Keller school district officials are seeing positive trends in improving employee morale and reducing heavy workloads, but more work still needs to be done, based on exit surveys.
“Areas for improvement are in workload, fostering a positive working environment and morale,” said Penny Benz, assistant superintendent of human resources.
At the Oct. 17 board meeting, Benz presented the results from employee exit surveys and data on teacher turnover. Last year, 67 percent of professional employees and 10 percent of hourly workers who left the district participated in the survey (134 total).
Some areas saw dramatic improvement. For instance, the district image improved from 72 percent positive in 2011-12 to 93 percent positive last year. For communication within the district, the positive marks went from 68 percent to 83 percent. For leadership knowing accomplishments of staff, 76 percent responded positively two years ago compared to 91 percent in 2012-13.
Officials are focusing on a few factors that despite gains are still below 80 percent satisfaction.
In the area of employee morale, 72 percent of respondents said they were satisfied or very satisfied during 2012-13 compared to 58 percent the previous year.
Larry West, regional manager for the United Educators Association which represents about 1,000 KISD employees, said, “Teachers see a marked improvement in leaders hearing input and acting on it. That improves staff morale every time.”
Benz said administrators are working to solicit feedback from employees and using the feedback to improve systems. Groups like the Teachers Advisory Committee and the Non-exempt Employees Advisory Committee have been working with district leaders to address problems.
There were some issues, for instance, with new software to record student grades. Officials worked with teachers to deal with challenges, Benz said.
West agreed. “Gradebook implementation had some glitches,” he said. “Instead of saying, ‘deal with it,’ they reached out to help.”
According to survey results, 74 percent of those surveyed were satisfied or very satisfied with their workload, an improvement from 68 percent the year before.
“Further improvement still needs to be made in reducing paperwork and extra duties,” West said.
Benz said that some workload issues are beyond district control. “You can try to simplify processes, but we’re bound by a lot of rules. We don’t have a lot of flexibility because the law says we have to do it,” she said.
One way officials are trying to assist teachers is by adding back some campus support staff members and a few key central administration positions to assume some tasks, Benz said. Cutting support staff was part of more than $20 million in budget cuts made in 2011.
For the 2011-12 school year, teacher turnover was 12 percent, up from 8.7 percent the year before. Benz said that budget cuts and layoffs might have prompted some employees to leave the district.
Benz said that administrators are finding more experienced teachers in the hiring process. The district has fewer vacancies because no new campuses have opened the last two years. New employees are a pretty even mix of brand new and experienced teachers while in the past the group was weighted towards those straight out of college.
Education officials across the state have a bigger challenge filling vacancies, Benz said. Some college students decided to not get a degree in education because of school budget cuts.