PENDLETON
Fritsch gets first-year praise from board

Staff photo by E.J. Harris Pendleton Schoo District Superintendent Chris Fritsch looks in on a sixth-grade math class while touring Sunridge Middle School on the first day of school Tuesday in Pendleton.

According to Chris Fritsch’s first two evaluations, the Pendleton School Board is largely satisfied with his performance and extended his contract to 2020.

“Overall: The Board recognizes that our district has a lot going on this year, and a lot that is going right,” the mid-year evaluation states.

Both evaluations are on a scale of adjectives from lowest to highest: “developing,” “basic,” “accomplished,” and “distinguished.”

Fritsch earned across-the-board “accomplished” scores in his mid-year evaluation. With the exception of one “distinguished” and one “basic,” it was the same story for the one-year evaluation.

The board exalted Fritsch in both evaluations, noting his efforts to boost morale throughout the district, his “reassuring confidence,” and his willingness to talk to and participate in community groups.

He also received praise for working with principals to collect data and present their results to the board.

The board did encourage Fritsch to work on school safety and deepen his relationship with the Pendleton Police Department and the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office.

In an interview, board Chairwoman Lynn Lieuallen said the statement was meant less as criticism and more as a reminder that school safety coordination was an expectation of the job.

In the following evaluation, the board gave him plaudits for communicating regularly with Pendleton Police Chief Stuart Roberts to develop “strategies for school safety.”

Fritsch said in an interview that he put a concerted effort into improving his school safety skills and he feels like he has a good relationship with Roberts.

In his one-year evaluation, the board commended him for his “ethical manner” and integrity, rating him as “distinguished.”

Fritsch’s worst score was a “basic” for his ability to collaborate with family and community members.

Fritsch admitted he needed to work on his communication to those groups, but Lieuallen said it was a comment on the structure of the district hierarchy rather than a direct criticism of Fritsch’s performance.

In a different section of the evaluation, the board wanted Fritsch to work with the InterMountain Education Service District “and your administrators to alleviate some of the HR responsibilities that the configuration of the central office has required you to take on this past year.”

Lieuallen added that all the hats Fritsch was forced to wear left him little time to reach out to all of his constituencies.

The district hasn’t had an assistant superintendent since 2016 when Tricia Mooney left for the Hermiston School District, and when Human Resources Director Brad Bixler was laid off last year the district chose to leave the position unfilled.

Lieuallen said the district has considered recreating one of those administrative positions or reassigning some of Fritsch’s duties to an existing administrator, but there’s a significant obstacle.

“It’s just a matter of where the money is going to be,” she said.

Although Fritsch received his lowest mark for his collaboration with community members, some intense community scrutiny was not a part of the assessment.

At two separate board meetings, people turned out for the public comment section to criticize the district over the departures of former Pendleton High School Principal Dan Greenough and high school agriculture teacher Seely Daniels.

For her part, Daniels blamed Fritsch for forcing her out.

Lieuallen said those two events were not considered as a part of the superintendent evaluation and Fritsch said it wasn’t mentioned to him during the evaluation process.

With some assurance that the superintendent position will be stable for the next two years, the district is starting to put some distance between itself and the tumultuous 2016-2017 school year.

During former Superintendent Andy Kovach’s 10-month tenure, the board talked to him about his performance three times behind closed doors. In the only written evaluation, he scored poorly.

Fritsch will enter the 2018-2019 school year with a slight pay bump.

Along with all other district staff, Fritsch will receive a 2 percent cost-of-living raise, increasing his annual salary to $138,216.

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Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.

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