After months of meeting in executive sessions to write Superintendent Steve Castle's midterm review, New Albany-Plain Local school board members have completed and submitted a draft of the review to Castle.

After months of meeting in executive sessions to write Superintendent Steve Castle's midterm review, New Albany-Plain Local school board members have completed and submitted a draft of the review to Castle.

The draft, which ThisWeek obtained through its attorneys after being denied a public records request by district officials March 18, contains both Castle's self-evaluation and the board's evaluation of him.

The board re-evaluated Castle's annual review, which was completed last October. At that time, the superintendent received a $4,200 raise.

Board members evaluated Castle on the basis of the three goals they had set for him:

Strategic planning

Cost effectiveness and management reporting

Openness with the community

In Castle's portion of the latest review, he said the district had worked to achieve all three of the goals.

The board disagreed.

"We feel as though it is important to recognize and distinguish the performance of the district as a whole from your performance," the draft stated. "In your self-evaluation, you chose to focus on the three board-assigned goals and didn't cover the 16 strategic objectives and work plan approved in September.

"When covering the three goals, there was no mention or highlighting of student achievement, activity or progress. There was also no mention of curriculum or teaching. We find this very telling."

Board members expressed disappointment with Castle's role in the strategic-planning process.

"The strategic thinking discussion yielded unprofessional behavior on your part and resulted in your reduced role in the planning retreat," the draft read. "While we appreciate the effort of all involved, the board does not feel as though you're personally engaged or committed to the project as would be expected of the district leader."

Board members again expressed concern that the planning process was moving too fast, with focus placed on the deadline rather than a "quality outcome."

They also expressed concerns with district communications director Jeff Warner.

"It would seem to date that the choice of the communications director for the strategic planning and internal facilitator has harmed these efforts as well as the Web site redevelopment and branding," the draft stated.

Board members also said that though fiscal management is solid, community trust is not.

The board noted this in its review of district communication: "For this area, the board noticed your shift from its goal of strategic and consistent communications to a laundry list of activities that in sum do not add up to achieving the goal."

Overall, board members expressed disappointment.

"Some other items listed in the self evaluation are in our estimation an overstatement in fact, particularly related to partnerships," the draft stated.

The board downgraded Castle in one of the three categories in which he was evaluated in October.

In the school board operations category, Castle received a "needs improvement" rating, compared to an "effective" rating in October. At that time, Castle rated himself "excellent."

In both the planning category and the curriculum and instruction category, Castle was rated as "effective" -- the same ratings he received in October. In both categories, board members said they felt Castle was more focused on meeting the deadline rather than a quality product.

They also said they would like Castle to complete a comprehensive curriculum assessment following the school year.

In an e-mail dated March 15, Castle told board president Mark Ryan that he was in the process of preparing a response.

"I realize it probably does not come as a surprise to say that I have differences with much of what has been written by the board," he wrote. "I do plan to ask the board to clarify many statements and will ask for more specific information on a number of items within the evaluation. I do need a couple of weeks to put this in a written document and submit to the board."

He stated in another e-mail on March 22 that he would respond no later than April 2.

Castle told ThisWeek he was working on his response, but declined further comment.

"I am in the process of preparing, with assistance from legal (counsel), a response to the board on their draft of my mid year evaluation," he said via e-mail Thursday, March 25. "Once it becomes public record, I'm sure it will be made available."

Ryan did not respond to multiple phone calls and an e-mail as of ThisWeek's press time on Tuesday, March 30.

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