. “I would probably be disappointed if I’m told that I did everything perfectly.”
Board President Glenn Garlisch, a five-year member of the board, has helped conduct a handful of reviews but has his criticisms of the process. Previously, he said, board members were saddled with a “lengthy” and “daunting” list of categories in which to grade the superintendent. Once that process was finished there was little to no discussion, said Garlisch, rendering the evaluation somewhat meaningless.
The purpose of the weekend meeting, he said, was to sharpen the evaluation into a more fruitful experience.
“We need this piece, we need this instrument and for it to be productive,” Garlisch said.
State law mandates that school superintendents be evaluated only during a contract year, but Cavallo’s contract includes language that requires an annual review. School board Secretary Frank Mott said that was done at Cavallo’s request. Generally speaking, said Mott, he has been very pleased with the superintendent’s performance.
When Cavallo was hired by the school board, members pointed to his experience as a middle school principal as a potential boon for the district. The board was also interested in Cavallo’s work with curriculum revisions and student behavior programs.
“Those seemed to be the key areas for the district and the town,” Mott said. “I anticipated there would be some changes in the first year, but I didn’t think there would be so many positive changes in the first year.”
During his inaugural year with District 91, Cavallo has spurred a revamping of the reading curriculum that is expected to spread to other disciplines in the coming years. In January, the middle school introduced a peer mentoring program that seeks to curb anti-social behavior while boosting classroom performance.
“Overall, I couldn’t be more pleased with my relationship with the board and our focus on common goals,” Cavallo said.
Garlisch, too, spoke warmly of the atmosphere in the district and said the board has developed a good relationship with the new superintendent. Any specific praise or criticism though, will be part of Cavallo’s review, he said.
“He should get honest feedback from the board that helps him plan into the future,” Garlisch said.