Survey reflects confidence in Danville schools leadership during the pandemic

An end of year survey of Danville School District staff highlights the opinions of staff members concerning the school administration, superintendent and board of education and how they handled the pandemic during the school year.

The survey results from 108 respondents, out of about 320 certified and classified staff, were shared with the Danville Board of Education by Superintendent Dr. Tammy McDonald during the board’s meeting Monday night.

McDonald said the four-section survey was lengthy and included open-ended questions and space for additional comments and feedback. School administrators will be “digging in” to the responses, but the survey will not be available online. She also gave the board a hard copy of the survey results.

Board Chair Steve Becker said, “I want to thank Dr. McDonald and the folks that put this together… it’s good information for us to have. Glad to see the staff felt supported by the administration and superintendent.” Then he added, “The board could probably do better, but sometimes we make decisions that doesn’t make everybody happy. But that’s OK.”

The survey showed that a total of 87 respondents, or 80.6%, felt they were supported by their school administration (principals); 87.1% were very confident or confident that their school administration had the best interest of their school and students in mind.

Other survey results include:

• 96% believe the COVID-19 pandemic was handled well at their school.

• 87% are confident that the school administration has the best interests of their school and students in mind.

• 92.6% feel safe in their school environment.

• 92.5% believe the schools handled the pandemic very well at the school level.

• 67.6% had increased stress levels due to school-related responsibilities from the pandemic.

• 54.6% feel supported by the district administration; while 23.1% felt much less supported by district administration.

• 62% are confident that the district administration has the best interests of the schools and students in mind.

• 78.7% believe the school district handled the pandemic successfully.

• 50% feel supported by the superintendent.

• 55.5% are confident that the superintendent has the best interest of the schools and students in mind.

• 31.5% feel supported by the board of education.

• 37.9% are confident that the board of education has the best interest of the district in mind.

Comments include:

• A vast majority of teachers indicated they had adequate supplies for their job, however there were a few requests: a smart board and a class set of headphones; an updated iPad; classroom supplies such as pencils, markers, white boards, books, colored pencils, sticky notes and easel pads.

One teacher wrote, “$300 for a related arts teacher is not a sufficient amount to teach 600 students.”

• When asked what school administration could do to help reduce their stress levels, some of the answers included: more administrative physical presence; no hybrid and in-person teaching; and “not expect to teach in-person and virtual simultaneously, while also providing stand alone instruction for those not in attendance.”

• Most teachers indicated that their students would have done better academically had they been in class in the building and not virtually online. One teacher wrote, “I think students were able to master the content, but not at the full rigor level that would have been possible if COVID had not disrupted things.”

Another teacher said the students would have done better academically “If they actually participated.”

And other teacher wrote, “… some students thrived under virtual model and others REALLY need to be in person.”

• When asked if the district administration could do more to make teachers feel more supported, comments included: “Make more appearances at the schools and speak to the teachers in person.”; “Hold all employees to the same level of accountability instead of playing favoritism,”; and “Visibility is very important. Be in the hallways, get in the classrooms, and see what is going on. Make suggestions. Not asking to micromanage, but let people know you are there for them, not to catch them, but to provide guidance and feedback.”

• In response to the question, “How do you believe we can better improve academic success” one teacher had a lot to say.

“Be consistent at all levels in the district. NO violation is dismissed because of who they are or where they live. There is no equality in this district! Students with defiant behavior get all of the class time and attention from teachers and administrators!

“Sometimes they get a consequence, sometimes their parents or guardians call and they don’t get a consequence and then the behavior continues. A great deal of time is spent every class period either confronting the behavior or giving in to the behavior.

“ALL teachers need to be involved in this process and ALL students need to be held accountable.

“I witness a lot of teachers who let kids get away with bad behavior either by giving in to the behavior or enabling it by giving certain kids privileges. Teachers who let kids have notes to leave their own classroom to “hang out” in their room need to understand that that is just reinforcing two negative consequences, 1) the students getting the special treatment are learning to get what they want and 2) the other students watching are learning that they don’t matter as much.

“The other barrier to improving academics is student cell phone usage. We have policies in place, yet here we are spending our class periods battling kids to put the phones away. We are even getting cussed at for attempting to enforce our own policy.

“Some teachers let students have full phone usage in their class and have gained the title of #1 teacher! What kind of learning is taking place in a classroom with a room full of students looking at YouTube or tiktok?

“Why do teachers who want to teach have to compete with a teacher who wants to sit at their desk and let students do what they want?

“Consistency also has to be applied to attendance. We have severe truancy issues! We have truancy policies, but nothing ever happens.

“Kids can not miss 50 days of school and be considered successful. So, a great deal of kids have no chance at success in this district simply because we don’t enforce our attendance policy. It needs to be meaningful and followed EVERY time.

“Phone calls do not work and in some cases, most of our criteria will not persuade parents to make their students come to school. Why can’t we add a monetary component?  We should charge parents for excessive absences. That will work! “We can NOT improve academics in this district until the behavior is addressed and controlled.

“We can’t change all of the trauma happening in the community and in our students’ homes, but we can provide boundaries that promote safety and trust. When students can trust that we are the adults and that we have the same expectation for every student in this school, the behavior will improve. This will lead to an improvement in academics.”

• When asked how the district could improve academics at the school level the staff had several suggestions.

“Less virtual and more in person learning,” was mentioned. Another comment was, “It will get better when the students are back in the building. Behavior has been much better during the virtual, most behavior problems had stayed online. The bad side of that is that they also didn’t log in, so they didn’t pass.”