SHERIDAN — Teachers in Sheridan County School District 2 seem to enjoy and appreciate working in the local schools.
Four members on the Sheridan Central Education Association leadership team provided an overview of teacher feedback during a roundtable meeting Monday evening with the SCSD2 board of trustees. SCEA leaders presented information about several different areas including satisfaction, communication and substitute teachers.
Kevin Rizer, a member of the SCEA leadership team and Sheridan High School history and government teacher, said the results from the teachers who responded were extremely positive overall. He said the leadership team considers changes as part of fine-tuning the quality work already being done rather than a drastic overhaul.
Rizer presented numbers from the annual teacher climate survey given to every instructor in the school district. According to the survey, 98 percent of teachers believe student learning is relevant and 94 percent feel they belong at their respective school. Moreover, 92 percent of teachers feel they are listened to when they have ideas about improving education, and 84 percent of instructors feel recognized for work they do.
Most questions provided response options from 1 to 5. In that case, 1 was the worst, 3 was average and 5 was the best. Most of the areas remained similar to last year and had averages near 4.
Rizer said the leadership team looks for area changes of 0.2 or more from year to year, which it considers statistically significant. There were four such adjustments this year, all of which were increases.
One of the changes involved instructors feeling a better sense of value and recognition. Rizer said teachers are feeling increasingly recognized. He gave examples of small but meaningful actions like a school or district administrator bringing a teacher a cup of coffee and asking how the teacher’s day or week is going.
The other three significant increases related to professional learning communities. Teachers responded that there was an increased focus on student goals; an improvement in making progress toward student goals; and more belief from teachers that PLCs have a positive impact.
SCSD2 superintendent Craig Dougherty said he appreciates the time and effort to make communications between teachers and administrators collaborative rather than adversarial. The middle school and high school allow two daily planning periods for teachers, something Dougherty believes is necessary to make progress and collaborate with colleagues.
Dougherty also said the frank, occasionally difficult conversations that occur during informal morning meetings before school help improve the district. He enjoys hearing about positive energy from employees helping move the school district in the right direction.
Dougherty said the school district does not have access to an ideal number of substitute teachers. He said the supply of substitutes has always been an issue over the years, especially on Fridays because so many teachers also coach athletics and must leave early for road games.
SCSD2 board member Wayne Schatz asked how substitute salaries compare to other school districts. Dougherty said the salaries are competitive with other school districts around the state and also said SCSD2 is working on a comparative analysis to potentially make them more competitive.
SCSD2 assistant superintendent Scott Stults mentioned a Google Doc that is shared with every school in SCSD2 to help schedule professional development days — when teachers leave their respective buildings and require a substitute — that do not overlap much. That way, multiple schools do not have too many teachers absent from the building on the same day.
SCSD2 board member Shellie Szmyd said local childcare providers have the same issue of finding substitutes. She mentioned that the community and school district could possibly create a substitute pool or something similar to better address the need.
SCSD2 board member Arin Waddell asked if the SCEA leadership team had suggestions or ideas related to stress management, such as making it a more significant part of wellness program. The leadership team said it did not have any new, specific ideas but are constantly considering how to better manage stress.
Sue Wilson said the results were devastating when SCSD2 did a teacher survey for the first time in the 1990s, so she has been amazed with the progress made over the years.
The results were not perfect, but for the SCSD2 teachers who responded, education appears headed in the right direction.