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Friday, Oct 19, 2018
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Survey shows 'climate' at some Pasco schools is stormy

LAND O' LAKES - The Pasco County school district's effort to gauge the "climate" at schools around the county reveals some trouble spots, but help could be on the way. Principals at three schools — Sunlake High, Connerton Elementary and Hudson Middle — are being provided coaching as part of an effort to improve problems that cropped up in surveys of staff, parents and students, Assistant Superintendent Amelia Van Name Larson said. The district is having conversations with other schools, and they could follow suit, she said. "We have to support our principals if we want our principals to be successful," Larson said.
Sunlake High received some of the worst scores on the survey conducted last month. By wide margins, staff members say their ideas aren't listened to and that administrators don't solve problems effectively or foster collaboration. Sunlake parents also express dissatisfaction with how responsive administrators are to their concerns. Just 40.6 percent of Sunlake parents say the principal and assistant principals are available and easy to talk to, the survey said. Connerton Elementary was the target of complaints more than a year ago by former employees and parents, some of whom demonstrated outside the school and circulated a petition calling for a change in the administration. The district did take steps, including bringing in a new assistant principal, but the survey indicates some problems remain. Just 45 percent of the Connerton staff said their ideas are listened to and considered. Also, 50.6 percent said administrators foster a collaborative work environment, and 32.9 percent said administrators solve problems effectively. By comparison, district-wide, 69.7 percent of school staff members say their ideas are listened to and considered, 73.4 percent say administrators foster collaboration and 65.2 percent say administrators solve problems effectively. At Hudson Middle, another school that has been the subject of past staff complaints, 47.2 percent of employees say the administration is receptive to their ideas and 52.8 percent say the administration fosters collaboration. Among parents, 23.5 percent view the Hudson Middle administration as responsive to their concerns. Larson said Pasco hopes to improve the climate at schools with low scores by focusing on five variables for administrators. Those variables involve shaping a vision for the school's success; creating a hospitable environment for students and adults; sharing leadership responsibilities; promoting instructional leadership; and improving management skills. In addition to getting coaching, Connerton Elementary and Hudson Middle will be the subject of focus groups this month and in April. "Those two principals reached out and said they wanted to dig a little deeper," Larson said. Randomly selected school staff members will be involved in group interviews, she said. Also, every staff member will be offered the opportunity to speak one-on-one with someone about the school climate. "There might be other schools that request the same assistance," Larson said. Many schools fared well in the survey. For example, administrators at New River Elementary in Wesley Chapel earned high marks from both staff and parents. There, 92.9 percent of staff members said their ideas are listened to and considered, and 96.3 percent said administrators foster collaboration. Also, 92.6 percent said administrators solve problems effectively. Among New River parents, 95.4 percent said the principal and assistant principal are available and easy to talk to, and 91 percent said the school administration is responsive to concerns of parents and the community. The district used a survey borrowed from the Miami-Dade school district, tweaking it a bit to add questions for staff about teacher evaluations. The district is developing a report on the survey, and once that's completed, the results will be posted on the district website, Larson said. The district plans to conduct the climate survey annually.

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