After a year as superintendent of Saugus Public Schools, Erin McMahon receives mostly “proficient” grades in her report card from the School Committee
“I believe she had a great first year,” School Committee Member Joseph “Dennis” Gould declared at a recent School Committee meeting, summing up the sentiments of his colleagues in their first evaluation of Superintendent Erin McMahon since she took charge of Saugus Public Schools on July 1 of last year.
“When you look at the overall, where we’re going, it’s great,” Committee Chair Vincent Serino chimed in.
“So far, what we’ve seen is amazing,” Committee Vice-Chair John Hatch added.
The committee spent about a half hour reviewing and highlighting the key findings of their “End-of-Cycle Summative Evaluation Report” for McMahon. She received mostly “proficient” grades from four members, who each filled out the seven-page report.
“Proficient practice is understood to be fully satisfactory. This is the rigorous expected level of performance,” according to the evaluation form developed by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) which was used to measure McMahon’s overall performance in the categories of Instructional Leadership, Management and Operations, Family and Community and Professional Culture.
Within the committee’s composite report, McMahon received an “Exemplary” rating within several elements of those categories:
- For Instructional Leadership under the heading of Evaluation: Ensures effective and timely supervision and evaluation of all staff in alignment with state regulations and contract provisions.
- For Management & Operations under the heading of Fiscal Systems: Develops a budget that supports the district’s vision, mission and goals; allocates and manages expenditures consistent with the district and school-level goals and available resources.
- For Professional Culture under the heading of Commitment to High Standards: Fosters a shared commitment to high standards of service, teaching and learning with high expectations for achievement for all.
Within the committee’s composite report, McMahon received a “Needs Improvement” rating within this category:
- For Family and Community Engagement under the heading of Sharing Responsibility: Continuously collaborates with families and community stakeholders to support student learning and development at home, school and in the community.
The Superintendent’s response
When approached for her reaction to the evaluation, the superintendent provided the following written statement to The Saugus Advocate:
“I am extremely fortunate to have a collaborative and productive working relationship with the School Committee in Saugus. I appreciate and respect their feedback and will continue to work with the Committee to raise the academic expectations in Saugus, and ensure our students develop a sense of belonging in school so they are ready to learn.
“I look forward to building an even stronger relationship with the School Committee and Town of Saugus as we implement our plan to move our district and town from among the lowest performing to the top performing in MCAS scores by 2027.
“Among our priorities for the coming school year are:
- Continuing to improve communication among all stakeholders – administrators, teachers, staff, students, caregivers and the community-at-large
- Establishing our new early college program at Saugus Middle High School
- Implementing strategies to create a sense of belonging in the schools
“I am committed to helping make Saugus an exemplary district, where staff members are proud to work, and our students receive the educational foundation needed for future success.”
A work in progress
The superintendent has completed the first year of a five-year plan to raise the academic performance of Saugus Public Schools from the bottom 10 percent to the top 10 percent in the state. Several School Committee members said it was “unfair” and “too soon” to expect them to evaluate McMahon in this area. But they noted in their evaluation that “some progress” was made during the superintendent’s first year.
Here are some excerpts from committee members’ individual remarks related to McMahon’s first evaluation.
Committee Chair Vincent Serino
“I feel Erin is doing a good job. She is in a tough community as far as expectations. As far as the culture of our schools, students, staff and administrators, it has been in place for a while. This will take more work and communication.
Instructional Leadership: “Erin is growing in this community and her focus on our district is outstanding. It has only been a year. We have also had a lot of challenges.”
Family and Community: “The only thing I would comment on, Erin is one of the hardest workers I know and she wants answers and solutions immediately. She needs to lean on her staff more for help. As far as communication, it is getting better. The website will help this.”
Professional Culture: “Erin is building the culture currently and it will get there. Once again, really too early to evaluate.”
Committee Vice–Chair John Hatch
Instructional Leadership: “The superintendent is very passionate and driven to achieve the district’s number one goal, to get to the top 10 percent. Her positive attitude and focus is infectious. I feel strongly we need more time for a full evaluation.”
Committee Member Joseph “Dennis” Gould
Overall: “Ms. McMahon has had a year of change, building up the team and changing the way teachers approach their curriculum and daily teachings. She also shares her goals with all teachers, Para’s, clerks and administration and it has been clear all are trying to adapt to her goals and vision but again, it is year one after two very tough years for teachers. I believe Ms. McMahon had a very good year considering the pandemic, the past teacher culture, bringing all teachers together under the same roof for each grade, changing vision and goals. I also believe she has the backing of teachers and administration to make the necessary changes needed to move Saugus upwards with the goal of getting from the bottom 10 percent to top 10 percent in the State.”
Instructional Leadership: “Ms. McMahon has a clear vision and goals to meet that vision which she has clearly articulated to all School District Personnel from Top Staff down to Clerks and Para’s. Her positive impact on the same is seen on classroom walls, where her goals are tiered down to each classroom, grade and curriculum.”
Management & Operations: “This is tough one to completely rate because we set the policies and Ms. McMahon is responsible to execute. We are not involved with daily operations so we only can rate by feedback we may receive. Again, Ms. McMahon had many challenges this year including two years of previous pandemic negativity in learning, changing the culture, vision and goals, but I believe she did a great job for one year of a five-year mission.”
Family and Community Engagement: “Ms. McMahon had a huge undertaking this year with the huge changes from six schools to three, all children in the same grades now in the same school, changes in curriculum, implementing new vision and goals and I believe she devoted most of her effort in School District Staff and not as much time as necessary for more family inclusion. She did come up with informative newsletters, emails and processes to communicate outward to parents which families were appreciative of. I look forward to Ms. McMahon maybe having more time in her second year to include families more.”
Professional Culture: “Ms. McMahon has set the bar high for all staff, stretch goals, demanding visions and her staff hirings have been excellent personnel.”
Committee Member Ryan Fisher
Overall: “The superintendent endorsed and embraced a bold five-year goal for our district, putting Saugus in the top 10 percent of districts within her term. She personally leads professional development for staff, has endorsed a data-driven approach to raising student achievement. She embraces the 2019 DESE report findings and the efforts at the last School Committee by strengthening and focusing Central Office and has advocated strongly for a funded budget to accomplish our goals and support our students and staff. Her leadership in the bargaining process has led us to our first tentative agreements prior to contract expiration in years in a difficult fiscal climate. Communication has improved with stakeholders significantly, must be fine-tuned, and the new district website will be a game changer.”
Instructional Leadership: “Superintendent McMahon is an instructional leader, personally leads professional development for staff and has advocated for and embraced short and long term goals consistent with accelerated, high quality curriculum, data-driven monitoring and adjustments and the retention of high quality teachers.”
Management & Operations: “The superintendent has strongly advocated for a budget crafted in support of district goals, necessary to raise student achievement before, during and following the traditional budget season in response to the 2019 DESE report. She has continued efforts to strengthen and restructure the Central Office with high quality staff, and to steady future budget woes by the establishment of a special education stabilization fund.”
Family and Community Engagement: “I find that the superintendent recognized the need for improved communications to all stakeholder groups and has taken demonstrable steps to accomplish this, from SaugusTV to weekly and monthly communications to public search committees based in the community. The forthcoming website overhaul will allow a prime opportunity to put administration, faculty, Staff, SC, parents, guardians and students on the same page for all current and upcoming events and situations.”
Professional Culture: “The superintendent fosters a culture of high standards, expectations, support for staff and respect for the growing diversity of our community. She is a talented communicator and teacher.”