The Sarasota County School Board gave its annual evaluation of Superintendent Todd Bowden on Tuesday, when board members rated him“highly effective” with a 3-2 vote.
Board members each evaluated Bowden on 11 criteria including leadership and culture, policy and governance, communications and community relations, curriculum and planning development, and values and ethics of leadership.
“If we’re really focused on recruitment and retention, you need to focus on the quality of the culture,” board member Bridget Ziegler said. “If our organization has low morale, which I firmly believe it has, or toxic culture, it doesn’t matter how much money you throw at it or how much we invest in our employees. Quality applicants won’t apply, and quality employees will leave.”
Throughout the 2018-19 academic year, Bowden and the district’s accomplishments include being awarded a districtwide A grade for the 16th consecutive year, securing $100,000 to expand summer learning programs, assigning mental health therapists to most elementary schools and establishing new leadership and structure of the district’s police department.
Board Member Caroline Zucker highlighted one of the top accomplishments of the year as the permanent closure of School Avenue, an accomplishment 20 years in the making.
“You can’t do any of this stuff unless you have somebody managing it from the top,” said Zucker said.
Although all board members agreed Bowden has taken steps to improve the district’s academic success — improving nine of the districts schools by a letter grade or more — Ziegler and board member Eric Robinson said there were areas for improvement, such as communication and morale.
Bowden was awarded a contract extension in July that will run through June 30, 2023. His base salary of $197,000 increases by $5,000 each year, which is in line with the board’s initial contract of $185,000 to $225,000.
Additionally, Bowden was eligible for a one-year bonus of up to $15,000 based on a positive evaluation by the school board.
The school board set three goals for Bowden’s performance in the 2018-19 school year: a 1% increase in overall test scores, a 1% increase for the lowest quartile in English language arts and a 1% increase for the lowest quartile in math. Using Florida Standards Assessments, the school board evaluated Bowden and awarded him a $5,000 bonus for each point he accomplished.
According to the district, overall district test performance increased 0.72%, ELA increased by 1%, and math decreased by 2%. Therefore, Bowden was awarded a $5,000 bonus.