Different top government executives self-evaluate differently.
When he was Palm Coast’s city manager for over a decade until 2018, Jim Landon was required by contract to be evaluated annually by the council. He never was–not until late in his tenure. Until then, the annual report the city’s marketing department produced (and still produces) stood in as evaluations. They were lush, glossy booklets summarizing the year’s achievements in glowing terms.
School Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt is more circumspect. She’s not much for gloss or back-patting, let alone patting her own back. She prefers to let data do the talking. She doesn’t sugar-coat, even when it’s to her detriment. She’s required by contract not only to be evaluated by each of the five school board members once a year, but to turn in a self-evaluation by April 1.
Both of these processes are in progress. Mittelstadt turned in her self-evaluation, or “self-appraisal,” on March 16. The board members are preparing their own, individual evaluations, which will be discussed at their April 4 workshop. As of Wednesday, three of the five school board members had scheduled one-on-one interviews with Mittelstadt to go over evaluations, the exception being Colleen Conklin, who was in the middle of a family health emergency (she posted on Facebook that her father, long ailing, was hospitalized), and Sally Hunt, who was on vacation.
If it’s not a done deal–which it may well be–the evaluations may be key to Mittelstadt’s future, which can now fairly be called embattled: only two board members have spoke openly of supporting a contract renewal: Conklin, who has worked with Mittelstadt since her hiring, and Cheryl Massaro, the board’s chair, who’s worked with the superintendent for over two years. (An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that Conklin had voted in the majority to hire Mittelstadt. The 3-1 vote was without Conklin, who had recused herself from the process since she had been a candidate for the ob. But she said that she would have voted for Mittelstadt.)
Board members Will Furry and Christy Chong have stayed mum on the subject, wanting to work through the evaluation process. Hunt’s antagonism toward the superintendent has become clear over the last few weeks.
The superintendent’s 10-page self-evaluation combines numbers–goals met or not met–with a two-page, single-spaced list of accomplishments, challenges overcome or “Factors and Conditions that have impacted Flagler Schools.” But it’s an incomplete self-evaluations, if only because about a third of the metrics are not yet in. Those are provided by the state Department of Education usually in June, though there’s been times when the department delays the releases. Mittelstadt’s contract ends June 30.
“As I have previously stated at a recent workshop, if this board recognizes the scope of work that I have led merits a contract extension, I welcome consideration of a 6-month to one-year option should the board need more time before deciding on a multi-year contract,” Mittelstadt wrote the board members in her cover memo.
The self-evaluation does not have a “final rating,” because of that lack of complete data. Taking just the number of metrics for which data was available, Mittelstadt said she met seven out of nine (with 11 metrics still to be tabulated later this year), giving her a preliminary 78 percent rating. That places her in the high end of the “effective” category, two points short of “highly effective.”
Some of the data in the “student academics” category are alarming: one metric is to “Increase the percentage of students who are on grade level as measured by state English Language Arts assessments.” The prior year’s result was 60 percent. The target was 60 percent. The year-to-date result: 40 percent.
Increasing the percentage of students on grade level in math is another metric. The previous year’s result was 59 percent. The target was 61 percent. Year to date: 31 percent.
Mittlestadt notes that “many figures in this document are Year to Date (YTD), as the data is pulled from the Progress Monitoring 2 session, which is completed at the mid-way point of the school year. Historically the growth in the second half of the school year is substantially greater than that of the first half of the year. Additionally, this is a new state-wide tool being used this year.”
The graduation rate goal is holding up better, exceeding the target by a percentage point (91 percent). So is the maintenance or increase in the rate of students on the acceleration track, exceeding the target by a percentage point in one category, but falling short in another (“The decline represents seniors impacted by the pandemic, which offered eligible waivers for graduating,” the superintendent explains in a footnote.)
The results are consistently better in the “Education Equity” set of goals. The student achievement gap between students with and without disabilities was reduced in math and English, as it was between poorer and richer students (it was reduced, but not to the point of meeting the targeted reduction, in English). It was also reduced between Black and white students in English and math. While the percentage of students enrolled in the district’s more rigorous programs, such as IB, Cambridge, AP courses and dual enrollment, increased by a percentage points, it is falling short of the target by two percentage points.
