Communication Between Superintendent and Board

About these Communications
In response to my Open Records request for the Teacher Survey results, I also requested all related written communication between Administration and the Board.

The response was timely, but I did not receive the original emails or documents.   What I did receive was a compilation, by date, of communication pieces primarily from the (former) district administrator to the Board. There was one communication from Mr. Kastengren to the (former) district administrator

January 25, 2013 Communication to the Board
After having a few days to consider Attorney Gary Ruesch’s presentation, I am considering the following recommendations to you. The recommendations encompass the negotiation context as well as the morale pieces we discussed.

1. Award three forms of supplemental pay:
a. Performance based on summative evals (similar to last year)
b. Merit based on longevity or other factors. This would be a permanent addition to the employees pay. It may limit the amount available for base wage negotiation process with the union.
c. Adjust those teachers’ salaries who were enrolled/taking in the graduate courses the semester Act 10 became law.

2. Keep insurance contribution rates the same as this year (15% health & 15% dental). If any change to program were to occur, make it to the benefit level (ER deductible, office co-pay, etc.)

3. Maintain a consistent work calendar which aligns to the student calendar.

4. Other feedback I had received in a small sample of an employee satisfaction survey was pretty good, but written comments indicated we have too many meetings. I spoke with administrators about this concern so we can address it in buildings.

February 8, 2013 Communication to the Board
This past Wednesday the employee cabinet group met. We discussed the teacher survey which we received last month, special education, wellness initiatives, and school safety.

They (the employees) brought up questions pertaining to merit pay, class size, cleaning in some classrooms, compensation, staffing for next year, and insurance for next year.

April Committee Meeting Topic
Follow-up on Employee Survey:

Joch discussed implementation of programs to address teacher morale including the “You Rock” program, teacher cabinet meetings,, flex time and resolution of the school calendar.  The committee discussed other options to address the survey issues.

May 3, 2013 Communication to the Board

Teachers with credit adjustment supplemental pay were notified last week. Their respective adjustments began on April 30’s payroll.
Teachers with supplemental pay related to performance will receive that on the May 15th payroll. Those individuals will be notified next week.
I contacted the teacher who forwarded me the “survey” from last autumn, seeing if a follow-up or end of year piece could be done. He said he would check with the group and get back to me.

May 10, 2013 Communication to the Board

The teacher whom I had contacted about the teacher “survey” from last autumn, indicated an end-of-year survey was sent-out, in response to my request for “a follow-up.”

July 26, 2013 Communication to the Board
Based on a conversation we had in a committee meeting this past spring, I asked that the teacher survey, which was first conducted in October/November, be offered again. The survey was re-opened for teachers to complete in late April/early May. I received the results in late May/early June. I was told the results have not been shared with the union, despite the request.

Truthfully, the spring results indicate only a slight improvement from the fall. The comments were not as personally attacking / targeted as the fall, but they were still bluntly stated.

The main points of frustration stem from, a feeling of insecurity, performance evals tied to compensation (merit pay), a minimal salary increase for most stemming from negotiations, non-renewals, and a feeling that the Board does not appreciate the work/dedication of the staff.

I’m going to offer my personal reflection on the survey results:

Frankly, I was disappointed and annoyed with the results, yet I realize it presents another challenge for the upcoming school year to work with people to address the concerns. Some of the items we can continue to work on more immediately, others will take time.

  • The timing of the survey (spring) may have had an impact. This was the time when people had received their evals, been awarded merit pay (or not), and been notified of their individual employment status for 2013-14. Couple those pieces with the typical end-of-year stressors in any school teacher’s life and one might understand the reason for the reaction.
  • Transition continues. Teachers have not come to terms of professional work expectations. In other words, typically administrators selected their battles with issues with which to confront teachers. This was done to avoid having meetings with “representation present” or the watering down of disciplinary action which typically took place in several circumstances due to the union. A positive or supportive tone in evaluations would always be used to build teachers-up, affirm self-esteem and hopefully motivate them to address a deficiency. Now we are addressing things more directly in action and candid vocabulary, whether it is professional conduct or performance. When I joined WGSD eight years ago, I was surprisingly pleased to see such high expectations and witness a strong work ethic from so many employees that wanted to do things “right.” For those teachers that didn’t exhibit those same high standards, people would moan/groan about them or avoid them. Being honest about something does not mean a person is unkind, or being persistent about insisting on a change, doesn’t equate to being a bully. Looking the other way is seldom an option anymore and that degree of accountability is a significant change for teachers.
  • Morale is becoming intangible (and that may be an understatement).
  • Generally speaking, a prevailing gloom is not evident in our buildings. People come to work, work hard and appear fine.
  • We can attempt to influence how people feel about something, but we can’t control their reactions/emotions. People can choose to come to work with a positive mindset or a negative one.
  • An employee recognition program and dress code relaxation were run during the second semester. While I received emails of appreciation and personal thanks from individuals, the survey was critical of both.
  • Back pay for credits, back pay from negotiations and merit pay were all distributed within a four to six week window to many teachers (approx. $240K). Yet, salaries/compensation are a concern.
  • We (the Board and I) have the capability to address items.

