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North Adams School Officials Give Superintendent High Marks
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
02:16AM / Wednesday, June 19, 2019
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The School Committee meets Tuesday night.

Principal Amy Meehan, left, thanks members of the Dowling family. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Committee on Tuesday gave high marks to the superintendent as she completes her third year leading the North Adams Public Schools. 
In their evaluation, committee members gave Barbara Malkas marks of proficient in all but one standard, where they gave her an "exemplary" rating.
The annual evaluation is given through a standardized rubric focusing on instructional leadership, management and operations, family and community engagement and professional culture. Each standard had subcategories that were marked as unsatisfactory, needs improvement, proficient or exemplary. 
Malkas provided the documentation to show what she had been doing to reach the goals she set out last year and on what she was being evaluated. She was offered comments and explanations throughout the hourlong evaluation.
Mayor Thomas Bernard, chairman of the School Committee, in beginning of the discussion noted Malkas had provided presentations on her goals throughout year. 
"We hear in these in these meetings the commitment to focusing on social emotional learning and we had a very good presentation on prevention needs assessment," he said, speaking in specifics about instructional leadership. "So, what I would say is, we can feel comfortable with a proficiency rating because we are seeing that presented and represented to us as well as the data."
Data, in fact, was one area where committee felt Malkas and her team had excelled. 
"Data been a very effective, very actively used in the district," said committee member Tara Jacobs, recommending that the proficient rating in that subcategory be upgraded to exemplary. "It's using it and understanding how to use it effectively."
Bernard concurred: "We're really saying culture and data and using it in close alignment."
In a note explaining the exemplary mark, Bernard suggested that it say something along the lines of "data-informed decision making is the cornerstone of the superintendent's effectiveness in advancing instructional leadership."
Of the four standards, Malkas was rated as "exemplary" in management and operations when three of the five subcategories were given the highest rating.
She was given high marks for human resources management and development; law, ethics and policies; and fiscal systems. 
Those scores were based on her management of resources in terms of hiring and recruitment and allocating instructors where best needed and her ability to use resources efficiently and creatively, find revenue sources, and maintain level services with shrinking enrollment. She also was noted for moving Central Office to City Hall and being willing to try new options, such as shared services.  
The mayor thought "law, ethics and policies" would be the place bring up Malkas' award from her peers of Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents.
"This feels to me like the best place to just acknowledge the the state recognition through MASS, which was peer determined and based on leadership," he said. "And while not strictly in line with the rubric, but I think this is the place to say ... that award was a reflection of your reputation. ...
"You weren't recognized because you do a good job checking compliance boxes," he continued, "you were recognized because you do a good a good job as an education leader in this district and statewide."
Committee member Karen Bond said it raised a good point because it is difficult from School Committee level to judge some of these areas because the members aren't there on a day to day basis. Jacob also agreed exemplary would be a fair rating. 
Jacob had also advocated for an exemplary rating for communications under the professional culture standard and for which Malkas had listed her opening day speech, a presentation to Child Care of the Berkshires and several state and professional presentations.
"That's an area where I almost argue above proficient because the takeaway from the opening day was super positive," she said. "I think just in general, communication skills are super strong and productive. So I would put forward that is an area that deserves to be exemplary."
At the end, Bernard acknowledged the "odd position" of the superintendent having the evaluation done in open session. 
"You are doing it with remarkable grace. So thank you for that," he said. "I think that that fact alone is evidence of many of the things that we put forward this evening."
Malkas noted it "was an awkward process" and that the language in the rubric can be "unbelievably complex."
"I just like to remind the committee that our principals sometimes have to do as many as 20 to 25 of these," she smiled. "So you just had to do the one."
In other business, the committee accepted a gift from the family of Barbara Dowling to purchase two elephant rockers for the Colegrove Park Elementary School playground. 
Dowling, who died in February, had worked for the public schools for years, retiring as administrative assistant to the superintendent when Central Office was at then Conte Middle School. Her family including her husband, Michael, and children Michael and Jennifer, attended the School Committee meeting. 
Her son said his mother's window use to look out where the buses came in that's now the Colegrove school playground. She loved elephants, so the funds will be used to buy a one-seater and a two-seater elephant rocker. Any balance will go to creating an outdoor learning space or potted plants for hands-on science learning.
"You're no strangers to service and commitment to the North Adams Public Schools," said Colegrove Principal Amy Meehan. "Jennifer's still working for us. We've had coaches, we had Barbara, we had Mike. So we thank you for your opportunity to continue to partner with the North Adams Public Schools in honor and memory of your mom."
The committee also accepted a $1,000 check from 1Berkshire for a pilot summer program for children in Grades 5 and 6 focusing on career and entrepreneurial activities. Dubbed "iNAv8r," the four-week program is an extension of the school district's 21st Century summer programs, said Kimberly Roberts-Morandi, director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
"We are funded through Grade 4 for that but we had interest from students in Grades 5 and 6," she said. "Last year's program up at Colegrove Park extended to students in that grade level where they were able to actually work with professionals and develop their own business ideas."
The result had been a business fair at the end of July. This year, 1Berkshire had asked about working with students about developing their own businesses. "That's where the program really took off," she said. "And so we're really excited about this."
• The committee also had a presentation on the state's District Review Report (which will be in a separate article) and went into executive session to discuss negotiations with non-professional staff. 
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