Danville school board gives new superintendent good grades

Published 8:04 pm Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Danville Schools’ new superintendent has been given a positive review by the school board on her first annual evaluation.

“You hear the term ‘grit.’ She has lots of grit,” board Chair Steve Becker said Monday night, as he presented the results of the evaluation.

Becker held up as a prime example of that “grit” how a bomb threat made at one of the district’s schools was handled.

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“I think it was May the eighth when we got the bomb threat. I was absolutely amazed on how she and others were able to take that situation — even though I think folks thought, ‘This is not a big deal’ — any bomb threat is a big deal. And the seriousness that central office displayed under Dr. McDonald’s leadership — basically in an hour, it was over with,” he said. “… that said a lot to me on the grit that has and also the leadership ability she has to call the troops in and take care of business.”

The board’s evaluation rated McDonald’s performance in seven areas of leadership. In one area, “strategic leadership,” she was given the highest rating of “exemplary,” meaning in the board’s eyes, she “exceeds the standard,” according to evaluation documents.

Danville Superintendent Tammy McDonald, left, smiles as she thanks the school board for their evaluation. (Photo by Ben Kleppinger)

“Dr. McDonald was successful in leading the team to create a district strategic plan. She also created a plan for her first 90 days and a professional growth plan,” the comments in the evaluation read. “It is noted that she has a very strong work ethic, interpersonal and organizational skills. She is very good at keeping the board updated on the progress of her work and her calendar.”

In the other six areas — instructional, cultural, human resource, managerial, collaborative and influential leadership — the board rated McDonald “accomplished,” meaning she “meets the standard.”

“I want to thank Dr. McDonald for all the hard work, and I think it’s been a great … first year,” said board member Lori Finke.

Board member Paul Smiley said he’s only been on the Danville school board this time around for a few months, but he has prior experience as a school board member with decades of service as an educator in schools.

“Dr. McDonald is one of the best superintendents I’ve ever worked for or with,” he said. “… I think she’s going to be an excellent superintendent.”

Board member Troy McCowan acknowledged there have been many challenges and changes for the district during McDonald’s first year at the helm.

“I know it’s been a bit of a bumpy ride, but she has taken it in stride and attacked it straightforward,” he said.

McDonald’s first year was also the first year for the school district’s newly reorganized school structure, with individual schools for preschool through first grade and second through fifth grades, instead of three elementary schools for preschool through fifth.

The year also saw three of the district’s schools hire new principals: Chris Murray was chosen to be principal at Bate Middle after Sheri Satterly was promoted to assistant superintendent; Suzanne Farmer was selected to replace retiring Hogsett Primary Principal Leo Labrillazo; and Thad Elmore was hired to replace Danville High School Principal Haley Ralston, whom McDonald opted not to bring back as principal.

The district moved forward with construction of a softball field after more than a decade of planning and discussion, and it entered into a contract with Danville Pediatrics and Ephraim McDowell Health to provide in-school health services for students beginning next year.

The district also purchased the American National University building next to Danville High School for use as a new central office and alternative school. The central office officially begins operating out of that building on July 15.

Board member Glenn Ball seconded the other members positive comments about McDonald.

“Keep up the good work,” he said. “Amen.”

Danville school board member Glenn Ball asks a question during Monday’s board meeting. (Photo by Ben Kleppinger)

Other business

The Danville Board of Education also approved the creation of a new school wellness counselor position, whose duties will include helping students attending alternative school transition well back to the normal high-school setting. And it approved giving all district employees a 1-percent raise.

Board Chair Becker said over the past six years, the board has given district employees raises totaling 7 percent; this vote brings that total to 8 percent over seven years.

Board member Finke asked for confirmation before a vote that the district could afford the raise.

Superintendent McDonald said the district’s financial reserves amount to about 7 percent of the annual budget and generally a reserve between 4 and 6 percent is considered “stable.”

“We’re still above the stable point,” she said.

Finke said giving raises is good, but “we just don’t print the money” and the board needs to be mindful that it gave the raise when it considers spending money on other things down the road. It also needs to remember it gave the raise when it’s time to set the property tax rate in the fall.

McDonald agreed.

“We will need to think about these things as we move into tax time,” she said. “It’s not that we would be able to do 1 percent every year over a very long period of time. There would have to be some years where we would take a break. But currently, at a 7-percent reserve, I think we’re OK.”

The board expects to hold a special called meeting at 8 a.m. on Thursday to discuss increasing pay rates for district administrators, based on data gathered by McDonald showing that pay bumps for administrators in Danville are substantially smaller than in surrounding districts.