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Teacher survey: schools’ working conditions lag state average

Faith, Bostian, Granite Quarry and Rockwell elementary schools are the best schools to work for in the Rowan-Salisbury School System, according to a teacher working conditions survey put out by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
Carson is the best high school, while Erwin and West Rowan are the best middle schools.
Knox Middle School is the worst, followed by Isenberg Elementary and North Rowan High School.
“To me, the survey is an overall measure of school culture — that being said, the leadership team in a building is important, having a staff in place with common beliefs and collaborative practices and community engagement are all important factors in a positive school culture,” said Kelly Withers, who was principal of Carson last year, the highest scoring high school in the county. This year, she will be at the helm of South Rowan, the second lowest scoring high school.
“A new building does not equal better working conditions. It is the people that work in the building that create a positive school culture and a sense of pride about the school,” she added.
The survey, which is administered biennially, allows teachers, counselors, principals and other administrators to anonymously share how well their school is catering to their needs as an educator.
Questions cover topics such as the adequacy of school facilities and resources, time, empowerment, school leadership, community support, student conduct, professional development, mentoring services and student learning.
Schools are then encouraged to use the survey results to find ways to improve working conditions.
Withers said the results of the survey are reviewed by the administrative team and school improvement team and are shared with the entire school.
“The results drive a portion of the school improvement plan in order to address areas of need,” she said.
According to the survey website, 91.35 percent of Rowan-Salisbury educators took the survey, and educator satisfaction has dropped since the it was last administered in 2002.
As a district, Rowan-Salisbury slightly trails the average satisfaction rate of other North Carolina public schools in all areas except professional development.
Rowan-Salisbury teachers expressed the most disappointment in the time category of the survey, including collaboration, class size, amount of paperwork and instructional time.
Elementary school teachers are generally the happiest with their working conditions, followed by high school, then middle school.
Withers faces the challenge of coming from a high scoring school to a low scoring school on the working conditions survey, but she’s already begun the work she believes can improve those conditions at South.
Withers said communication, collaboration and a shared vision were huge contributors to Carson’s success. She said she worked hard to listen to staff feedback, hire staff with passion and collaboratively seeking solutions to problems.
She’s spent her first two and a half weeks at South Rowan have centered around getting to know staff members and discussing how they can be leaders within the school.
There’s also a change of thinking that must take place.
“Our administrative team will challenge teachers to innovatively think about their classrooms and examine ways we can reach every student,” Withers said. “Additionally, we want to engage the community in school improvement efforts and build a sense of trust and confidence in what we are doing academically, athletically, and artistically to reach every student.”

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