Committee demands improved communication from Park City Board of Education
Earlier this month, the Park City School District released results from a teacher survey saying that faculty members found their work meaningful. Some members involved in the Park City Board of Education’s Strategic Planning Committee decided to dig deeper, so they pulled out a teacher survey from last year and compared the results.
While members of a subcommittee tasked with evaluating the results of the teacher survey agreed that the data indicated teachers are happy with their jobs, they also found that there were concerns about communication and decision-making processes in the district. Ann Futch, one of the Strategic Planning Committee’s co-chairs, read a letter at the Board’s Nov. 21 meeting to voice the subcommittee’s worries about that aspect of the survey’s results.
The letter pointed to the fact similar grievances surfaced in a previous survey the subcommittee commissioned in 2016. The letter said that the team, which the Board created to aid in the strategic planning process, is “frustrated and saddened to hear this consistency between the two surveys which were taken more than 20 months apart.”
After the first survey’s results, the Strategic Planning Committee made recommendations for improvement to the Board and the district. Futch said that significant action had not been taken on those recommendations. Some of the suggestions included clearly defining a decision-making process so all stakeholders are informed and included when changes are made in the district.
Although questions were slightly different in the two surveys, Futch said the similarities in feedback were striking. Data from the initial survey showed that teachers had concerns with continual changes impacting their classrooms, such as the removal of reading specialists and changes in testing. She said that teachers indicated they often feel left out of decisions that greatly affect how they teach.
Ember Conley, superintendent, said one of the district’s priorities is making sure changes or new programs are reviewed according to policy and planned from start to finish before they are implemented. The dual language immersion program, for example, lacked a clear plan when Conley was hired, she said. She said she immediately tried to address that.
“You should do things that are visionary like (dual immersion), it’s good for kids,” she said. “But one of the things that I feel really driven by is to have that operational road map.”
Conley, who was named in teacher comments read to the Board, reminded teachers in a faculty email following the meeting that she is “dedicated to you and the students in this district.”
She also attached a link to a document that describes the process district administration has used to make decisions this year.
Administrators and the Board have continued to work on defining protocol for making decisions. They are also holding meetings to craft a strategic plan for the district. A strategic plan, complete with a mission, vision and values, is supposed to guide the district, Conley said.
The issues of communication and the decision-making processes are often brought up at meetings with parents, teachers and community members.
Conley said that communication is an ongoing issue for organizations of all types, but added that she recognizes that there is always more that can be done to improve.
“We would not be soliciting information if we didn’t want to know how to improve,” she said. “We have the growth mindset.”
One of the values of the strategic plan, adopted at last week’s meeting, is communication, and the strategic goals include delivering “efficient, effective and transparent communication about the district.”
Futch said that, while the strategic plan identifies an appropriate vision moving forward, she also feels that it has been a quick process. The Strategic Planning Committee that she co-chaired was in charge of creating a strategic plan last year, but the it believed that moving forward with a plan before the district made changes would be ineffective.
She, along with the three other members of the subcommittee who helped write the letter, said they want the Board to act and move forward on recommendations from 2016.
“The important message is improvements haven’t been made,” she said. “It’s a consistent result. Even though the (survey) questions weren’t exactly the same, the general overall areas for improvement and areas for praise are similar.”
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Arlene Loble served as the Park City manager in the 1980s, a pivotal period that prepared the community for the boom years that would follow in the 1990s. Loble, who recently died, is credited with introducing a level of professionalism to the municipal government that was needed amid the growth challenges.