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Montezuma-Cortez board’s evaluation of VanderWey shows lags in performance

Risha VanderWey
Montezuma-Cortez School District evaluated former superintendent in six categories, with mostly substandard ratings

A cumulative evaluation report of former Superintendent Risha VanderWey by the Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1 Board of Education shows mostly low rankings in performance.

The school board assessed VanderWey’s performance across six objective standards: student growth and achievement, organizational leadership, district operations and financial management, communication and community relations, human resource management, and professionalism.

The report was completed Jan. 15, three days before the school board’s January meeting in which an executive session was held to discuss VanderWey’s position. VanderWey took part in a portion of the session.

The Journal acquired the evaluation report through a Colorado Open Records Act request. The district noted that it considers individual evaluations not to be public record.

The Journal is awaiting documents from a formal request for board members’ electronic and written communications that discussed VanderWey in January.

VanderWey’s contract spanned from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2023. Her annual base salary was $125,000 for the 2021-22 school year, with an annual provisional increase of 2% of the previous year’s base salary thereafter.

The school district announced Monday that VanderWey had resigned effective Jan. 21. A letter from the school board, emailed to The Journal on Saturday, cited “philosophical differences of short and long-term goals” between the board and VanderWey.

An earlier letter from Board President Sheri Noyes on Jan. 24 announced VanderWey had been placed on administrative leave.

Each of the six objective standards in the evaluation were broken down into further key performance evaluations, but those specific evaluations were not released.

Each of the seven board members offered one score per category.

Board directors are:

  • Sheri Noyes, District F.
  • Sherri Wright, District C.
  • Stacey Hall, District D.
  • Cody Wells, District A.
  • Ed Rice, District E.
  • Jeanette Hart, District B.
  • Layne Frazier, District G.

Below are the overall performance rankings in each of the six overarching categories.

RE-1 rubric definitions

Distinguished: Performance is clearly outstanding. Performance is superior, far exceeding expectations. Performance is exceptional on a regular basis – the superintendent far outperforms relative to minimum expectations.

Proficient: Adequately performs all functions within the role, meeting or occasionally exceeding expectations. Performance is adequate, meeting or occasionally exceeding standards or expectations generally associated with performance.

Needs improvement: Periodically fails to meet expectations associated with assigned tasks, targeted goals or professional competencies. Performance is less than adequate on a periodic or frequent basis – the superintendent may be developing within the position, but needs to improve to be considered proficient.

Failing: Performance is below acceptable levels. Fails to meet most expectations associated with the role of superintendent – substantial professional improvement is needed before the superintendent can be considered proficient in the role.

Altogether, VanderWey was given five “proficient” scores, one “between needs improvement and failing” score, 16 “needs improvement scores” and 19 “failing” scores.

Three board members found VanderWey’s overall performance needed improvement in student growth and achievement. One board member ranked her as proficient, while three classified her as failing in the category.

Four board members found VanderWey’s overall performance needed improvement in the area of organizational leadership. Three classified her as failing.

Two board members found VanderWey’s overall performance needed improvement in operations and financial management. One board member ranked her as proficient, while four classified her as failing.

Three board members found VanderWey’s overall performance needed improvement in communication and community relations. Four classified her as failing.

Two board members found VanderWey’s overall performance needed improvement in resource management. One board member ranked her as proficient, while three classified her as failing. One overall score was missing.

RE-1 objective performance standard definitions

“Student growth and achievement: Superintendent uses multiple data sources to assess student success and growth as appropriate, specific to needs within the district and as determined annually in collaboration with the board of school directors. Annual or other district performance objectives are articulated and clearly achieved under the direction of the superintendent relative to our accreditation data available on the Colorado Department of Education website.

Organizational leadership: Superintendent has worked collaboratively with the board to develop a vision for the district, displays an ability to identify and rectify problems affecting the district, works collaboratively with district administration to ensure best practices for instruction, supervision, curriculum development, and management are being utilized, and works to influence the climate and culture of the district.

District operations and financial management: Superintendent manages effectively, ensuring completion of activities associated with the annual budget; overseeing distribution of resources in support of district priorities; and directing overall operational activities within the district.

Communication and community relations: Superintendent communicates with and effectively engages the staff, the board, and members of the community, clearly articulating district goals and priorities, addressing local and broader issues affecting the district, and building support for district initiatives, programs and short/long-range plans.

Human resource management: Superintendent incorporates best practices for human resource management and oversight, coordinating staffing, recruitment, and other human resource functions within the district.

Professionalism: Superintendent models professional decision-making processes and ethical standards consistent with the values of the Colorado public education system as well as that of the local community. Superintendent additionally works to individually reflect upon her/his effectiveness within the role, and works to improve effectiveness through the use of professional development literature and activities.“

Two board members found VanderWey’s overall performance to need improvement in professionalism. Two board members ranked her as proficient, one rated her performance as in between needs improvement and failing, and two classified her as failing.

The school board will appoint staff to fulfill VanderWey’s duties at its next meeting, on Feb. 22, who will do so until the board hires a new superintendent.

VanderWey has not responded to The Journal’s requests for comments.