Ontario School Board gives Albisu a near-perfect evaluation

The Ontario School Board believes the district’s superintendent has performed nearly flawlessly over the last year. 

In a three-page board evaluation summary, Nikki Albisu, superintendent of the Ontario School District, received a near-perfect score.

The board wrote in a Feb. 26 statement that Albisu’s performance had been “exemplary” across eight standards, including “visionary district leadership,” “ethics and professional norms,” and “communication and community relations.”

The board evaluated Albisu in an executive, or closed session Feb. 21 and approved its evaluation Feb. 26. Board members individually completed assessment sheets as part of the standard review.

Albisu chose to have the evaluation closed to the public. 

State law explicitly allows a public body to meet privately in an executive session – where the public is barred, and reporters are instructed not to report on the proceedings – only in certain narrowly defined circumstances. An employment evaluation is one of those circumstances. 

The evaluation documents, once signed, become public documents, according to the Oregon School Board Association. 

The Enterprise informally sought the evaluation the day after the board’s private evaluation session. Taryn Smith, the district’s public relations manager and records custodian, told the Enterprise that she would release the evaluation “once it was made a public document” at the board’s subsequent February meeting.

Instead of releasing the actual evaluation that showed how the board scored Albisu on the eight standards, the district released a press release about the review. The board approved the press release in a group email that included each member before the February meeting. 

The district did not release the evaluation until Thursday, March 14, as part of a public records request the Enterprise filed on Feb. 22 for individual board member evaluation worksheets and other records related to the evaluation. 

Smith, who did not acknowledge the public records request within five days as state law requires, apologized Thursday for not doing so. 

She said records of a signed evaluation did not exist despite saying she would share the document once it was “made public” at the board’s regular meeting.

Additionally, she said the district “discarded” individual board member evaluation documents. According to the state school board association, any evaluation documents and surveys returned to the board are public documents. Destruction of public records can be a crime in Oregon.

According to the typed evaluation Smith belatedly shared, the board gave Albisu high marks. 

Board members wrote that when it comes to an “inclusive district culture,” Albisu has a “complex community” and she must ensure district staff are “happy.” She has met staff and community needs “nicely,” as evidenced by her professional development training. The board gave Albisu a perfect score. 

For “ethics and professional norms,” the members gave Albisu another high score, stating that she “values equity and fairness when it comes to what is best for students, especially for students in Ontario.” 

Members gave Albisu a score of three out of four for “communication and community relations,” the lone standard for which Albisu did not receive a perfect score. 

The board wrote that the information Albisu and her staff shared about the district’s elementary reconfiguration, a plan to close a pair of Ontario rural schools, “was not done in the best way.” 

Nonetheless, the board wrote that “other evidence” has shown that she has communicated clearly about the reconfiguration.

Leading up to the board’s vote to approve the reconfiguration plan last month, Albisu made contradictory public statements about the school closures. Additionally, the district could not produce records to substantiate key claims Albisu made in a January newsletter to parents.

The board was critical of Albisu’s relationship with the press. 

“The board does see that the relationship with the media is flawed and needs to improve,” members wrote. 

The board also wrote that it would be “wise” for her to understand all of the district’s “stakeholders” in the community. The members wrote that Albisu does communicate well with legislators. 

The members wrote that Albisu has shown “a lot of progress” in communication and community outreach. 

“The board would like to see more work done with stakeholders,” members wrote, “and a better relationship with the media.”

It’s unclear if Albisu’s evaluation will result in a pay increase. 

In 2022, Albisu signed a three-year contract with an annual salary of $145,300 and annual cost-of-living increases.

Albisu was named interim superintendent in 2012 and was appointed permanently a year later.

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