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Madison School Board rates Superintendent Nerad barely 'proficient'
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Madison School Board rates Superintendent Nerad barely 'proficient'

MADISON SCHOOLS | LEADERSHIP EVALUATION

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If Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad's job performance were judged like a student taking the state achievement test, he would score barely proficient, according to the Madison School Board's most recent evaluation.

The evaluation, completed last month and released to the State Journal under the state's Open Records Law, reveals the School Board's divided view of Nerad's performance.

School Board President James Howard said he expects the board to vote later this month on whether to extend Nerad's contract beyond June 2013. The decision has been delayed as Nerad's achievement gap plan is reviewed by the public, Howard said.

Soon after that plan was proposed last month, Howard said he would support extending Nerad's contract. Now, Howard says he is uncertain how he'll vote.

"It's probably a toss-up," he said. "There's a lot of issues on the table in Madison. It's time to resolve them. All this kicking-the-can-down-the-road stuff has to stop."

Nerad said he has always welcomed feedback on how he can improve as a leader.

"My life work is dedicated to ensuring that we improve our schools and entire district to ensure that our kids learn and that we work with the community to help kids be ready for school," Nerad said in a statement. "Having said this, I recognize that I have strengths as a leader as well as areas that need improving."

A vote against extending Nerad's contract would mean the board would begin a search for a new superintendent for the 2013-14 school year.

Nerad has asked the board to vote publicly on extending his contract twice since he was hired in mid-2008. Last year, two board members voted against an extension.

Final score: 1,609

His contract requires the board to vote on his extension by Feb. 15, provided he asks for a vote by Jan. 15. Nerad didn't exercise that option this year and asked the board to hold off on a vote until after completion of the public input and revision process for his plan to address the district's achievement gap.

The annual evaluation was the first time the board used an objective, numeric system to evaluate Nerad, Howard said.

The board rated Nerad on 91 questions in nine categories. The ratings — minimal, basic, proficient and distinguished — are similar to how student scores are categorized on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination. Schools face sanctions if too many students fall in the minimal or basic categories.

The State Journal tallied the board's responses to determine an overall composite rating. Adding the scores from each board member, Nerad received 1,609 out of 2,548 points. According to the board's methodology, that translates to a rating on the low end of proficient.

The newspaper also tallied individual board scores and found three board members' overall ratings placed Nerad in the proficient category, four rated him basic and one board member's rating was close to minimal.

Finance a strength

Nerad scored highest in "leadership and organizational management and school finance," and in "instructional management." He scored lowest in "strategic leadership and district culture," and in "staff evaluation and personnel management." The categories in which he scored lowest had the most questions, meaning they were weighted more heavily in the overall score.

Board members' names were not included in the evaluation. Those reached for comment declined to discuss their evaluations or how they plan to vote on a contract extension for Nerad.

"That's a conversation we don't have with the public," Howard said. "It's not up to the public."

Howard said Nerad scored high in finance because the district's budget is in solid shape considering the financial difficulties school districts around the state face. His personnel management scores were lower because he has not done enough to diversify district staff, he said.

"People are surprised when I tell them how brown our school system is, but how white our staff is," Howard said. "We have to do a better job in that area."

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