A difficult relationship with his school committee coupled with a recent less-than-stellar performance review may jeopardize the future for Brockton School Superintendent Matthew Malone, who must be informed by Jan. 1 at the latest if his $1 million-plus contract is to be renewed.
Malone’s five-year pact runs out in 2014, but under the agreement with city schools he must be given 18 months notice if they don’t plan to rehire him.
Employing a scale of 1 to 5, the seven-member School Committee gave the superintendent a composite score of 2.77 for his third year at the helm of the state’s fourth-largest public school district.
While that figure was rounded up to “satisfactory,” it also indicates that the leader once characterized as “a rock star” by the enthusiastic committee that hired him in 2009 has lost favor and may not necessarily be a shoo-in for another five years.
Malone’s score was based primarily on dissatisfaction with how he communicates with, and relates to, the School Committee itself, said panel vice chairman Thomas Minichiello, who gave Malone an overall score of 2.0 .
School Committee members also rated Malone on 77 total objectives in seven categories, including his ability to complete strategic goals, where he scored a bit higher.
“If I felt he was doing a fantastic job, my review would be different,’’ Minichiello said. “It is a concern. Things seem to have gone in the wrong direction.’’
‘I also feel I did a good job working with the committee, so it’s somewhat disheartening.’
Several committee members clearly agree with Minichiello, who represents Brockton’s Ward 1.
Anthony Donegan (Ward 2) gave Malone a 2.5 out of 5; Timothy Sullivan (Ward 7) offered a 2.35; Michael Healy (Ward 6) gave a 2.21; and, lowest of all, was William Carpenter, (Ward 5) who rated Malone’s performance at 1.70 out of 5.
Notable in the report by Robert M. Goss Jr., of Super Systems of Hopedale, which compiled all the committee members ratings before the evaluation, however, is the recurring statement that those who ripped Malone in the review did not include any facts or examples to back up their positions.
That led some, including School Committee member Patricia Joyce of Ward 4, who led the initial drive to hire Malone, to say the animosity may be personal and not based on professionalism.
“I’m at a loss as to the scores from certain people,’’ said Joyce, who rated Malone at 3.99. Several members of the committee have only been in place since January. “To me, an evaluation is a tool to improve performance and to determine compensation.”
If detractors don’t provide concrete feedback to back up their criticism, an evaluation is a useless tool, she said. “That leads me to believe that it’s not so much that they want him to do better, but that it’s punitive,” she said.
Minichiello said backup documentation, at least in his case, is a nonissue. “I voiced my concerns in my discussions with Dr. Malone, and he knows exactly what they are,” Minichiello said.
One, he said, is the fact that MCAS scores in some of Brockton’s elementary schools continue to go down. But members also said that Malone can’t maintain a “harmonious” working relationship with the School Committee and fails to treat everyone the same. They complained that he has not followed through with a goal to refrain from criticizing them publicly.
In addition to Joyce, supporters of Malone’s efforts include Andrew Robinson of Ward 2, who rated the superintendent at 4.36, and Mayor Linda Balzotti, who chairs the committee. Balzotti gave Malone a score of 3.42.
“We all live in a professional world where we don’t necessarily always like the people who work for us, but if they are doing the job, who are we to make decisions based on that?” Joyce said. “I’ve been through two superintendent searches, and it’s hard to find someone who has the background that is remotely similar to our size.”
Malone said he believes he has served the 22-school district’s 16,000-plus students well and can’t help but feel “miffed” at the committee’s harsh words. His primary focus remains on teaching and learning, he said.
“I also feel I did a good job working with the committee, so it’s somewhat disheartening,’’ he said. “I treat every School Committee member with respect and I like each and every person, and the group as a whole.’’
Observers should look at the range of scores he received, and not just those that relate to the School Committee, he said. But, overall, he said he knows his fate rests with the panel.
“I’m just here to do my best and be here for the kids,’’ he said. “I’ve enjoyed the job tremendously, and five years is a good run.”Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.