JeanAnn Paddyfote may be in the driver's seat soon when it comes time to negotiate a new contract with New Milford schools.

The Superintendent of Schools received the highest rating of her career in town on her performance evaluation for the 2010-11 school year.

Paddyfote has served as superintendent in New Milford since 2002. Her annual salary is $176,765, with a state pension based on that salary amount.

Board of Education members unanimously approved the evaluation and authorized Board chairman Wendy Faulenbach and the board attorneys to enter into negotiations with Paddyfote on a new three-year pact.

"As can be seen, 75 percent of Dr. Paddyfote's rankings were `substantially exceeds standards,' " said Mrs. Faulenbach. "Board members strongly endorsed Dr. Paddyfote's performance, citing her educational knowledge as being `immense' and her enthusiasm as `inspiring.' "

Paddyfote's greatest areas of strength were found to be `personal/professional qualities' and `board relations," followed by "educational leadership" and "personnel management."

"I'm very pleased," Paddyfote said Wednesday. "You have to strive for improvement. That's a philosophy that applies to me as well as the rest of the staff in the district."

Paddyfote said she looks forward to years ahead in serving the district and plans to "work just as hard as I have this year."

There was one area in which board members wavered in the evaluation -- that of the quality of "fiscal management."

Citing New Milford schools are facing some of the most challenging financial times in recent history, they split, 4-4, in ranking Paddyfote as "substantially exceeded standards" or "met standards."

Even at that, the superintendent was cited as doing an "excellent job" in negotiations with employee bargaining units.

Salary freezes were obtained from most school employees for the 2011-12 school year.