Howard County schools Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin got high marks for leadership in his first year on the job, according to a performance evaluation conducted by the Board of Education last week.
Cousin's first yearly evaluation found "his performance to be outstanding in his first year," said Courtney Watson, the board chairman.
"The most significant [accomplishment] was the dramatic change in the climate of the school system," Watson said. "Improving the school system's climate was the critical goal without which the system cannot move forward on other goals."
The Board of Education tapped Cousin for the job in March 2004 after the early departure of former Superintendent John R. O'Rourke, whose contract was not renewed by the school board in 2004. One of Cousin's main objectives, Watson and other school board members said at the time, was to restore stability and confidence to the school system that had weathered a series of controversies during the 2003-2004 school year.
A recent survey conducted by the Howard County Education Association found that more than three-quarters of teachers and support personnel who responded said they have confidence in Cousin's leadership - a stark contrast to O'Rourke's 34 percent approval rating.
Another survey conducted by the school system of central-office and school-based administrators found that 90 percent of principals and assistant principals who responded believed that Cousin has had a positive impact on the school system, Watson said.
Seventy-six percent of respondents from the central office felt likewise, she said.
A similar survey conducted at the time Cousin took over found that only one in 10 respondents felt positive about the school system leadership, according to Watson.
Students test well
Other goals for Cousin's performance during the 2004-2005 school year included accelerating student achievement, especially in narrowing the achievement gap between white and minority students, and improving the school system's long-range planning for growth and budgeting.
Results of this year's Maryland School Assessment showed that Howard County students continue to outperform their state counterparts and those across the Baltimore region. Scores also showed considerable strides among African-American and Hispanic students.
And recently, the school board approved a series of changes to the school system's redistricting and budgeting process recommended by Cousin.
Meanwhile, the school board and Cousin are finalizing his job performance goals for the next school year.
Cousin is starting his second year of his four-year contract, which calls for an annual raise equal to what teachers, administrators and supervisors will receive in the fiscal year that began Friday - a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment and an amount equivalent to a step increase, about 2 percent.