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Janesville School District employees give their bosses a thumbs up in most areas

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
February 28, 2011
— Janesville School District leaders believe their employees are more satisfied than they've been at any time over the past three years.

The result, they believe, will be better-educated students.


They base that belief on a staff-satisfaction survey employees filled out in December.


Superintendent Karen Schulte said the results might be different if the survey were taken today.


"The state of education right now is in such flux and turmoil; I don't know how it could not affect people," Schulte said Thursday.


Schulte was referring to actions at the state level to require employees to pay more for their benefits and diminish their union bargaining rights.


Schulte said the district's difficult financial situation—exacerbated by a cut in state aid that Gov. Scott Walker is expected to announce Tuesday—could make things even worse.


But district leaders have put more emphasis on staff needs in recent years, and that shows up in the December survey, Schulte said.


Ninety-one percent of the district's 1,400 or so employees took the survey. They were asked about working conditions, about how happy they are in their jobs, and how well their superiors had performed.


Staff members scored each question on a scale of 1 to 5, with one being the most negative and 5 the most positive.


District leaders had set a goal of reaching the score of 4. They exceeded that, receiving a 4.07. Schulte said she thinks the numbers are the result of district leaders' actions.


"I think we have learned to be much more responsive to their needs … and we're quicker to respond to the kinds of things they need," Schulte said.


That responsiveness is a part of the district's Journey to Excellence. The Journey is a quality-improvement process that the district has adopted from the Studer Group.


Studer Group's Quint Studer, a former Janesville resident, is working with district leaders to put his ideas into action here. Studer is providing staff and advice and pays for principals, teachers and others to attend Studer training.


The survey didn't show a completely rosy picture. Schulte said responses to several questions show that leaders still aren't communicating with employees as well as they could.


Schulte and others should communicate better about the district's mission, vision and direction and about how the district's finances fit into that picture, the responses suggest.


Employees also are asking for more feedback on the work they do.


District leaders will take those things to heart, Schulte said.


For example, Schulte already spends a lot of time visiting employees around the district. She plans to augment those talks with a blog for employees.


The survey shows employees are less than happy about the way their superiors run meetings.


Schulte said principals and others will be trained on the best practices for running meetings.


On the positive side, employees gave their highest scores to statements such as "I enjoy coming to work," "I work in a safe environment" and "Students' needs come first is an accurate statement at my school."


"That's ownership. That's pride in the district, and that's commitment," Schulte said of the positive scores.


Those positive feelings, from teachers as well as lunch workers, custodians, aides and secretaries, among others, should affect students, Schulte said.


"Student achievement should go up, and I'm predicting it will go up," Schulte said.


The district should be able to say whether that prediction holds true this spring. The state in early April is expected to release the results of tests taken last fall.


Meanwhile, the process also calls for improving the satisfaction of students' parents. The latest in a series of parent-satisfaction surveys will be available during upcoming conferences.



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