School Workers Mostly Satisfied

But Trust And Respect A County Challenge

Posted: January 22, 2013

PENN LAIRD — Employees of Rockingham County Schools are satisfied overall with the division, according to results of a $20,000 survey commissioned by the School Board, but better compensation wouldn’t hurt.

About 80 people showed up Monday at Spotswood High School to hear the findings of the survey, which was designed to assess the division’s work environment.

Of those who responded, 92 percent said the division as a whole was “excellent” or “good,” and compensation and benefits emerged as the greatest concern of all employees.

“Even [the satisfaction rate] in isolation, however, does not suggest there isn’t room for improvement,” said Trina Willard, a representative from Knowledge Advisory Group, the Mechanicsville-based company that conducted the survey.

Of note, Willard said, was that “trust and respect within the system” ranked as a top challenge. While compensation is a universal concern for workers, not just division staff, she said having trust and respect emerge as a main challenge is a telling detail for the division.

Of the 2,141 surveys sent out, 1,377 were completed, for a 64 percent response rate.

Discussion about a divisionwide survey to identify “climate” conditions affecting employee morale began in March 2011. That’s when a number of parents and teachers demanded a third-party survey about what they said were poor working conditions at Mountain View Elementary School.

The survey conducted by the Knowledge Advisory Group, which the board approved in May, came on the heels of a November 2011 questionnaire with the same intent. But there are some key differences between the assessments, according to Willard.

The latest survey focused only on Rockingham County, whereas the original one was primarily a benchmarking survey, which showed Rockingham County Schools how it lined up with other divisions across the nation, she said.

And, as some board members pointed out, the recently completed survey provides detailed information, figures they said weren’t provided in the original $875 survey conducted by the National Center For School Leadership.

In addition to disseminating a survey, the Knowledge Advisory Group reviewed results of the prior survey, spoke with staff and community members and provided a list of recommendations based on the results of the process.

Despite the logistical differences, the general findings of the two surveys were much the same.

The survey completed in fall 2011 showed that areas of concern for employees included dissatisfaction with compensation, teacher-student ratios and communication with central office staff.

Results of the second survey released Monday show professional and instructional staff see the division’s greatest challenges — in order of importance — as compensation and benefits, establishing budgetary priorities, class sizes, trust and respect within the system and staff retention.

For classified staff, the greatest areas of concern were compensation and benefits and trust and respect within the system. Classified staff include nurses, coaches, maintenance personnel, food service workers, classroom assistants and bus drivers.

Moving forward, board Chairman Dan Breeden said the 55-page document turned out by Knowledge Advisory Group will be studied closely by board members before any issues are addressed.

“We want to move diligently, but not rush ourselves as we look at courses of action to take, if any,” Breeden said.

Contact Emily Sharrer at 574-6286 or

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