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Roark receives ‘exemplary’ rating on evaluation

Harlan County Schools Superintendent Brent Roark received the highest marks possible on his annual performance evaluation conducted by the board of education last week.

The Harlan County Board of Education rated as “exemplary” the job performance for Roark during the 2019-2020 school year. The rating came during what may have well been one of the most challenging school years for public education in Harlan County and across the state and the nation due to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

Roark has received the highest remarks during each of his evaluations since becoming Superintendent three years ago.

For the school year just completed, Roark received exemplary ratings from the board on all standards. These include strategic leadership, instructional leadership, cultural leadership, human resources leadership, managerial leadership, collaborative leadership, and influential leadership.

The pandemic closed schools March 23 to May 14, forcing Roark and his staff to provide alternative instructional methods and to develop new strategies to meet the needs of students and families. Among one of the most noteworthy was the continuation of the feeding program where staff delivered breakfasts and lunches to student homes.

Chairman Gary Farmer complimented Roark on his leadership for having the district in a financially sound position when the pandemic hit.

Despite the new and unexpected challenges thrown at the district, Farmer said, “Financially we are probably on the soundest of ground we’ve been on.”

“You keep us well informed, the staff well informed, the community well informed,” said Farmer. “I know people don’t agree 100 percent of the time on any board, such as school boards and city councils, but you are a great leader in our mind. We are very lucky to have you.”

The board established one priority goal for Roark for the 2020-2021 school year and that is the continuation of virtual learning options.

“We have one goal for the upcoming year with the reason being no one knows how the year will play out,” said Farmer. “We would like to make sure the virtual learning remains available all year for those who need it and that we have the technology needed for them to do so.”

Roark said the goal is “very doable.” He said the district technology staff is working to continue to add to the many resources already available.

“We will keep it going at least for the year,” said Roark. “That is not a problem.”

Roark thanked the members of the board of education for their support and for the high remarks on his evaluation.

“I appreciate all of you,” he said. “The support that you all give me in the group is tremendous. I know I talk to each of you a lot to let you know what is going on, but the feedback and support I receive is important. “

He stated, “I would not stay in the job if I didn’t have the five (members of the board) with me. You make it to where I can do what we need to do and keep moving our district forward.  You are not a hindrance. You are a tremendous help. I appreciate that. I appreciate all five of you working with me.”

Farmer said all personnel across the district must remain flexible. He said versatility is the key to being able to respond to the challenges of the continuing pandemic in the new school year.

“We have to remain flexible with this year. We don’t have a choice,” said Farmer. “The more we remain flexible the better off all the staff will be. When the staff remains flexible, the administrators remain flexible, this helps students and parents.”

Farmer complimented Roark and his staff for the plans developed and implemented during the past school year to address the board range of needs resulting from the pandemic. He also complimented the plan presented that offers students and parents options for education in the 2020-2021 school year.

“The plan you all came up with and presented to us is about the best we can do,” he said. “I especially like the option for the working parents. Some really struggled with childcare. We do not have enough childcare in this county to take care of the needs if they are open and not closed due to the pandemic. We have to remain flexible. I thank all the staff who have had to change their schedules to figure out on the fly how to operate.”