IN THIS MODULE, TRUSTEES WILL EXPLORE:
- the role of the board of trustees and the director of education in developing a policy for the performance review of the director of education
- guiding principles for a performance review process
- effective elements of a performance review process
- leadership practices that form the basis of the director’s performance review
As chief education officer and chief executive officer of the school board, the director of education provides leadership that promotes student achievement and well-being, as well as the growth and success of the organization. The director has leadership responsibilities for implementing the elected board’s multi-year strategic plan and for developing and maintaining an effective organization with programs and services that operationalize the board’s policies. It is important to note that the director and senior staff often work closely with trustees as they develop the plan. This creates a sense of joint ownership that can lead to better outcomes.
While evidence of student achievement and well-being will vary from school board to school board, the director’s performance review process will focus on the effective strategies and leadership practices the director has employed to implement the board’s multi-year strategic plan.
As outlined in section 169.1 of the Education Act, boards are responsible for student achievement and the effective stewardship of resources. This includes promoting a positive school climate, monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of policies and developing a multi-year strategic plan.
Of particular significance to this module, section 169.1 (below) also includes responsibilities related to director performance review.
169.1 (1) Every board shall,
(h) monitor and evaluate the performance of the board’s director of education or the supervisory officer acting as the board’s director of education, in meeting,
(i) his or her duties under this Act or any policy, guidelines or regulation made under the multi-year plan … required in Section 169.1 (1) (f), and
(ii) any other duties assigned by the board.
(Education Act, Ontario)
When the review process for the performance of the director is well-structured and effectively conducted, the outcomes are clear. The process will:
- benefit the students and school system
- assist the board in providing quality educational service
- foster a strong on-going relationship between the director and the elected board based upon common goals and expectations
- model the importance of, and contribute to continuous improvement throughout the board
- provide helpful, concrete and objective feedback to the director to optimize personal development and future performance
- ensure accountability for the effective leadership and management of the school system
- recognize the contributions of the director
The director’s performance review process parallels the board self-assessment process outlined in Module 21 – Board Self-Assessment: Governance Performance.
GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR THE DIRECTOR’S PERFORMANCE REVIEW PROCESS
Each board of trustees is expected to develop a policy outlining a process for the performance review of the director. The policy should be approved by the elected board before it is used and should:
- benefit students based on the shared responsibility of the director and the elected board for improving student achievement
- strengthen the organization, making it more cohesive, viable, accountable and proactive in serving the needs of students and the broader board community
- be based on the director’s job description and clearly aligned with the annual goals of the board’s multi-year strategic plan. (See Module 3 – Roles and Responsibilities for more information about the role and responsibilities of directors)
- be conducted on an annual basis, involving all members of the board
- rely on quantitative and qualitative evidence (data) agreed upon in advance by the board of trustees and the director and collected for the purpose of informing the performance review process
- be a mutual learning opportunity to affirm successful practices and to improve areas of identified need
- be results-oriented and reflect a focus on continuous improvement for both the director and the board
- be characterized throughout by a process that is well understood and communicated to stakeholders while respecting the confidentiality of individual inputs and findings within the professional process of the conduct of the review
- provide a structured opportunity for the director to receive feedback that identifies concerns in a timely and supportive way to facilitate resolution
The board of trustees and director should confirm they are in agreement regarding the process at the beginning of the review year. Using a skilled facilitator from the onset of the process may be beneficial to both boards and directors. One highly effective practice is to include a 360° assessment as part of the review process. This includes seeking confidential feedback from the leadership team, trustees, board committee chairs, representatives from federations and associations, and possibly other stakeholders or community partners.
EFFECTIVE POLICY ELEMENTS
The board of trustees is encouraged to consider the following elements of an effective performance review process when developing or reviewing a policy:
Clear rationale and overall objectives for the process, including local context
- Help achieve board goals and priorities
- Align to board multi-year strategic plan
- Help build strong, mutually respectful relationship between the director and the board of trustees
- Provide clarity to director regarding board goals and priorities
- Provide clarity with respect to “any other duties assigned by the board”
- Support the director’s ongoing development
- Ensure that there are no misunderstandings or surprises during the director’s performance appraisal process
Legal requirements and confidential reference to the director’s contract with the elected board
Clear steps, components and timelines:
- What will be assessed (using the job description of the director of education)?
- What criteria will be used to assess identified areas (e.g. annual goals)?
- What specific evidence (data) will be used?
- How will evidence be collected?
- Who will be involved in the collection of evidence?
- Who will be involved in the review process?
- Who will have access to the information?
- How will evidence be analyzed and compiled?
- How will the board ensure the evidence is reliable?
How will the outcomes be reported?
- How will recommendations related to agreed-to changes be monitored?
How will issues and/or conflict be managed?
Within the context of the requirements set out in legislation, Ministry of Education policy and guidelines, and the director’s local job description, the core leadership practices which form the basis of the director’s performance review are:
1. Setting Goals
This capacity refers to working with others to help ensure that goals are strategic, specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and time-bound (SMART) and lead to improved teaching and learning.
2. Aligning Resources with Priorities
This capacity focuses on ensuring that financial, capital, human resources, curriculum and teaching resources, professional learning resources and program allocations are tied to priorities, with student achievement and well-being as the central, unambiguous focus.
3. Promoting Collaborative Learning Cultures
This capacity is about enabling schools, school board communities and districts to work together and to learn from each other with a central focus on improved teaching quality and student achievement and well-being.
4. Using Data
This capacity is about leading and engaging school teams in gathering and analyzing provincial, district, school and classroom data to identify trends, strengths and weaknesses that will inform specific actions for improvement focused on teaching and learning.
5. Engaging in Courageous Conversations
This capacity relates to challenging current practices and fostering innovation through conversation, to listen and to act on feedback, and to provide feedback that will lead to improvements in student achievement and well-being.
These core leadership capacities are outlined in The Ontario Leadership Framework – A School and System Leader’s Guide to Putting Ontario’s Leadership Framework into Action and are aligned with the work of the Ministry of Education and school boards.
In each of these categories, The Ontario Leadership Framework expands on practices which demonstrate skills, knowledge and attitudes essential to effective system leadership. Performance review of the director is tied to these leadership practices.
For more information, please refer to the following charts which provide a convenient at-a-glance view of the leadership practices described by the Ontario Leadership Framework:
HOW CONTEXT IMPACTS PROCESS
In each of Ontario’s four publicly funded school systems, the director’s job description and expectations regarding leadership practices will also be influenced by the unique mandate, missions and values that characterize those systems. In a Catholic board, for instance, there will be a focus on Catholic faith, community and culture. A French-language board will have an expanded focus on community capacity-building related to sustainability of French language and culture.
In addition, the performance of the director is affected by individual competencies and efforts, and by the conditions and demographics of the school board community. The director performance review process should be designed to allow for the flexibility to recognize these individual circumstances and needs. One of the most significant aspects of the director performance review process is the open communication, collaboration and discussion that leads to “an agreed upon process.” This collaborative approach allows both the director and the board of trustees to be clear about all aspects of the process before the director performance review process begins. There should be no surprises for either the director or the elected board.