o Finances

  • I worked on a negotiations proposal this week. It should better address the concern of a minimal amount for the majority; continue to raise our starting rate of pay, while staying within our tighter budget parameter. While it isn’t a significant increase, it is larger than last year it will be more noticeable since insurance rates will not increase.
  • Another part I plan to study is the % of merit pay which can be permanently added to one’s salary.
  • Having a new salary scale available next school year (2014-15), with their input in shaping it, should also address that concern. I will also work to have a rubric for the summative eval scoring in 2013-14.
  • Keep in mind two things about finances:

o Merit pay continues and that it is a sore spot, regardless of how it is distributed.
o As part of human nature, we have short-term memories of our compensation. Money is a short-term “pleaser” to people as they often forget the increase they receive a few months later as it becomes a natural part of their income.

  • Messaging

o I will continue to recognize positive things occurring during the administrator’s report slot on Board agendas
o I will ask/encourage principals to begin doing that during their principal’s report time on Board agendas
o If you are in the schools, and/or see something positive, tell the principal and/or staff member— verbally, through email or both.
o From the three items above, I plan to send-out an all staff communication which recognizes/highlights those positive things occurring in the buildings.
• I will continue to have an employee cabinet group for open communication & listening purposes. I’d like to periodically invite and include a Board member in those meetings.

While the above perspective may be over-analytical, I thought it was important for you to have an awareness of it. Regardless of the negative ripples that we sometimes experience, taking a step back to realize how much has been accomplished in a few years as well as the many very positive attributes of our district (diverse quality programming, dedicated teaching and support staff, access to technology, and solid financial standing) one realizes how fortunate the community is to have a high caliber school system for its children. Thanks for allowing me to be part of that!

Chris Joch – Re: Weekly Update
From:       Robert Kastengren

Hi Chris.                                            Teacher Surveys are always a problem. If you ask me anonymously if you’re doing enough for me, the answer is always no. I’m convinced you (we) are doing the best we can at this time. Hopefully, we can do even better in the future.

Chris Joch – follow-up

From: Chris Joch
To: Beyerl, Paul; Bleimehl, Dawn; Kastengren, Robert; Schwartz, Doug; da..
Date: 7/31/2013 12:07 PM
Subject follow-up

Good Morning, Board Members,

Some of you had expressed interest in seeing the 2nd teacher survey. In the interest of transparency for all Board members and so you are informed, I am sending this to the group. This survey was conducted this last spring (2013). From what I can ascertain, it is identical in format/questions to the one from autumn of 2012.

I forwarded you the email which I received in late May (see below). The third attachment are some paper copies I received in June, past the time the data had been compiled into the first two attached documents.

I shared with you my reflections in last Friday’s bulletin. Keep in mind some of the comments are perceptual/rumor-mill and not accurate.

Let’s continue to move forward with positive messaging and address some of the financial pieces which linger,

Due to some late arrivals of paper copies I had to spend a few more days compiling the data for you. I have shared the 
report with (name withheld) and (name withheld), the ones who helped me, and that is it.

You will see two documents. The first is a Word file. This file has what I call the raw data. It is the exact responses everyone gave me. At the bottom of each list of electronic responses you will see the 9 paper copy responses that I typed in. Each question is followed with the number of responses I received from each question. Not every person responded to each question.

The second document is an Excel file. This is where you will see the final results of everything I tabulated. There will be three tabs. The first one is a summary of each question, the number of responses and categories for each section, and the percentage of each response. Some question I put an “other” category. This was because some peoples responses were hard to decipher. I did not want to assume responses, so I just marked those as other.

The second tab is the tabulated responses so you can see the calculations made. In questions 9, hours worked over contracted time, some responses never gave a numerical response so I put those at the end of the list for you to see their comments.

Finally, the third tab was me having fun with graphs to show the results visually (I am a visual learner so this helped me). To the right of all the graphs are the response summaries from the fall survey so you can see what difference, or lack there of, there was for each question.

I hope you find this all helpful as you begin to work through all this information. Understand that I did not change anyone’s raw responses so you can see the true thoughts people had to say.

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