Lawrence school district report shows low engagement among classified staff

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Nearly two-thirds of Lawrence school district classified staff members who responded to a survey are experiencing low engagement with their jobs, according to a human resources report.

The district’s HR team has been working to gather information via a survey platform, Educator Perceptions and Insights Center. 

During the school board meeting on Monday, administrators shared results from an EPIC survey that 56% of the district’s classified staff members — including custodians, paraeducators, food workers and more — participated in last March.

Participants responded on a 5-point Likert scale measuring whether they felt actively disengaged, disengaged, moderately engaged, engaged or actively engaged in their work. Ratings were based on several considerations, such as feelings of accomplishment, professional growth and development, overall satisfaction and others.

The largest percentage of the 320 total respondents — 46% — ranked as disengaged, and another 16% ranked as actively disengaged, according to results in the report. The smallest percentage — 5% — ranked as actively engaged; 12% ranked as engaged, and 21% as moderately engaged.

Survey results showed areas of high satisfaction in relationships with coworkers and supervisors and areas of low satisfaction in pay, the responsiveness of the district office, ongoing training received and opportunities to receive feedback. 

Megan Epperson, assistant director of HR, noted that the board approved salary increases last July, after the survey responses were collected.

Epperson said she and her colleagues are steadily working to improve the district’s wellness initiatives for employees. Staff members have reported burnout that affects their ability to fully show up at work.

Epperson and Kristen Ryan, executive director of HR, agreed there’s a correlation between salary increases and retention. Classified staff members received a base pay increase of at least $2.12 per hour.

Some staff members who left returned after the district increased wages, Epperson said, and the district has been able to hire more new employees while retaining more current employees.

The district is also now looking to host yoga instructors, cooking and nutrition classes and self-defense classes for staff at their schools, Ryan said. The HR team is in conversation with community gyms and organizations like the Lawrence Arts Center to hopefully offer staff discounts on memberships and programs.

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The Lawrence school district’s classified staff represented almost one-quarter of the state’s total EPIC survey results, and board Past President Shannon Kimball gave credit for the turnout to the HR team.

In comparison to the state, the district has a higher percentage of disengagement and a lower percentage of engagement, according to the results.

Survey results show that a higher percentage of Lawrence school district classified staff rank as actively disengaged or disengaged compared to statewide results. (USD 497)

Staff members don’t have EPIC survey results for certified staff, or teachers, yet, but teachers took the survey in the fall and HR hopes to have the results in the spring. Last year’s results for teachers showed a high level of disengagement.

The school board was not asked to take any action on HR’s report. View the report attached to the item on Monday’s agenda.

In other business:

• Approved district calendar for 2024-25: The school board on Monday approved next year’s calendar, which features new structures for instructional days and teacher readiness days. Read more about the approved calendar in this article.

• Overnight accommodations policy: The school board on Monday gave first approval to a draft policy on overnight stays during school-sponsored trips. The approved policy states in part that “In coed school district-sponsored travel cases, room assignments will primarily be based on whether the student is male or female.”

The Kansas Legislature in 2023 voted to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of the anti-transgender bill HB 2138, which mandates that all districts have a policy “requiring that separate overnight accommodations be provided for students of each biological sex during school district sponsored travel that requires overnight stays by students.”

The board unanimously approved the draft policy as part of its consent agenda — a list of items that are generally considered routine and approved with one vote unless the superintendent or a board member asks to discuss an item.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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Kaw Valley Almanac for April 22-28, 2024

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