After nearly 13 years as Oregon School District superintendent, Brian Busler has gained a reputation as a strong leader who has helped build a thriving, respected district. That reputation was reflected in a glowing annual performance review from school board members.
School board president Steve Zach told the Observer last week the board met with Busler earlier this year to review his performance rather than create a formal written evaluation, which had been done on occasion in the past.
“(After) 13 years, evaluations tend to have a different focus, not in terms of whether or not that administrator is going to be a good fit or successful,” he said. “We already know Brian is a good fit and is a good administrator. When you have a capable, qualified leader and someone who stays for a long time, that brings stability to the district and a consistency of leadership that I think is reflected in the strength of our district.”
Zach said the position of superintendent is a critical one for a school district, particularly with Oregon’s growth.
“Brian’s like a CEO and runs the organization,” he explained. “It’s a complex organization – you’re educating 4,000-plus students and maintaining the facilities in which to do that, providing transportation for them, employing over 500 people – that’s a real complex job and you need someone who’s really skilled in terms of being able to manage all those pieces and being a leader in the community and having the trust and respect of the community.
“Brian does that and has that.”
Zach said board members look at a variety of factors when evaluating a superintendent, including the district’s administration and management, budget, staffing and facilities.
“Our facilities are top-notch … our budget metrics are right in line with comparable districts in the area,” he said. “The ability to retain and attract teachers, we think we’re real strong in that area. We also look at relationships, and the board perceives that there’s a good culture in the district right now amongst the board and administration, and with the staff and the community and the students.”
Personal characteristics are also considered, Zach said, calling Busler’s leadership “extremely strong,” along with his work ethic, preparation and organization.
Board members also talked with Busler about “areas that haven’t been quite up to par.”
“There’s not even anything I would call close to significant, (but) every organization has areas where they need to improve,” Zach said. “Things don’t always work perfectly, and every year, we discuss what things worked well and what didn’t, just to make sure we’re on the same page.”
Every year, board members and administrators sit down to go over goals and plans for the upcoming year, and Zach said Busler succeeded with those tasks this past year, including continued implementation of the district’s “Path Forward” and personalized learning initiatives, final implementation of the teacher compensation plan and overseeing several key ad hoc committees. Perhaps most importantly, district voters approved the referendum for a new school in November.
“For us, really the telling factor is the fact that for the third time in five years, we’ve had the community support a referendum for the district for additional funds, and all of them passed in the 60 percent and higher range,” he said. “You don’t get that if the district doesn’t have confidence in their superintendent, so that just reaffirms what the board has thought.”
Zach said board members will talk with Busler and his administrative team about goals for the upcoming 2019-20 year during a board retreat later this week. He said likely topics will include building the new elementary school in Fitchburg, continuing to work on equity issues and implementing the district’s “Path Forward” strategic plan.