Polk County Public Schools Superintendent Fred Heid. LkldNow

Polk County Public School students aren’t the only ones in the district who receive a report card. Superintendent Frederick Heid’s evaluation by the School Board is in and shows he earned a highly effective rating from six out of seven members in August, when the evaluation was completed, with Kay Fields giving him an effective rating.

In addition, the School Board voted 5-0 to extend his contract through the end of June 2027.

Heid earns $255,000 a year and has the use of a vehicle to travel the school district, which is slightly larger than Delaware. The School Board offered him a raise, which he was going to donate for college or trade school scholarships, but income tax implications thwarted that plan and he turned down the offered increase.

Three School Board members – Lisa Miller, Sarah Fortney and Lynn Wilson — gave him a perfect score of 24. School Board Chairwoman Sara Beth Wyatt gave him a 23.67, while William Allen and Lori Cunningham scored him just above 21.  Fields, who was the most critical of Heid, gave him a 17.75 rating. He earned an average score of 22.23 out of 24.

Breaking down the ratings

  • William Allen — 21.08 – Highly Effective
  • Lori Cunningham — 21.13 – Highly Effective
  • Sarah Fortney — 24 – Highly Effective
  • Sara Beth Wyatt — 23.67 – Highly Effective
  • Kay Fields — 17.75 – Effective
  • Lynn Wilson — 24 – Highly Effective
  • Lisa Miller — 24 – Highly Effective

Overall Score: 22.23 out of 24

His evaluation was discussed during last Tuesday’s work session and then again during the School Board meeting Tuesday evening. Heid was hired by unanimous vote in late April 2021. He officially started in July of that year.

The form shows Fortney submitted it on Aug. 26, three days after she was defeated for re-election. She used some of her campaign slogans in her evaluation.

“As a board member, I accomplished many positive moments in four years, none more important than making sure you followed Mrs. Byrd after her retirement,” Fortney wrote. “You are the real deal in every aspect professionally and personally. You say what you mean and mean what you say. My prayer is that you can continue to work for staff and students of PCPS to make sure PK-12 Public Schools ‘Just Do It Better.’ ‘Every Student Protected. Every Family Respected.’ ”

Lynn Wilson, who retired this year, called Heid “an exceptional appointment” as superintendent.

“I have enjoyed working with him; I appreciate his professionalism, commitment to serving all stakeholders as equitably as possible, and his energetic leadership approach!” Wilson wrote.

Miller, who had been critical of former Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd’s lack of communication with her, praised Heid for his openness.

“Mr. Heid provides a superior level of communication with the board. He treats board members equally and makes sure that all voices are heard,” she wrote. Mr. Heid has spent all of his first year getting to know this community and its stakeholders. Individual voices are heard and considered in his decision-making process. He has held community forums, meetings and walked all of our schools to get to know the staff and their needs. Mr. Heid has brought in systems to best utilize our staff and made decisions based on the district’s needs. There is a level of expectation and accountability that we have not seen previously, that will benefit the district.”

Miller has asked for an efficiency audit before and during her time on the board to ensure the district is running as smoothly as possible and spending money wisely. She praised Heid for implementing one.

“His implementation of an efficiency audit will help guide his decisions and assist the board in creating budget priorities,” Miller wrote.

Allen commented on the tumultuous year that school boards in Polk County and elsewhere have seen, with residents and non-residents showing up to complain about mask-wearing during a pandemic, reproductive health curriculum, and efforts to remove books with LGBTQ and race themes from libraries.

“From a national lens, superintendent-school board relationships have become increasingly politicized,” Allen wrote. “School board meetings continue to involve theatrics and very partisan narratives. Although at times the political storm clouds have hovered over Polk County School Board meetings, I can say with great confidence that the unanimously voted Superintendent Frederick Heid has captained our ship with excellence.”

Allen joked during Tuesday evening’s board meeting that they should call on Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd to lock Heid behind bars so he can’t leave Polk County.

Wyatt acknowledged that other school districts — some of which have seen their superintendents fired by newly elected conservative board members —  are calling Heid to recruit him.

