October 2020 Staff Listening Sessions Report

Overview

  • Over 350 participants in the listening sessions. 
  • We hosted 3 sessions for elementary school staff, 3 for secondary school staff, and 1 for non-campus staff. 
  • Cabinet members hosted small breakout rooms for approximately 30 minutes of listening, facilitated by standard questions. We captured notes in a shared Google Doc for reporting purposes and this analysis. 
  • As a means of gathering feedback directly from custodians (an underrepresented group in previous surveys), we sent our listening session questions in English and Spanish through text messaging (Remind platform).

Questions  

  1. What is working well? What structures or processes do you want to keep?
  2. What is the greatest challenge that you are facing right now?  What actions, supports, resources would help you address that challenge?
  3. What is one thing that your principal or the district leadership doesn’t know that they should know now?
  4. What improvements, if made, would make a difference for you right now?  What would help you most in addressing your biggest concerns?  

Summary

After conducting a Thoughtexchange survey from Sept. 18 – Oct. 2, we identified areas for focus in supporting staff during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, the feedback in that format lacked specific action steps or suggestions for making meaningful changes. In order to generate action steps and collect feedback on in-progress work to support staff, we hosted eight listening sessions from Oct. 14 – Oct. 19. 

Through a Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats (SWOT) analysis of the four sub-groups we met with – elementary school staff, secondary school staff, non-campus staff, and custodians – staff responded in the following themes.

Teachers need uninterrupted time. 

In order to keep up with various new processes and procedures brought on by the pandemic, teachers need more time to focus on the highest priorities: direct instruction and relationships with students and parents/guardians. 

Staff Recommendation

  • Identify a regular set of time for teachers to work individually, independently, and without interruption. 

This is not a normal year. 

Staff continues to set normal, high expectations for their individual work performance despite this not being a normal year. In some cases, staff place this expectation on themselves. There are also too many normal school year requirements continuing even with the pandemic procedures. 

Listening Session Recommendations

  • Remove or adjust any non-essential work. 
  • Acknowledge this is not a normal year.
  • Adjust grading and attendance taking policies/procedures.

We need to address staffing shortages. 

School staff relies on their coworkers to cover each other’s work when an employee takes leave or resigns. This stress intensifies as students return for in-person learning. Staffing shortages with custodians, instructional assistants, and substitute teachers are being felt the hardest. Feedback from custodians almost unanimously addressed concerns with low pay. 

Listening Session Recommendations

  • Hire for vacant staff positions. 
  • Hire more substitutes. 
  • Compensate teachers for covering extra classrooms. 
  • Increase wages for custodians.

Provide additional instructional resources.

Teachers are struggling to create lessons for both virtual and in-person students. They asked for additional, centralized resources including instructional materials, technology, and applications for leading learning.

Listening Session Recommendation:

  • Create systems for centralized, ready-made instructional resources that can be directly used in lesson plans.  

Streamline communication. 

Frequent communication has helped transparency but overwhelmed staff who are managing more virtual and digital communication than in a normal year. 

Listening Session Recommendation

  • Reduce the frequency of communication to staff. 
  • Creates places where staff can easily access information. 
  • Eliminate information-sharing meetings. 

Continue to support and require health response protocols. 

As more students choose in-person learning, we must continue to enforce clear, consistent, and districtwide expectations for health response protocols. 

Listening Session Recommendations

  • Consistently enforce mask-wearing, staying home when sick, disinfecting, handwashing, and physical distancing when possible.
  • Continue to make PPE visibility available and accessible to staff and students. 

Additional Listening Session Recommendations:

  • Adjust notification for COVID-19 positive cases.
  • Allow more employees to work from home. 
  • Continue using Zoom for meetings when possible. 
  • Continue virtual professional learning opportunities.
  • Communicate virtual learning expectations for parents. 
  • Find ways to appreciate staff, particularly custodians. 
  • Continue to host listening sessions. 
  • Ensure custodians are getting campus COVID notifications.
  • Share mental health and wellness resources with staff, including Headspace App and the Employee Assistance Program.

SWOT Analysis

Elementary School Staff 

Strengths

  • New instructional tools: Seesaw, Empowered Learning Packets, Razz
  • Visual health response protocol items in buildings 
  • Virtual learning for shy, in-person students
  • Flexible, work from home Continuous Improvement Conference (CIC)
  • Teamwork on campuses
  • Campus leadership with communication, support
  • Supportive parents
  • Parents who choose virtual for class sizes

“I have one student who has only been in virtual and he has made 18 months of progress in just 6 months. Most of my kids have less than 10 words and zero receptive language. It is beautiful because I am working with parents and kids.”

