School Works To Raise Staff Morale

by Russell Irons ’19

The results of the annual MCPS 2016- 2017 survey showed that staff morale at Sherwood is low. Nearly half of the staff surveyed disagreed with the statement that staff morale is positive. Many staff members felt there was a lack of communication throughout Sherwood, and they felt uninvolved with decision-making that correlated directly to their work.

Last summer, one of the topics addressed was the unsatisfactory results of the 2016-2017 MCPS climate survey. Principal William Gregory and the school leadership team met with Sherwood’s triad to assess the issue. Triads are comprised of two elected faculty members and one supporting staff member, and Sherwood’s triad consists of social studies teachers Katherine Jaffe and Todd Rubinstein and special education paraeducator Nicole Taylor. The triad serves as a way for staff and faculty members to bring any problems they have to the attention of Gregory and the leadership team. In the meeting, Gregory and the triad decided to create a follow-up survey to hone in on the issues revealed by the MCPS survey.

“Based upon the results of the survey that we did in-house, and what was brought back to leadership team in terms of what to address, there were practices that were put in place . . . an action plan was developed,” said Gregory. The action plan implemented at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year included a number of changes intended to improve the staff climate. Prior to the action plan, memos on the proceedings of leadership meetings were distributed to staff in a group section of Outlook email. Now, each teacher’s email inbox receives key decisions made in the meetings. The intention of such seemingly minor changes are to improve the level of communication with the staff.

Recently, Gregory and the triad met to create a new mid-year follow-up survey to assess the effectiveness of the action plan, and hopefully show improvements among the staff’s feeling about the school climate. When asked if Gregory felt the action plan made an impact, he had mixed feelings.

“My thought is yes, there have been some things . . . that have been done the way we said we were going to do them; there are things that I don’t feel have been done the way that I thought they were going to be,” said Gregory. While Gregory believes there have been improvements to the issues, more solutions are in the works.

Over the past few weeks, a new mid-year survey was created at the leadership meetings. The survey was planned to go out to staff this past week, and the hope is that the results will show improvements in the school climate. “We want to gauge where things are in relation to first semester in terms of communication and support from the leadership team, and morale in the school,” said Rubinstein.

The new survey focuses on the relationship between the staff and administrators, between staff and resource teachers, and among staff members themselves. It also allows more specificity and expression from the staff by letting them describe things in their own words. In addition, staff will give their input on the overall environment of Sherwood. The results of the mid-year survey will hopefully yield better results due to the efforts of Gregory and the triad, and show an improvement to the Sherwood community.