- Andrew Marra Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa received top marks Wednesday on his second annual evaluation by the county school board, with board members praising his communication skills and work to reform key aspects of the county’s public school system.
All six school board members gave Avossa a rating of “highly effective,” with many board members effusively praising his work since he took the position last summer to tackle the county’s school bus problems, thin the ranks of middle management and market the public schools to the community.
“Dr. Avossa has far exceeded expectations,” School Board Chairman Chuck Shaw wrote in his evaluation. “He has the skills to lead and help others grow. He is calm and faces issues with sensitivity and care. He understands life in the schools.”
Board member Erica Whitfield credited Avossa’s work to engage parents and the broader community, which has included frequent town hall meetings, public speaking engagements and a heavy presence on social media.
“Never has the community felt so engaged and valued in the discussion on the direction of their schools,” Whitfield wrote.
School Board Vice Chairman Frank Barbieri praised Avossa’s work to implement a five-year strategic plan to raise student performance, which included specific targets – such as higher reading test scores and high school graduation rates – that the school district is now working to meet.
“Already your effectiveness in the beginning stages of implementation of the 5-year strategic plan is evident from the turnaround over the past year in the performance of the students in our lowest-performing schools,” Barbieri wrote.
Board member Debra Robinson, who last year was the only board member not to give him the top rating, pointed to Avossa’s efforts to call attention to disparities in student achievement across racial and gender lines, and for reorganizing the district’s middle management so regional superintendents have closer contact to the schools they oversee.
“Your inspirational leadership should provide the energy and direction to have each adult appreciate their important role in developing the next generation,” she wrote.
In his comments, Barbieri cautioned Avossa to communicate changes promptly to the board, particularly ones that would cause controversy among the ranks of teachers and principals. And he expressed worry about Avossa’s tendency to hire former colleagues from other counties to top management positions.
“My caution here is that you make a better attempt in identifying administrative staff already employed by the district prior to hiring administrators from outside the district to fill key administrative positions,” he wrote.
Overall, though, board members praised their decision to select him last spring, saying that he has proved himself a transformative leader.
“It’s obvious that this board made a great decision when we hired him,” Barbieri said Wednesday.