“With there being so many superintendent vacancies open, I appreciate that you’re telling them ‘no,’ ” Wyatt said. “So we’re excited to have you here and hopefully continue to have you here for many, many years to come.”

She called Heid a transformative leader, who learned Polk County’s culture and dynamics and made necessary changes to continue to improve the district.

“There is no better compliment to you, than the individuals who stop us on the street, email us or call us to tell us that we made a good hire,” Wyatt said. “You have heard a lot of noise this year, but held steady and consistently remind us all why we are really here.”

Then she used a phrase Heid is known for, one he has said motivates him: “The kids are waiting.”

She also encouraged him to take some person time. “I do not want you to burn out. You have built a great team. Take a day off and let them run with it on occasion!” Wyatt wrote.

Cunningham said Heid has “prioritized stakeholder input throughout the past year. He clearly understands the importance of community perception and involvement in order to enhance the education community throughout our county … Mr. Heid is a true professional and leads by example. He has surrounded himself with a great team of leaders, and continuously monitors progress on all levels, to ensure positive student learning outcomes. He is very knowledgeable about school-based operations and regularly visits schools to observe and interact with staff, parents and students. Mr. Heid encourages and celebrates staff diversity throughout our school district … Mr. Heid takes pride in establishing, evaluating and celebrating staff and student achievement, as we move the district to the next level.”

Heid has instituted a program to award administrators, teachers and staff with certificates throughout the year to acknowledge their hard work, creativity and perseverance.

“Mr. Heid is an amazing educator, who exercises good judgement and excellent decision-making skills,” Cunningham said. “He is driven for success and has the tenacity, dedication and vision to move our District forward. We are truly blessed to have Superintendent Heid leading Polk County Public Schools.”

Fields took Heid to task on a few points.

“Though the superintendent and my relationship started out rough, it has improved significantly over the year,” Fields said. “We have agreed to disagree on some issues, but always with respect. Overall it is evident that Superintendent Heid has a heart for our students and embraces our mission of ‘Students First.’ ”

The superintendent and I have had many conversations about the lack of diversity in staff leadership positions and in our school district overall. He understand that I feel this should be a top priority and that I will hold him accountable in this area.

Kay fields

Fields wrote in his evaluation that she was concerned about staff morale and felt that Heid should place it high on his list of tasks.

“On several occasions, I feel that personnel have not been treated fairly when decisions were made related to their continued employment with the school district and have shared my concerns with the superintendent, as well as during some of our public meetings,” Fields wrote. “I understand that personnel is not in my purview; however, it is perceived by many that all staff are not treated fairly. This impacts staff morale. The superintendent and I have had many conversations about the lack of diversity in staff leadership positions and in our school district overall. He understand that I feel this should be a top priority and that I will hold him accountable in this area.”

Fields was not at Tuesday’s meeting, having called in sick.  Miller was also not present, as she was tending to a family medical emergency. The School Board voted 5-0 to extend Heid’s contract through June of 2027.

Bernard Wells, a retired teacher, spoke at the end of the meeting, making multiple accusations about Heid’s leadership, but did not provide any examples of his complaints. He said Heid has violated various school district policies and the state code of ethics.

“The superintendent’s cabinet does not reflect the true representation of the demographics in your school district,” Wells said. “The work environment is that of an authoritative one and morale is down …  The superintendent’s contract states that he should be providing a leadership role to achieving high morale. And this is not happening … Section 6.6 of the superintendent’s contract stated he should adhere to the code of ethics and principle of professional conduct. His performance is consistently unacceptable … there was a concern about the evaluation of the superintendent pertaining to staff. My question to each of you would be, ‘Did you survey all of the staff?’”

Wells’ time to speak ended and Wyatt concluded the meeting without addressing his concerns.

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Kimberly C. Moore, who grew up in Lakeland, has been a print, broadcast and multimedia journalist for more than 30 years. Before coming to LkldNow in the spring of 2022, she was a reporter for four years with The Ledger, first covering Lakeland City Hall and then Polk County schools. She is the author of “Star Crossed: The Story of Astronaut Lisa Nowak," published by University Press of Florida. Reach her at kimberly@lkldnow.com or 863-272-9250.

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