School board ranks Manatee superintendent Rick Mills 'excellent' in evaluation

twhitt@bradenton.comApril 26, 2014 

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Manatee County School Disitrct Superintendent Rick Mills talks during the Soup with the Supe event in March 2014 at the Bradenton Yacht Club in Palmetto.FILE PHOTO/GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

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MANATEE -- The school board applauds the job Rick Mills has been doing as the superintendent of Manatee County schools.

Board members who have turned in their evaluation scores ranked him at "above expectations" or "well above expectations" in every category in his evaluation.

His total average score was 9.25 out of 10, ranking him, according to the evaluation system, as an "excellent superintendent, exceeds expectations in many areas." This was Mills' first evaluation since he was hired last year.

David "Watchdog" Miner was the only school board member who did not submit an evaluation.

Miner said the evaluations are not due until June 1 under the superintendent's contract, and that he doesn't have enough financial information yet to complete his evaluation. The last financial reports the board received are from February, he said.

School board member Julie Aranibar consistently gave Mills the highest scores, a perfect score of 10 in 12 of 16 categories and a 9 in the four remaining categories. A score of 9 or 10 is considered "well above expectations," according to the evaluation summary.

Board member Karen Carpenter's scores closely resembled Aranibar's, all of them rating him well above expectations with a 9.5 in 12 of the categories, a perfect score in three categories and one score of 9.

Board members Barbara Harvey and Robert Gause sprinkled a few 7 and 8 scores -- which rate Mills at above expectations -- in amongst the 9s and 10s.

The categories for which Mills was ranked range from impact/rapport building and communications to professional knowledge, decision making and work standards. He was also ranked for analysis, oral fact finding and extraorganizational sensitivity.

"I am pleased with the results in moving this district forward and that they have recognized the hard work of many people to turn this district around," Mills said of the school board's evaluation. "It's not in one particular area, it's a complete rebuilding of a foundation.

"This whole past year has been about building a foundation," Mills added. "Everything from recruiting and hiring capable people, putting the right people in a job to accountability, expectations and outcomes."

Aranibar said she gave Mills such high marks, even though some financial information is still incomplete, because he has turned around a troubled district.

"It's a year unlike any other year in Manatee County history," she said. "We're the only county in the state in the situation we're in. In light of the weight of everything that's happened, he's been diligent and never wavered. He has assembled a great team and increased qualifications for some jobs."

Aranibar said Mills turned the district from a system of "favors and nepotism" into a place that puts value on training and recruitment to make sure the district has people proficient in their departments.

"People who will take on a challenging job like Manatee County are looking for a challenge," she said. "I have seen people who have had jobs in a well-run district -- they want to be a part of the team that takes the district to the top. That's the team we're looking for and we're assembling. The end goal is to move forward and upward."

Still, Aranibar said she is concerned about the district's finances and how it will recover.

"This budget is really the first budget that we will have to evaluate the superintendent," she said. "When we sit here this June 30 and close our books, we have to make sure that the number presented is the number. We can't go through another 'We're a few million off.' That's where you're seeing the apprehension. We wouldn't be human if we didn't have concern."

Miner said that is why he chose not to submit his evaluation yet.

"I should have financial reports beyond February, which we have not received from Mr. Mills," he said.

Miner stressed that he doesn't "disrespect" other board members for submitting their evaluations before those financial reports are released.

"I have chosen not to look at the others' evaluations," Miner said. "Some concerns in my mind are about everyone having an independent view. I'm sure they put a lot of thought in, and that's their perspective. People can observe it all and do what they feel is most appropriate."

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