PBC school board to give Avossa high marks, setting up his first raise

5:17 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017 Local
Palm Beach County School Board members praised Superintendent Robert Avossa’s leadership and communication skills and the steady academic progress in the county’s public schools. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa is poised to receive high marks on his third annual evaluation Wednesday, with school board members praising his leadership and communication skills and the steady academic progress in the county’s public schools.

Five board members rated Avossa as “highly effective,” while two board members scored him “effective,” according to evaluation forms that The Palm Beach Post obtained from the school district Tuesday through a public records request.

The combined scores would give Avossa an overall rating of “highly effective” for the third consecutive year if approved by board members at a meeting Wednesday. The positive reviews leave Avossa positioned for his first raise, potentially worth between $8,000 and $10,000, since taking office in June 2015 with a $325,000 base salary.

In his annual report to board members last month, Avossa highlighted rising test scores and expanded learning opportunities in the county’s public schools, as well as the use of sales tax revenue to improve school facilities and stepped-up efforts to recruit more teachers.

Board members were asked to evaluate Avossa by rating his performance on a scale of one to four in five categories: student achievement, board and community relations, human resource management, financial resource management and operations management.

School Board Chairman Chuck Shaw gave Avossa a perfect score in all five categories, praising the school district’s progress under his leadership.

“Dr. Avossa needs to get credit for addressing problems as they arise and taking steps to ensure these problems do not reoccur,” Shaw wrote. “I am very pleased the superintendent is holding people accountable for their jobs and responsibilities.”

School Board Vice Chairwoman Debra Robinson gave Avossa high marks as well, saying that while student performance was inadequate, it was on the right track.

“The outcomes, while significantly improving, are nowhere near acceptable,” she wrote. “However, I believe that we are finally putting in place most of the numerous pieces needed and I am certain that the outcomes will improve significantly and at a rapid pace if we monitor the details of what we think is happening.”

Last year all six board members who evaluated Avossa gave him “highly effective” ratings. This year two members – Marcia Andrews and Barbara McQuinn – instead rated him as “effective” overall.

McQuinn wrote that Avossa “is to be commended for ongoing focus on increased student achievement for all students.” But she pointed out that while the county’s public schools are improving by many measures, they are improving more slowly than the state overall, including the percentage of elementary schools with A and B grades and the number of third-graders reading on grade level.

“Although the district continues to boast the highest overall performance among Florida’s (seven) largest districts, the growth data indicates less forward motion compared to the state in several areas,” she wrote.

Andrews gave Avossa the lowest overall score but did not include any criticisms in the comments on her evaluation.

“Data shows students are improving,” she wrote.

Board member Frank Barbieri gave Avossa a perfect score in all five categories but wrote that Avossa has appointed too many people from outside the county to district posts.

“Although I am very pleased with some (not all) of the employees you have brought in from outside the district,” he wrote, “with thousands of district employees, I am skeptical that there are no current employees who have the expertise and other qualifications required to fill vacancies and newly created positions.”

In February, board members amended Avossa’s contract so he would automatically receive annual raises in the future, so long as he doesn’t receive a poor evaluation and other administrators receive raises.

With a “highly effective” rating, Avossa’s raises this year would be equal to those received by other district administrators. The raise would be retroactive to July 1.

Pay increases for administrators usually mirror those of teachers and other school district employees, but Avossa said last week that other district workers this year likely will receive lower increases than teachers, who last week reached a tentative deal for average pay increases of 3.2 percent.

That could set up Avossa for a raise of between $8,000 and $10,000, depending on the size of administrators’ raises, which are proposed by Avossa and approved by the school board.

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