For the second year running, District 91 Superintendent Lou Cavallo was given a three-out-of-four by the school board after they met in closed session to evaluate his job performance during the past school year.

Cavallo demonstrated “above average/proficient competency and performance level,” according to the rubric used by the board.

“This is an indication that we are striving to improve, and that’s what we should be doing,” Cavallo said.

“The board takes this evaluation very seriously. They look at specific examples and evidence and spend a lot of time talking about [the data] and determining the values.

“The board does a self-evaluation, too,” Cavallo added.

The evaluation graded Cavallo and the administration in 18 different ways, including his skills in leadership, problem analysis, change facilitation and communication. The board also graded him on policy and governance, human resources management and labor relations.

New this year, the board’s evaluation tied into the district’s SMART goals for 2013. The acronym stands for “simple, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.”

The six goals of the district were: MAP assessment growth for all students in math and reading, community satisfaction with the district in two-way communication, a reduction of daily discipline referrals, a facilities audit plan, professional development and instructional training for new teachers, and a tax abatement strategy.

“These goals are measurable and not subjective,” Cavallo noted. “I think it would be disappointing if they gave me an ‘A’ on [the evaluation] and moved on with no way to improve.”

Cavallo particularly pointed to the cultural changes at the schools, based on the adoption of the PBIS behavioral tools.

“We are teaching our kids the ‘soft’ but essential skills at a very high level,” he said, pointing out that D91 has become a statewide and even national example where PBIS is changing school discipline results.

“We’re a demonstration site for the nation now. These kids are well-behaved. The data is supporting the fact that we have made a drastic change throughout the district. That was a major concern when I was hired,” he said.

Too much change is too much

Supt. Cavallo told the school board at the March 14 meeting that he took to heart the research of management guru Jim Collins, whom he heard speak at the National Conference of Education. Collins coined the expression “from good to great” which the district has adopted as an unofficial slogan. Cavallo told the board that Collins had said adopting too much change at once could undermine the quality of organizations.

State- and nationally-mandated changes in curriculum and assessment could be overwhelming to teachers. He said Collins’ rule of thumb is that no organization should change more that 20 percent per year and that it was vital for any changing organization to “remain close to its core values.”

State and federal funding shrinks

Cavallo and Asst. Supt. Ed Brophy told the board that the amount of General State Aid received by the district would shrink to 82 percent of prior years. The pro-rated portion would amount to a $57,000 cut in revenue. Sequester-related cuts were also expected including $10,700 in Title I (for low-income students) and $11,800 cuts in IDEA aid (for disabled students).

New administrators

A shifting of administrators and teachers into new roles was voted into place for the 2013-14 school year at the March 14 meeting. Michelle Gossett, former asst. principal of Forest Park Middle School was named director of special education for the upcoming year, replacing Rose Gronko, who’s retiring in 2014. Gossett was a special education teacher prior to working as assistant principal.

Former eighth-grade social studies teacher, Joe Pisano, will take the helm as middle school vice principal. He’s been interim vice principal this year. Matt Hopper replaced Pisano as a temporary eighth-grade social studies teacher.

The board also approved a new director of instructional technology. James Eichmiller will replace the retired Karen Kuta.

State of the District address

The D91 State of the District address will take place Tuesday, March 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Garfield School, 543 Hannah. Supt. Cavallo said he’s responding to feedback that last year’s address was too heavy on the Powerpoint and promises to make this meeting, “interactive.”

“My part will be very short, leaving time for the public to ask questions and make comments. Everything is fair game. I want people to know they should not be afraid to make comments,” Cavallo said.

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...