Eakins on Eakins
In his first sixth months as Hillsborough County Public Schools superintendent, Jeff Eakins focused on increasing high school graduations; building trust between the administration, elected board and rank-and-file employees; and communicating eight core values for a more positive and holistic school culture.
While largely successful, he moved cautiously in some areas and will need help in communicating his admininistration's work, both inside and outside the large school district.
Those are the highlight of Eakins' first self-evaluation, which he turned in recently and can be seen here. The School Board has until early April to turn in their evaluations of him.
In most areas, Eakins gave himself ratings of "2" or "3" on a scale of 0-3.
Issues that demanded attention include over-spending of the reserve account, which required budget adjustments and an ongoing efficiency audit; the sunsetting of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's teaching reform grant, which will be followed by revisions to the evaluation system; teacher morale; and relationships between staff and the board, which suffered in the final years of MaryEllen Elia's administration.
In the self-evaluation, Eakins details steps he took to rebuild those bridges, including one-on-one meetings with all board members, brainstorming sessions with the board and senior staff, and the development of the district's first-ever five-year strategic plan.
Eakins also makes several references to a series of Teacher Town Hall meetings he held in December. The prevailing themes of those sessions were time and autonomy.
"It is clear that teachers need to have the proper time to perform their duties effectively, more ownership regarding curriculum, and intervention decisions, and more autonomy regarding assessing students," Eakins wrote. "Moving forward, staff must support each school to assist teachers in creating the very best environment for them to positively impact their students. When this is accomplished, our district will be an extremely motivating organization to work in and serve the needs of students."
Other revelations in the document:
* The district planned January to send a response to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, which is investigating a sweeping 2014 allegation of racial discrimination in educational qualty and discipline.That investigation is still ongoing, according to Marilyn Williams, who authored the complaint and is in contact with the OCR. The Times has requested a copy of the district's response.
Eakins, meanwhile, noted that the district now has a Chief Diversity Officer (Lewis Brinson) and an Area Superintendent of Priority Schools (Owen Young.) A list of the district's first eight priority schools will be released shortly.
* To improve communication, Eakins plans to develop a Communications Strategic Plan with the help of an outside agency.