Wednesday, October 15, 2014

School staff survey shows ‘opportunities for improvement’

Results identify issues with trust and communications

Express Staff Writer

    While a recent Blaine County School District staff survey shows that most employees are proud to work for the district, results also show that there are issues with trust and internal communications.
    Results of the survey, officially known as the “Employee Engagement Survey,” were released by the district Monday. The survey was conducted in May at the end of the 2013-14 school year. According to the district, 369, or 69 percent, of the district’s 543 employees participated.
    New Superintendent GwenCarol Holmes, who took her position in July, was scheduled to discuss the survey with the district board of trustees at the board’s regular monthly meeting Tuesday evening.
    A memo Holmes prepared for the board provides the following summary:

  • The overwhelming majority of employees are proud to work for the district and are proud to work in the field of education.
  • Most employees believe that the district supports their professional growth. A majority feel they are recognized for their accomplishments.
  • About a third of employees do not trust information received from district leadership.
  • Over half do not believe there is a strong sense of teamwork and cooperation within the district.
  • Nearly half do not believe the district’s administration has a clear vision of the future.
  • Almost half the staff does not feel leadership clearly explains why key decisions are made.

    In a press release issued Monday, the district stated that “survey results show staff pride and district opportunities for improvement.”
    “This survey was an important first step in reaching out to all staff and asking for feedback that will improve student achievement,” Holmes said. “The survey creates a baseline and shows us what we are doing well and where we can make improvements that will ultimately impact our students.”
    Board Chair Shawn Bennion stated in the press release that the survey was “conducted during a challenging time for employees as we transitioned to new leadership.”
    “I appreciate the staff who were willing to participate and give their voice during such an important time in our transition,” Bennion said. “As we move forward with student-focused decision making, one of our goals will be to build trust and communicate a clear vision for the future.”
    The leadership transition that Bennion referred to involved the hiring of a new superintendent. Holmes was selected for the position in April following a nationwide search after the board terminated former Superintendent Lonnie Barber’s contract in September 2013.

The survey creates a baseline and shows us what we are doing well and where we can make improvements that will ultimately impact our students.”
GwenCarol Holmes
BCSD superintendent

    Tryntje VanSlyke, president of the Blaine County Education Association, stated in the press release that the results provide district leadership with an “opportunity to consider staff perspectives and evaluate practices that affect the entire BCSD family, and more importantly the students.”
    “This survey, when completed annually, will ultimately show efforts in attending to common concerns,” VanSlyke stated. “The [Blaine County Education Association] is hopeful that positive progress in areas of concern will be the long-term result. The ability of the staff to have a vehicle for their concerns to be voiced has been very much appreciated.”
    In her memo to the school board, Holmes described steps that have already been taken to address some of the employee concerns, including a “warm and personal welcome to the 2014-2015 school year for each individual employee.”
    Holmes also reported that steps are being taken to include staff more in the decision-making process, to develop an improvement plan that includes “root cause analysis” and to develop improved internal communications vehicles.
    Complete survey results are available under the “Your Voice” tab at the district website at
Terry Smith:

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