Schools superintendent gets strong support from employees in job satisfaction survey

Education Notebook

May 27, 2007|By John-John Williams IV

Seventy-one percent of school system employees responding say that overall morale at their work site is good, while 85 percent of respondents indicate confidence in Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin, according to the 2006-2007 job satisfaction survey conducted by the Howard County Education Association.

HCEA President Ann DeLacy shared the survey results with county school board members during Thursday's meeting.

Of 6,300 employees the union represents, 3,089 - about 200 fewer than last year - completed the 28-question survey, which was distributed in December to teachers, guidance counselors, support professionals, instructional assistants, nurses, social workers and cafeteria workers.

"Dr. Cousin, his Cabinet, central office staff and most building administrators have been open and honest in the analysis of our data and in working to implement change," DeLacy said. "Many building administrators value our survey and apply its findings. We appreciate this collaboration and thank all who value our input and have worked with us."

Cousin said he was pleased with most of the survey results.

"Overall, I think the survey shows that we are doing a good job of educating the kids of Howard County, and the teachers and staff are overwhelmingly satisfied with the schools in which they work," the superintendent said.

The survey found that 68 percent of respondents said they received appropriate and adequate support and training during their first year on the job; 60 percent said they have experienced or witnessed harassing behavior from parents; 27 percent said they experienced or witnessed harassing behavior by colleagues; 21 percent said they experienced or witnessed harassing behavior by supervisors.

As a result of the harassment-related data, the HCEA's Human and Civil Rights Committee met several times and made the recommendations to create a standard definition for harassment; create harassment training; and have annual review of harassment guidelines for employees.

Cousin said that he was pleased with the way the HCEA presented the harassment data this year, which allowed him to identify the source of harassing behavior.

"In the past, it was implied that harassment was coming from supervisors and administrators," Cousin said. "At least we now have that information; it gives us something to address."

Student voting rights

It's official. The next student member on the Board of Education will have partial voting rights.

On May 17, Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a bill into law that allows the next student member on the board to vote on everything except site acquisitions, condemnation, consolidation, architect selection, appointment and salary of the superintendent, collective-bargaining issues, employee discipline and other appeals, appointments, the capital and operating budgets and student suspensions and expulsions.

The bill also addresses how the student member affects the voting dynamic of the board. When the student member votes, five votes are necessary to pass an item; four votes are needed without the student member.

The legislation says juniors and seniors who live in the county and attend a public school are eligible for the position. It also says students enrolled in the system's middle schools and high schools are allowed to vote to fill the position.

Budgets approved

The school board unanimously approved $693.5 million for capital and operating budgets Thursday that will be used to add more teachers, fund state-mandated full-day kindergarten and pay for the planning of a construction project at Mount Hebron High School.

The $612.9 million operating budget includes $13.8 million to add 256 teachers, a $9.7 million increase for employee health insurance, $2.5 million to add full-day kindergarten to 11 schools and $300,000 for a 2 percent pay increase for bus drivers.

The $80.6 million capital budget includes $11.7 million to expand full-day kindergarten at nine schools; $10.9 million for a new auditorium and renovation at Glenelg High School; $1.2 million to plan for a comprehensive renovation at Mount Hebron High School; and $32.1 million for renovations at Clarksville Middle School and Waterloo, Clemens Crossing and Worthington elementary schools.

Diane Mikulis, the school board chairman, who has worked on three budgets since joining the board, said that the process has improved.

"It's easier each year," Mikulis said. "[But] it's a lot of long hours, intellectual thinking."

Board member Ellen Flynn Giles, who has participated in several budget planning committees, said the overall process has gotten "smoother for all involved."

Frank Aquino, vice chairman of the board, who has served on several budget planning committees with Giles, agreed.

"This went very smooth," he said.

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