School Committee Gives High Marks to Superintendent Phil Conrad

The School Committee lauded Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad in an annual performance review presented at a meeting Tuesday.

All 21 standards were graded “absolutely proficient,” committee Chair Sarah Scoville announced. Member Dan Brosgol pointed out that the committee’s practice is to rate professionals no higher than “proficient,” but he added that Conrad, who was hired two years ago, has been “100 percent the right choice.”

Scoville explained that the evaluation template is an “extensive rubric” provided by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Details, she said, were gleaned from the superintendent’s self-assessment and goals as well as School Committee members’ input.

She commended the superintendent for “building a solid foundation” and cited his achievement of professional goals and the district improvement plan.

Conrad worked to enhance academic achievement social-emotional learning, and has promoted diversity, equity, and inclusion in hiring and curriculum content, she said. The chair also cited the superintendent’s streamlining of the teacher evaluation system to align with the state process.

Scoville expanded on the four areas identified in the state evaluation formula:

Instructional leadership: Scoville said Conrad and Assistant Superintendent Tricia Clifford worked with their leadership team, developing resources “for students to improve learning outcomes” and for mental health. The literacy plan implementation continues, there has been more data-driven decision-making, and social-emotional learning was prioritized.

Management and operation: Scoville said Conrad’s skills were particularly apparent navigating the Covid-19 pandemic. “He kept staff and families informed” and effectively administered mask requirements and other guidelines, the committee chair said. She also cited strength in budgeting, working with Finance Director Julie Kirrane. The superintendent knew when he needed to request additional funds, and was effective, she said.

Community engagement: The superintendent is an “excellent communicator” who facilitates conversation with “a willingness to listen to differing views,” she said. He supports “novel ideas,” explains complicated issues in his newsletter, and handles direct criticism with composure.

Professional culture: The superintendent, Scoville said, has done an “excellent job” building relationships with the leadership team, the Bedford Education Association, municipal departments, and educational leaders in area towns. She added that he has made some excellent hiring decisions. “Expectations are high that Phil will bring even more ambitious leadership.”

Committee members added their compliments. Brosgol cited Conrad’s “authentic leadership.” Sheila Mehta-Green praised the superintendent’s accessibility. Ann Guay also praised his leadership style and added, “Even when folks disagree with you, you welcome it and you don’t push back.”

“You’ve managed fitting into Bedford extremely well, and that’s what it’s all about,” said Brad Morrison, who noted Conrad’s relationships “with all the people that matter.”

There were a few soft suggestions for improvement related to student learning goals and more emphasis on “rigor and excellence”

Scoville mentioned some upcoming areas of concentration, such as integrating the preschool “into the community of Davis,” an audit of the athletics program, and ensuring support for upcoming major capital expenses that will have to be financed by bonding.

“I’d see some spots where we can certainly be more proactive,” Conrad said, adding, “This year was different than I think any of us thought it would be.”

The superintendent also cited Lane School nurse Kathy Webster, who was scheduled to retire several months ago but finished the year “because of who she is and the attitude she brings to the work.”

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763

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