Weaknesses

  • Digitizing instructional material. 
  • Virtual classes in specials
  • Instructional resources for lessons (especially math and science)
  • Enforcing the health response protocols
  • End of day classroom cleanliness
  • Schedule changes through the phase-in
  • Action when staff kid is in quarantine
  • The grading system (not set up for virtual learning)
  • Too many changing systems
  • Connectivity
  • Disparity across the district with parent support

“The curriculum department doesn’t have enough people in it. From Lewisville ISD, we had 4-5 teachers working together paid for days during the year and summer. Lewisville ISD had a robust science department with 6-7 facilitators. There isn’t enough teaching and learning staff to support teachers.”

Opportunities

  • Validate 2020-21 as not a normal year
  • Streamline communication, cut meetings
  • Adjust virtual schedules to prolonged screen time
  • Give teachers the autonomy to prioritize
  • Quicker turnaround time for the Document Production Center
  • Compensate teachers for covering extra classes
  • Give teachers uninterrupted time 
  • Give specials teachers access to SeeSaw 
  • Create parent rules for virtual classrooms 
  • Provide direct support for the distributed hot spots
  • Visibly distribute PPE
  • Suspend districtwide assessments for the year
  • Modify or remove requirements from LEADS, SLO, RTI
  • Provide clarity when sick without COVID
  • Keeping all virtual teachers connected with the school community
  • Improve cross-district collaboration among virtual teachers
  • Provide additional screens for virtual students
  • Purchase mask-friendly microphones 

“We need to have a day for asynchronous-grading, connecting with families. Ideally, it would be on a Wednesday.” 

Threats

  • Workload
  • Interruptive parents in virtual classrooms
  • In-person classroom sizes with students returning
  • Staffing shortages (substitute teachers, custodians, instructional assistants)
  • Balancing in-person, virtual students for special education

“We are pretending to go to school as normal but this year is not normal.  Nothing has been taken off our plates. I need some stuff to come off my plates because my plates are coming home every day.” 

“I don’t feel added pressure from anyone but myself. Parents have been nice, but ultimately they still expect the same high level of teaching and interaction. I don’t feel like administrators are putting on the pressure. They are present and staying on top of it, taking care of everyone’s needs really well. I think it is teachers holding ourselves accountable for doing it as well as we have always.”

Secondary School Staff

Strengths

  • Virtual learning for shy, in-person students
  • Flexible, work from home Continuous Improvement Conference (CIC)
  • Teamwork on campuses
  • Ability to teach from home during COVID exposure
  • Zoom license purchase
  • Cross district meetings on Zoom
  • Middle school block schedules
  • Central office support with COVID protocols
  • PPE availability
  • Delay to start of school for high school due to tech issues
  • Kids on campus want to be here
  • New virtual instructional tools
  • Google Classroom
  • Reduced behavior issues
  • Phase-in for transition years (6th and 9th grade)
  • Slack for collaboration

Weaknesses

  • Student laptops and CTE software
  • Support from curriculum
  • Google Classroom for grading
  • Quality of the CBA
  • Virtual learning with CTE, science, performing arts
  • The decision for hybrid instruction without proper notice
  • Attendance taking and grading policy
  • Building relationships with students in both virtual and in-person
  • Equity between in-person and virtual students
  • Connectivity with Zoom and virtual students
  • Not enough opportunities for special education teachers to meet with instructional assistants, general education teachers
  • Inconsistency with students going from in-person to virtual 
  • Staff compensation
  • Masks teaching American Sign Language (ASL)
  • PPE for students with hearing issues and ESL (need to see face)
  • Teachers cleaning their own rooms

“I have 100 emails from students who haven’t shown up, but turn in all assignments at the end of the 6 weeks. I have to spend the entire weekend grading.”

“Teachers are carrying the student experience. LISD doesn’t understand restorative practices enough. We need to learn more about how to take care of each other through this pandemic. Maybe we wouldn’t all be so stressed.”


Opportunities

  • Create instructional videos from the central curriculum team 
  • Compensate teachers for covering extra classes
  • Validate 2020-21 as not a normal year
  • Streamline communication, cut meetings
  • Give teachers the autonomy to prioritize
  • Give teachers uninterrupted time 
  • Suspend districtwide assessments for the year
  • Modify or remove requirements from LEADS, SLO, RTI
  • Create learning expectations for virtual students
  • Share processes when a positive COVID case occurs
  • Offer an asynchronous day for high schools
  • Improve response time from HR regarding leave days
  • Work with urgent cares to reduce COVID test fees
  • Create easier access to COVID testing
  • Provide additional screens for virtual students
  • Communicate repercussions for students who don’t follow health response protocols
  • Increase passing periods for disinfection time
  • District administrators walk secondary school hallways to see and understand stress
  • Keep listening sessions for staff
  • Create virtual-only teaching positions
  • Allow teachers to teach from home
  • Advocate for the cancelation of STAAR as a district

“We need a reminder that while this may be temporary, it is permanent for our students on their report cards/transcripts. Let’s consider how we are assessing students this year.”

