The Akron Public Schools board praised Superintendent David James and Treasurer/Chief Financial Officer Ryan Pendleton in their annual evaluations, highlighting their leadership and partnerships formed inside and out of the district.
The evaluations, released to the Beacon Journal/Ohio.com by request, show board members' applause for Pendleton's state-level involvement with efforts to change school funding formulas, and James' commitment to forming partnerships in the community.
"The level of collaboration between our district and other community stakeholders is beyond compare," one board member wrote. The comments in the evaluations do not reveal which board member wrote them.
They highlighted recent major initiatives like the opening of the I Promise School, a partnership with the LeBron James Family Foundation, and the full launch of the College and Career Academies this fall.
"Thank you for the opportunity for professional growth and your support this past year," James wrote in response to the board members' reviews. "As a team we have come a long way to improving the education of our students by providing opportunities for them to explore a variety of career options."
Board members also pushed James to do more around serving students who have endured trauma in their lives, and who may struggle academically as a result of what's known as Adverse Childhood Experiences, also called ACEs.
"I'd like to see more evidence that our staff is getting more training in ACES and how to deal with those issues in the classroom, and how administration deals with our teaching staff's trauma," one comment read.
They also pushed him to find additional ways to support schools that could be in danger of state takeover due to academics.
The evaluations come just weeks before the release of the new state report card showing the district's academic progress from last year, but the superintendent's evaluation is not tied directly to student performance, said the Rev. Curtis Walker, board president. For the 2017-18 school year, the district received an overall letter grade of D from the state. That included a D for student performance, but also a B for closing the achievement gap for more vulnerable groups of students.
"We're not satisfied, but it's not altogether the superintendent's fault," Walker said, adding that the board is "satisfied with the effort, the commitment" to improvement.
With James' tenure now stretching over a decade at the helm of Akron Public Schools, Walker said the district has benefited from his longevity.
The creation of the career academies, he said, would not have been possible with a superintendent who only stayed three years.
"That took time to develop that, to look at partnerships," Walker said. "That happened over time."
James considered the open superintendent job in Columbus this spring but decided to stay in Akron. Board members in the evaluation expressed their relief he opted to stay.
"He made a wise choice in staying, and we’re glad of it," Walker said.
Contact reporter Jennifer Pignolet at email@example.com, at 330-996-3216 or on Twitter @JenPignolet.