School board evaluates superintendent, finding she has exceeded their expectations in her first six months

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Sara JohnsonCrook County School District board members praised Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson's energy, skills and leadership during a formal performance evaluation of her first six months in the position.

"The board is appreciative of the energy she has injected into school improvement, the effort she has made to be visible to staff, administrators and the community, and the work she has done with developing the skills of the administrative team," wrote Board Chair Scott Cooper on behalf of the entire five-member board.

They hired Johnson to replace Dr. Duane Yecha, who retired June 30 after seven years with the district.

Cooper said the board expected her to take the already established foundation and build upon the efforts of previous years to continue to improve the quality of Crook County schools.

"We find that she has not only met but exceeded our expectations," Cooper wrote in the evaluation.

Johnson was pleased with the evaluation but noted that she feels she has areas to work on.

"I want to perform at the highest level possible, so anything that I feel could have been at a higher level, then I agonize over that," she said.

However, Cooper noted that the board believes that with further time, the record of achievement already demonstrated will continue to be enhanced in the areas of instructional leadership, improved policy and governance systems, communications and community relations, effective management, curriculum planning and development, resource management, and labor relations.

"We note that in some of these categories it is premature to evaluate performance because of the limited time we have spent so far with Dr. Johnson," Cooper wrote.

The board pointed out two performance concerns.

"Considering the pace she sets, the board counsels her to pay attention to self-care so as not to burn herself out prematurely," Cooper wrote. "Inasmuch as we expect that she will likely ignore the first suggestion and continue her brisk pace, the board urges her to be cautious to keep the rest of the team up to speed and on board — but please don't slow down."

In her first six months at the helm, Johnson has assessed where the district stands and has set priorities for the next steps, all the while honoring the work that has already been done.

She lists expanding Career and Technical Education options as one of her goals for the next five years as well as studying the facilities plan and increasing student achievement.

"We're meeting state average," Johnson said of student achievement. "I want us to be above state average. How do we take our system to that next level where we're performing higher than the state average?"

Five years from now, she'd like to see district facilities ready for the future, student achievements 15 to 20 percent higher, and the graduation rate continue to rise.

Cooper said the board believes that under Johnson's leadership, students, parents, staff and the district are benefitting.

"We thank her for choosing Crook County as her home, and we encourage her to continue the good work," he wrote.

Johnson says she has appreciated the city and county leadership, the volunteer organizations and the community's support of the schools. She wants to see the district continue to improve.

"I said when I first came here that I felt at home, and it's proven to be that. People are so supportive of the schools, and they're supportive of the students," she said. "I find that it's a great community in which to work."

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