Threats

  • Staff burnout
  • Creating virtual and in-person lessons
  • Staffing shortages (instructional assistants, custodians, teachers)
  • Hybrid teaching model
  • Teacher mid-year resignations
  • Contacting virtual students
  • The second wave of COVID cases
  • Pushback from parents on new ELA curriculum 
  • Keeping up with all student accommodations in virtual learning 
  • Students getting enough water
  • Maintaining confidentiality with students one-on-one
  • College Board unwavering expectations

“It’s hard to know that I am doing this every day, but it’s not my best work.” 

“I feel like I am being forced at not being good at either in-person or virtual learning. I can’t be good at both at the same time.”

“I worry about custodians. We are asking them to do so much and not compensating them. We have to do more to support them.”

Non-Campus Staff

Strengths

  • Zoom meetings
  • Learning new skills
  • Some students thriving
  • Communication
  • Health and Safety Protocols
  • Virtual professional learning

“The virtual CIC was great! We had wonderful speakers and allowed teachers to take a breather but still engage in their learning.”

“The communication from Dr. Gearing has been good and frequent.”

Weaknesses

  • Safety protocols/ consistency across campuses
  • PPE supports for Special Populations (SPED, ELL) with masks restricting facial expressions for language development
  • Processes for being at multiple campuses and managing exposures
  • Supports for teachers and staff –  social, emotional, stress, pedagogy, 
  • Technology and connectivity
  • Clarity on decision making
  • Decision making for individuals (equity not equality for staff)

Opportunities

  • Communicate priorities.
  • Give more time
  • Allow staff to work from home
  • Implement an LMS  
  • Planning forward
  • Rethink the way we do things
  • Streamline communication
  • Continue listening sessions
  • Purchase laptops or cameras for office staff working without cameras 
  • Promote the headspace and employee assistance programs.
  • Purchase plexiglass barriers for people who request

Threats

  • Budget cuts
  • Staff shortages
  • Workload

Custodial Staff

Strengths

  • Health response protocols
  • Access to PPE
  • Supervisor communication
  • Teacher and student support

Weaknesses

  • Pay and compensation
  • Lack of recognition for their work
  • Communication from school principal

“When we come into work we always have to be on edge about getting this virus as well, and not many ever think about us in this circumstance custodians risk our lives to make it safe for the students and faculty. I just feel that it’s all about the teachers and never about us custodians, we are the glue that holds these schools together and the majority of educators look at us as if we were nothing.”

“District leadership needs to realize when one has a finite amount of time to do what is normally required of custodians and they add more work to the shift it does not fit. One cannot put 14 ozs in a 12 ozs can, it will not fit”.

“One would have to compromise their work to fit in the 8-hour shift. I will NOT compromise. My responsibility is the safety of my school and those in it”.

Opportunities

  • Increase custodial staff wages. 
  • Hire more custodial staff.
  • Upgrade equipment. 
  • Provide clear and consistent instructions about cleaning protocols for all custodial staff
  • Allow custodians to work and pay them for overtime, including teams for weekend work
  • Improve communication with custodians about positive cases
  • Recognize custodians for their work
  • Support custodians and families if infected with COVID-19
  • Create systems for rewarding stellar work with job growth

“Leander ISD needs to incentivize the employees for the double effort we do in our areas, extra areas and try to maintain the schools disinfected. They do not consider the extra risk we are taking and the few resources we have, in staff and equipment. Every year we have a party to thank us with food and drinks, this year we didn’t even have that. I understand because of the virus we can not gather, but to recognize us can be done in each school at least.”

“The majority of people in my department (custodian) don’t speak English and we don’t have anyone that can translate to us the correct information. We need a person that can tell us the specific information about the cleaning jobs. They just leave the machines, but they don’t give us instructions. The instructions are always given over the phone, and never in person. If we had better communication we will do a better job.”

Threats

  • Resignations
  • Staying healthy
  • More cleaning than normal
  • Inhaling chemicals

“We need to be valued more because you require so much from us for nothing. We are the ones that are exposed to get infected. With such low pay, and you even took away the few days we had to share with our families, That is not fair, and we are not the ones to blame for this situation and now we don’t have the only two weeks we had every year. We are not less than anyone.”

Updated on October 23, 2020

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