Goals were also far exceeded in all “social and emotional well-being” categories, from the increase in school staffers trained in mental health first aid to lowering student absenteeism to improving connections between students and social work referrals.
Notably, more conservative school board members, along with the State Board of Education’s current ideological make up, have openly derided “social and emotional well-being” and “equity.” So improvements in those areas may not carry as much weight in the eyes of Flagler’s more conservative school board members, especially when contrasted with academic achievement.
Operational efficiency goals also were exceeded in three of four categories (that’s the back-lot of the operation: plant and custodial services, on-time arrivals of school buses, reduction in school-bus breakdowns). Increasing participation in the school lunch program was the one target not met.
Communication was listed as the sixth and final goal, one of which was to improve the “positive perception” of the district. That metric was rated as “not available.” The district’s “social media reach” is also considerably down, though it may not account for elements out of the district’s control, such as changing algorithms in the way Meta’s Facebook disseminates its pages.
The list of accomplishments is in parts heavy on the sort of jargon on education professionals and insiders, or diehard devotees of school board meetings, might recognize–“Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (BEST),” “Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS),” “Unified Data Protocol – Decision Making,” and so on. Others are more easily understood, such as accomplishments with exceptional student education, moving sixth graders to middle schools, exploring or implementing new security protocols, and so on.
In a normal climate, the superintendent’s suggestion for a six-month extension would have likely been accepted, just as the attention on her contract renewal would have been more muted. Instead, it’s drawn unusual attention for having become a defining moment for a board with three new members, in a climate overheated by some of the members’ own politicking, along with that of special interests in the community–business interests, a former school board member, and Mittelstadt’s own detractors within the district among them. Mittelstadt’s fate, in other words, may have already been sealed a while ago.
In maneuvers unknown to her colleagues or the public until press reports disclosed them, Hunt met with Dusty Sims, the former Flagler Palm Coast High School principal, to talk about his possibly replacing Mittelstadt, and she has since made no secret of her dislike of the superintendent. She has also been meeting with Paul Peacock, the principal at Wadsworth Elementary, and Marcus Sanfilippo, the principal at Bunnell Elementary, neither of whom is a fan of Mittelstadt.Mittelstadt Self-appraisal 2023-02-24 (1) (1)
Deborah Coffey says
Well, I’m with Conklin and Massarso. The other members of this School Board aren’t smart enough to be there. Cathy Mittelstadt was outstanding in St. Johns County and she’s outstanding here.
Concerned Community Membet says
Wow! Ms Mittlestadt came to the district during Covid. Had no one taken this into consideration? I feel that an injustice is being done to her by this evaluation. How can percentages and scores count against in the past years. The schools are just now getting back to normal from those two past years. I feel they should extend her co tract 6-12 months and see how much better things will be. Come on people stop judging this woman. She has done good throughout these Covid years.
It seems unfair that brand new members who have little experience in fairly evaluating others and don’t even have enough knowledge to correctly evaluate themselves because they are on a learning curve themselves. are allowed to judge those members with more knowledge and experience than the new members do. I think it might be a good idea to follow through on the suggestion that someone made about extending Ms Middlestat’s contract for 6 months so that the newbies can get more educated about being on a school board. I too voted for Hunt, but will not again. Her opponent in the election was the worst of the two so it was more of a vote against Woolbright than for Hunt. She appears to be rather sneaky and untrustworthy and perhaps should work in another profession. JMO
Purveyor of the Truth says
Does the district canvass the employees with an organizational cultural and climate survey in addition to the superintendent’s self evaluation?
It may very well paint the trust picture.
Superintendent Mittelstadt was a godsend to our community. Our society is architected in such a way that the people who can be strong when it counts are put in the position to be strong when it matters. Most people are shielded from the tough “facts of life” that remain true no matter how they feel about it or what their perception leads them to conclude. Superintendent Mittelstadt was there for covid because she was the right person to navigate those waters. If the board is not aware enough or not brave enough to see the value she adds then I think the focus should be on their worthiness and not hers. This is a no brainer. Anyone else who would get the position would be a step in the wrong direction.
