An independent email survey of Richland 2 employees unveiled this week finds most administrators, teachers and support staff are satisfied with the workings of their individual schools and the district, although teachers and support staff report a burdensome workload and one-third of teachers complain that testing too often trumps instruction.
Stephen Knobloch, a vice president of the Herndon, Va.-based K12 Insight company, presented the results of the unscientific climate study to the Richland 2 school board Tuesday, cautioning it is not a scientific study but rather one set of data that provides opportunity for a broader conversation about issues that may be surfacing in the district. The survey was conducted Sept. 5-19.
Of 168 administrators, 123 responded to the confidential questionnaire, while 403 of 648 support staff, or 62 percent, responded. Just over half of the 2,223 teachers and instructional staff answered questions that ranged from leadership to student discipline and resources. That 53 percent return rate may have reflected suspicion that the responses could be traced back to the individual employee, a rumor that school board members moved to debunk early on in the fact-finding phase of the survey.
While school administrators reported the highest overall satisfaction, they did call for an improvement in overall morale and noted in anonymous comments that the level of trust between the district office and schools was not as strong as it had been in the past. The board commissioned the survey in part because of grumblings about diminished morale.
Board member Melinda Anderson noted several anomalies in the results, when comparing the relatively satisfaction expressed by employees to the 20-25 percent of employees in the three categories who indicated they may search for work in another district.
About 42 percent of teachers reported feeling burdened by data collection requests, part of the overall push for accountability at the state and federal levels, and a workload that is too heavy.
Their concern for that came out in the verbatim statements, Knobloch said.
Board chairman Calvin Chip Jackson said the survey results would be posted on the district website.
The unveiling of the climate study comes in the same week that superintendent Katie Brochu was set to provide a written response to the school boards long-awaited performance evaluation, which was completed last month.
The board gave Brochu a qualified endorsement in late October, but also required her to improve community relationships, moderate her top-down management style and figure out a plan to address several low-performing schools. She was asked to respond by Dec. 3, but board member Susan Brill said she was provided an extension until Wednesday because the board was delayed in getting the full evaluation to her.
The board also asked for an itemized accounting of the costs of the professional development program she has advocated since her arrival in July 2010. The program operated by the nonprofit Schlechty Center and educational development consultant Phillip Schlechty, has been a source of controversy in the district although some teachers have praised its merits.