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Board Commends Superintendent Vandercar in Performance Evaluation

The Eugene School Board commended the leadership of Superintendent Cydney Vandercar in its annual performance evaluation, shared in the June 2 board meeting.

The board’s evaluation of the interim superintendent focused on her overall performance and the four goal areas set with the board in fall 2020:

  • Maintain and communicate a balanced budget.
  • Keep school bond projects moving forward and on schedule.
  • Support 4J students, families and staff.
  • Strengthen and expand the district’s equity work.

Board Chair Mary Walston noted, “Superintendent Cydney Vandercar has demonstrated exemplary leadership performance under exceptionally challenging circumstances. She has led the district with care and consideration for the needs of students, families, staff and community, and approaches this work with an insightful eye, listening ear, caring heart, cool head, and steady hand. The board commends her for her work.”

The board’s overview of its assessment of the superintendent follows.



Executive Summary of Eugene School Board’s Performance Evaluation of Superintendent Cydney Vandercar
Board of Directors, Eugene School District 4J

Mary Walston, Board Chair
June 2, 2021

The Board of Directors of Eugene School District 4J has completed its annual performance evaluation of the superintendent. Approaching the completion of her first year as superintendent, Cydney Vandercar has demonstrated exemplary leadership under exceptionally challenging circumstances. The board commends her for her job performance.

A year ago, the board appointed Ms. Vandercar on an interim basis to guide the district through a challenging and transitory time. At that time, it was hoped that school would return to normal operations by fall 2020. The board asked that existing programs and projects continue as planned, adjusted as needed in response to the pandemic, and that no major initiatives be undertaken—in other words, to provide stability and leadership in what was thought would be a short-term need to guide the district through the pandemic and until the selection of a permanent superintendent. A year later, the pandemic continues to disrupt daily life and affect every aspect of school district operations. The pandemic has altered the district’s focus and has been its major work this year.

The board worked with Ms. Vandercar in September 2020 to establish superintendent goals for this unusual school year. The four goals set for the interim superintendent are: Maintain and communicate a balanced budget. Keep school bond projects moving forward and on schedule. Support 4J students, families and staff. Strengthen and expand the district’s equity work.

Ms. Vandercar’s performance has been exemplary overall and in each of these areas, in light of all the challenges known and unknown. Each goal is discussed below.

Maintain and communicate a balanced budget.

The district is well positioned financially, with a balanced budget, reasonable reserves and the expected infusion of federal funds. The superintendent has devoted resources judiciously and wisely to match the challenges of the pandemic, including moving and adding staff to support the shift to dual models of hybrid and online-only learning, and repurposing staff roles to meet new and different needs and prevent layoffs. These changes were judicious and the district remains financially robust despite the many needs of the pandemic.

Looking ahead to next year, no major service reductions are planned. Oregon Student Success Act funds are planned and committed to improve services particularly for traditionally underserved students, with fidelity to the SSA’s objectives and the plan developed with extensive community input and approved by the board last year. Federal ESSER funds also will be spent in light of the needs generated by the pandemic, taking on the challenge to gear up quickly to use one-time funds for the betterment of our students and schools.

Keep school bond projects moving forward and on schedule. 

Under Ms. Vandercar’s leadership, the district has kept faith with 4J voters in moving forward with bond plans. This work has carried forward on pace, in spite of the pandemic’s challenges for building sites and community processes. Major school construction projects—North Eugene, Edison, Camas Ridge, and Gilham—are on track, and the school facility at Willard is completed. The North Eugene and Edison buildings were designed with the community engagement process established in bond measure planning, and construction is underway. Camas Ridge is now being designed with the same public process, and planning is on schedule.

Support 4J students, families and staff.

The pandemic brought new needs for education and support services. The challenge of meeting the needs of all students under these exceptional circumstances has been daunting. Ms. Vandercar’s actions during the pandemic to provide multiple learning options and support families in need, including our most vulnerable and underserved students, have demonstrated her commitment and goal of putting students and education as the first priority.

Ms. Vandercar and her team showed creativity and flexibility in creating multiple choices for families around instruction and providing repeated opportunities for family choice. As conditions and state guidelines changed, the district under her leadership has shown nimbleness and agility in creating, revising and communicating plans.

The district began providing free meals for all children immediately when all Oregon schools were closed last spring, and has made numerous adjustments to be able to continue this practice to this day. The use of bus drivers to deliver meals was a win-win for families and staff, and is another example of Ms. Vandercar’s creative and responsive action in the face of unprecedented challenges. Meeting the technology challenge of providing devices and internet access to all students is another example of being flexible, agile and putting the needs of students first. Hiring a wraparound services team including social work and bilingual/bicultural support staff has been of particular importance to serve our emerging bilingual students and families.

Throughout this time, the superintendent also has demonstrated her commitment to supporting the staff who provide these services, as well as the students and families who receive them.

Strengthen and expand the district’s equity work.

While the board set a version of this item as a board goal in August 2020, Superintendent Vandercar was already working on anti-racist practices in the background by looking at disparities in discipline between groups of students. She has implemented anti-racist training for all staff to provide a foundation for further work. Her work and support of the “All Students Belong” effort being led by outside consultants with staff support is appreciated.

There has been a visible and concerted effort to increase the diversity of staff, and Superintendent Vandercar has demonstrated that commitment in hiring. The district’s key roles under her leadership include a higher than usual number of women and administrators of color. She is also to be commended for her efforts to hire and retain teachers of color and to increase staff diversity to more closely reflect the diversity of the student population.

Additional Comments

The board appreciates Ms. Vandercar’s communication skills, openness and approachability, including her innovation of weekly video updates that provide information and inspiration for staff. She is known for taking time to listen and being accessible and responsive to students, parents, staff, and the larger community. She listens non-defensively, genuinely wants to understand, and makes decisions informed by what she hears. She anticipates what needs to happen, works with staff and association leadership, and simply gets things done behind the scenes—not to take the credit, but to make progress. The board applauds her personal outreach, credibility, relationships and deep knowledge of the district, and genuine two-way communication.

The board also praises Ms. Vandercar for her willingness to find solutions for issues that are proactive, creative and result in a “win-win” as a practice and ethic. Examples include vaccination clinics for staff, students and families, and the district’s state testing plan for this year.

In the coming year, as we emerge from the pandemic, areas for continued focus will include:

  • Develop a revised approach to address student safety in lieu of uniformed School Resource Officers stationed in schools, in collaboration with local law enforcement and support services.
  • Continue increasing support for communication with families, including planned improvements for Spanish-language communications and updating website access.
  • Continue work on the board’s goal to reduce time spent on standardized testing.

In conclusion, the board commends the superintendent on her exemplary performance. The board is fortunate to have Ms. Vandercar leading the district and looks forward to her next year in this role.

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