Concerned and Alarmed says
The county can do better. There have been several hostile and contentious issues that have been extremely public under the. “LACK” of leadership during Ms Mittlestadt’s tenure. In many cases there is finger-pointing, and she hides with lack of regard or addressing several issues.
When you have a district that in comparison by # of schools has significantly less than those around us, and you have two principles who through this article are opposed, in addition, two that left the county after one year, this is an alarming percentage. This does not include teachers or other support professionals who have left. There has been 0 accountability of the one key person, who ultimately would be responsible. I have a very hard time wrapping my head around the fact that we have had highly trained and respected educators, either forced out of our county or positioned in an adversarial role publicly. Union negotiations, social media, outcries, Newsbytes nationally, all fall under her leader ship, and in many cases support. Staff have been very vocal about lack of leadership, guidance, and policy, which has ultimately played a role in the negative views of our school system. In every heated issue, our superintendent has opted to take a backseat or be non-present, these issues, escalated, that is not what a leader does. There has been no discussion or points in her review about her in ability to spearhead policies and procedures under her purview.
If she or this paper want to continually blame those that are raising concerns about her credentials and success, and point out those who I would consider more in a traditional “whistle blower” capacity, it is concerning as again under her purview, she is who initially hired, and her responsibility to train, guide, and ensure their success failed. Staff appointments under her tenure in high level positions have been questioned. With such a high percentage of turnover and disgruntled employees in our system, this is something that cannot be ignored.
It is extremely frustrating to continue to see comments in support because people feel it would be too hard to find a replacement. She was never the initial or first choice, she got the position by default.
The lower reading on level is a major concern. Yes, we can denote the pandemic does play a small role, however; at what point do we look at ineffective leader ship from the top being a driving factor.
I wish this publication and keyboard warriors would stop getting involved in the mudslinging and back and forth and try to look at the larger scope, the county deserves better.
Very Concerned says
Thank you for saying what many think but are hesitant to comment. I have no opinion on the nee drama with the Peacock fella but sounds like media and others are trying to use this to ho after that guy instead of seeing regardless of that man’s credentials are issues the Superintendent put him in that role and ultimately would be responsible for his decisions and actions. You cannot convince me that he was not having conversations with her throughout negotiating. Also, I believe Mr. Bosser debt was involved as he was in several of those meetings, so was he to demoted because of this? It just seems like lack of leadership and 0 accountability with as you said lots of finger pointing. around. Shame on our board!
concerned parent says
We are very fortunate to have a profession like Superintendent Mittelstadt. We have three inexperienced members of the school board that want to railroad her out. Please rally for Superintendent Mittelstadt, she is a brilliant educator and should be respected and greatly appreciated.
Linda Morgan says
It is very hard to self evaluate your job performance, especially when you are at the top and do not have absolute control over every person under your supervision. My husband had to do this while working for a Fortune 500 company. Some companies give the management a maximum number of points for their division and have to back it down from there. In other words, you have to look at the whole picture, and not just pick the portions of a review and other items that meet your agenda. I agree with many people saying give her an extension, I think it should be for an entire school year. I also agree that if Sally Hunt wants to keep her position, she needs to adjust her tactics during her learning curve and get a feel for herself and not rely entirely on what other people say. Everyone seems to have an agenda these days. Let the agenda be about our students and teachers, not the school board administration.
Connie Sowards says
The issues that are creating a less than highly effective rating for Ms Mittlestadt are political in nature and generated needlessly by some board members whose primary goals have nothing to do with growth of the children in Flagler County. Their goals seem to be only attuned to blindly following the lead of homophobic, know nothing political leaders intent on “white washing” history courses and constantly agitating unrest in minority communities.
After 42 years of teaching children, mentoring new teachers, furthering my own studies to serve as a disciplinary counselor, working on SAC committees in two adjacent counties, I can honestly say that Cathy Mittlestadt is one of the highest performing administrators with whom I’ve worked.
FCSB, you had best be careful what you’re pushing. It smells like hate.
Not many good teachers can work in that milieu.
Michael Cocchiola says
Superintendent Mittiestadt is doing a fine job and has earned a contract extension. She came to Flagler and go hit with the pandemic. Give her a full chance, at least one year, to show her true worth.