Superintendent has first evaluation

After being on the job for six months, Williston District 29's superintendent received favorable feedback from the school board.
The board discussed in closed session Dr. Tom Siler's evaluation, which is stipulated in his contract, during their regular Nov. 20 meeting. Upon returning to open session, each board member shared their thoughts on Siler's first six months.
Siler said it was important to him for the board to publicly announce his performance, instead of just discussing it in closed session. "It's always my intent to be transparent with the community and media," said Siler.
"We appreciate your transparency and visibility in the community," said board member Scotty Richardson.
Siler's visibility and how he is working with everyone in the district to improve things was cited by many board members.
"That's the only way the district is going to be successful," said board member Doris Young of working together. "We're very proud we made the decision we made to hire you."
Siler said he's felt "extremely comfortable" in Williston. "We're in this together," said Siler, who came from Lexington. "This is not a competition."
Board Chairman Calvin Melton said Siler has made the transition period easy, something he said doesn't always happen when there is a change in leadership. "He took Williston-Elko in his heart," said Melton of Siler. "We appreciate everything you have done."
Board member Chris Rivers cited how Siler has worked to update board policies, make facility improvements and fill staff vacancies with people to help "move the district forward."
Billy Williams Jr., another board member, thanked Siler's wife Gaye for her support. "She's the backbone to you," said Williams.
"I come from a family of educators that support me," said Siler. His wife and daughter Hali are both teachers, while his son Ethan is pursuing a physical education degree.
Support from his family, the district and community is key to Siler who said he wants to do his best in leading the district to continual success. "As we continue to move forward...we have to continue to do what's best for our students," said Siler. "They're why we do what we do."
Siler said he has many plans to help move the district forward, including an emphasis on academics and following the district's defined strategic plan, which was implemented before he started.
He said keeping the morale of their employees high will go a long way in fulfilling that goal. "I can't say enough about our staff," said Siler.
That's why the district is working to put all employees on a salary schedule and review their current salary schedules to make sure they are "competitive," said Siler, who plans to make a report in February. "It's important for people to know what the expectations are."
Siler said he'll also work to prevent a letter grade evaluation system for teachers and administrators. This is an idea from the office of Dr. Mick Zais, the state's superintendent of education. "Nobody was in agreement with that," he said of the Superintendent's Council.
Having a positive school environment is also important to Siler, who said he wants to continue facility improvements, while staying fiscally sound.
Several projects in their cafeterias are underway, including a new freezer, new canopy leading to the outside coolers at Kelly Edwards Elementary and converting an old freezer to a cooler. The intercom system at KEES is also being extended to the addition. "All the work is within the scope of school and district maintenance budgets," said Siler.
Keeping the board informed through weekly updates and calls is also important, said Siler, because they make important decisions for the district.
While Siler has until next fall before his next evaluation, superintendents from Barnwell County's other two public school districts will soon have theirs. Barnwell District 45 Superintendent Roy Sapough's evaluation will be conducted during a special Nov. 29 meeting, while Barnwell District 19's board (Blackville-Hilda Public Schools) has until mid-December to turn in Dr. Teresa Pope's evaluation.