By Robert Tomlinson
THREE RIVERS — Three Rivers Community Schools Superintendent Nikki Nash scored higher overall on her annual evaluation in 2023 than in 2022, with improvement in all but one category.
Nash, the second-year full-time superintendent for TRCS, finished with a score of 3.33 on a four-point scale on her 2023 evaluation, according to the evaluation document obtained by the Commercial-News via Freedom of Information Request. The score translates to an 83 percent score, which placed her solidly in the “effective” range according to the scoring system put forth by the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB). A score of 90 percent or higher is deemed “highly effective.”
In 2022, Nash scored a 3.21 (80 percent) overall on the same scale; her 2023 score is .12 points and 3 percentage points overall higher than in 2022.
The evaluation was completed and approved by the TRCS Board of Education during a closed session at their Monday, Dec. 18 meeting, using a scoresheet and evaluation system from the MASB. Overall scoring was based on three components: professional practice, which itself is made of five factors and is weighted at 50 percent; student growth, weighted at 40 percent of the score; and progress toward district-wide goals, which is weighted at 10 percent of the score.
Nash scored a 3.465 on a four-point scale in professional practice, up from a 3.32 score in 2022; a 3.0 on student growth, the same score as she got in 2022; and a perfect 4.0 on progress toward district-wide goals, up from a 3.5 score in 2022.
With the professional practice rating, Nash scored higher in all but one of the five factors that went into the score than she did in her 2022 evaluation. The one factor that she scored lower in compared to last year was staff relations, notching a score of 3.428, down by just over .07 from a 3.5 score in 2022. What impacted that score this year was a 3.0 in labor relations/bargaining, down from a 3.5 in 2022. Otherwise, every other score in the staff relations category was the same from 2022 to 2023.
In comments from the board made in the staff relations category, the one thing that was seemingly noted about labor relations and bargaining was that they “would like to see a Board Member invited to [the] negotiation table.” Otherwise, the comments noted the board wants to “see more evidence regarding input from teachers and decisions made,” and that “more structured delegation is requested in order to help staff grow and be empowered.” It also noted personnel matters, in the eyes of the board, “are being handled consistently and feedback from staff is that Nikki is consistent and fair.”
The top three scores in Nash’s evaluation were in governance and board relations, scoring a 3.66, instructional leadership, where she scored a 3.6, and community relations, where she scored a 3.58.
With governance and board relations, the board gave kudos in their comments to Nash for responding to board questions, and noted that materials were “appropriate” and gave appreciation for “tailoring the information to requests.” However, the board requested Nash follow up and give more detail regarding staffing changes, a budget and finance plan, or investigations “as allowable.”
In instructional leadership, the board said while student surveys and “increasing the ask for student voice” was appreciated, they wanted to see “opportunities for growth connected to evaluations” of staff. With this category, Nash scored lower by a half-point in school improvement and curriculum (both 3.5s) compared to 2022 (both 4.0s), but scored higher in instruction (4.0 compared to 3.5 in 2022), student attendance (3.5 compared to 3.0 in 2022) and support for students (4.0 compared to 3.5 in 2022).
Timely communication was praised by the board as a strength of Nash’s under community relations in their comments, and noted that updates about athletics, promotions and bussing have been “noticeably better” in their view. However, one area of concern the board mentioned was that Nash, in their view, “takes negative social media too much to heart.”
One noticeable improvement in Nash’s evaluation from last year was in business and finance. While it was still her lowest score out of the five factors, coming in at a 3.0 grade, it was a 0.4-point improvement from her 2.6 score in 2022. Finances have still been a bit of a sore spot in the district, with this year’s audit once again noting issues with certain financial controls. Auditors from Plante Moran noted in their presentation to the board at the Dec. 18 meeting that while there have been some corrections going forward and that improvements have been made, those controls would be “top of mind” going into 2024.
Despite that, the board gave Nash a 3.0 rating in financial controls, up from a paltry 1.5 in 2022, noting in their comments that she should “continue to build” those controls. However, her score in budget reports went down from a 3.0 to a 2.5, the only component to go down. In their comments in the evaluation, the board requested from Nash long-range financial projections and to have “more communication to the Board regarding the finance department, and more regular updates such as budget to actuals.”
With regards to the other two components of her evaluation, Nash’s 3.0 score in student growth was based on 75 to 89 percent of students meeting growth targets in the district; however, the exact number was not specified in the evaluation. For district-wide goals, the 4.0 score was based on progress being made on 90 percent or more of goals.
Overall, the board praised Nash’s work and will be supporting her moving forward.
“The Board acknowledges the hard work of the Superintendent and is well-pleased with Nikki’s performance,” the board wrote in their comments. “The Board wants to be supportive and invites open communication and wants to provide the tools to be successful.”
The evaluation document can be viewed below.
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or email@example.com.