District Administration May 2018 - 26

HRMatters
Strategies for resolving
employee issues
Districts form leadership teams and take listening tours to better connect with staff
By Carol Patton

W

hether it results from misinformation, staff complaints
or faculty disagreements
about new policies, all districts face employee issues. Some have learned better
than others how to address problems
early, before they erupt.
"In large districts, there's more opportunity for a communication breakdown," says Jeff Filloon, HR director
at Chandler USD in Arizona. "Most
problems can be solved with good, clear,
accurate communications."
Chandler USD provides a backto-school video each year for its 5,000
faculty and staff. The one-hour video
covers key contacts for questions about
paychecks, benefits and other workrelated issues; best practices for student
supervision; compliance issues and
mandatory reporting; and department
expectations of employees.
Culture vs. strategy
Several years ago, Jefferson County
Schools in West Virginia hired Superintendent Bondy Shay Gibson to change
the district's tactical strategy for solving
issues among its 1,250 employees.
"Previously, our culture was all about
driving stats and driving educational
scores and results," says Joseph Pettiford,
chief human resources officer for the
district. "This approach set up unrealistic expectations that created discouraging and stressful work experiences."
Under Gibson's guidance, the district

DAmag.me/issues

26 May 2018

If employees believe
their issues are being
heard and addressed,
they feel that their
employer cares
about them.
formed a leadership team of six members from different work areas, ranging
from bus driver to teacher. The variety
of insights have led to holistic solutions.
The team made great strides by applying fresh perspectives to both district
and employee problems. It designed a
six-month, in-house program to address
the mass exodus of roughly 25 percent
of its retiring school administrators.
Show you care
HR professionals in other districts go
out of their way to listen to employee
concerns. When Cynthia Rincon became chief of human capital management at Fort Worth ISD in Texas, she
heard rumblings from the 2,500 employees in operations about pay.
"The employees reached out to her
to come to their meetings and listen
to their concerns," says Yassmin Lee,
executive director for the district's talent
acquisition and development.
At the meetings, Lee says Rincon
was honest about things that could be
easily resolved and systemic issues that
required more time to fix.
Rincon is currently working on a
$1- to $2-per-hour pay raise for some
operations staff as well as additional

training and development. If employees
believe that their issues are being heard
and addressed, says Lee, they feel that
their employer cares about them, which
only helps enhance employee engagement and retention.
Team Liberty
The 1,800 employees at Liberty Public
Schools in Missouri are represented by
"Team Liberty," a cross-section of 22
staff or faculty who address concerns
that generally impact more than 40 percent of any work unit.
Little falls through the cracks, says
Robert Vogelaar, the district's assistant
superintendent of human resources.
The team routes individual concerns
to the appropriate administrators, who
then report how an issue was resolved.
"We created bylaws and a constitution for Team Liberty that explain how
people are selected, the groups they
represent, the three areas they're charged
with-work life, compensation and
benefits-and how we deliberate and
select a facilitator," says Vogelaar.
Advance planning
Other districts rely on continual communication between teams and administrators. Throughout the school year,
Nicole Regan, HR supervisor at Lincoln
Public Schools in Nebraska, visits the
district's 18 schools to address employee
concerns. Our guiding mantra is 'No
Surprises' " she says. "You need strong
communication, strong transparency
and strong collaboration."
Carol Patton is a Las Vegas-based writer who
specializes in human resources issues.
District Administration


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration May 2018

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