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Originally published Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 10:37 PM

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Seattle School Board splits in its evaluation of superintendent

Seattle School Superintendent José Banda received high marks from most of the School Board in its evaluation of his first year on the job, but there was also a minority report that gave him low ratings.

Seattle Times education reporter

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The Seattle School Board has given Superintendent José Banda two views of his performance in his first year on the job — one good and one bad.

The good one, described in a summary of his evaluation that was read at Wednesday’s board meeting, came from what was called a “supermajority” of the board. Those members rated Banda as “exceeds expectations” in four of five areas, and “meets expectations” in the fifth. The average rating was a 3.8 on a scale of 1-5, or “exceeds expectations.”

But Board President Kay Smith-Blum, in reading the summary, said a minority of board members rated Banda as unsatisfactory or “below expectations” in all five evaluation areas. The summary did not give any more detail, and didn’t include who was in the minority.

Just who had big problems with Banda’s performance wasn’t entirely clear from the board meeting either, although board members who praised the superintendent included Marty McLaren, Betty Patu, Harium Martin-Morris and Michael DeBell.

The summary also did not state how many board members were in each group, although it seems likely that a supermajority could not be less than five members of the seven-member board.

The last Seattle superintendent to receive such a split evaluation was Raj Manhas in 2006, DeBell said.

The evaluation marks the end of a year in which board conflict was one of Banda’s challenges. Last week, when the board discussed its own performance, members gave each other low marks in a number of areas.

One issue clearly was trust — among board members, and between the board and Banda.

But the evaluation of Banda made it clear that most members strongly support him and think he’s done a better-than-average job since his arrival last July from Anaheim, Calif., where he led an elementary-only school district less than half the size of Seattle’s.

In the meeting, Patu said she liked that Banda doesn’t rush into making decisions. McLaren said Banda’s performance “helps us to imagine the kind of stability that we’ve been looking for for a long time.” DeBell said he had full confidence in Banda.

After the meeting, board member Sharon Peaslee said she thought the evaluation process needs to be more objective in the future. She and several other board members declined to say whether they were in the minority or majority camps.

Banda left quickly after the meeting, but he has often said he intends to be in Seattle for the long term.

In the evaluation summary, the supermajority said Banda inherited a challenging situation, in part because there had been a lot of turnover among top district staff before he arrived.

The district also faces a federal investigation into how it disciplines its black students and is at risk of losing federal special-education dollars because of problems in that arena. Although both those issues predated Banda, they haven’t yet been solved.

The board supermajority gave Banda credit for how he handled the controversy over the use of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests, which hundreds of teachers refused to give earlier this year.

Banda assembled a task force of teachers, principals, parents and other community members to advise the district on whether to continue to use the tests, and he followed its recommendations.

The supermajority also gave the superintendent high ratings for developing the plan for two large school levies, both of which passed in February. He was also praised for increasing partnerships with the community.

The supermajority saw room for improvement in a number of academic areas, including improving performance of minority students and helping those learning English.

At its next meeting, the board will vote on whether to extend Banda’s three-year contract for an additional year, which means it would end in June 2016.

The board deferred any discussion of a raise until the state budget is passed and the district finishes negotiations with labor groups, including the ones representing teachers and principals.

Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or On Twitter @LShawST

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