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Oswego School Board Hears Update On Employee Morale Survey

OSWEGO, NY – There isn’t a morale problem in the Oswego City School District. However, Superintendent Bill Crist admits, “I think morale could be better.”

Recently, a group of graduate students at SUNY Oswego conducted a survey regarding morale in the district as part of their class work.

On Tuesday night, five of the seven board members heard a report on the results of that appraisal.

Board member Fran Hoefer was absent and board vice president Kathleen Allen left early.

The eight-question poll was completed online by 278 of the district’s employees from a cross-section of positions.

Responses revealed that some district employees don’t think the board appreciates what they do.

“When there are letters to the editor that are published that reflect negatively; I think employees look at that (and wonder) is that from an individual on the board or is that from the entire board,” Crist noted.

The survey also indicated that community members “don‘t realize the good going on in Oswego schools” and some district employees believe the administrators don’t take their input into consideration before making decisions.

Approximately 69 percent responded either “a little” or “not at all” to the question asking if their input was considered when decisions were made.

It also showed that most employees did feel some sense of belonging to the district.

Among strengths of the district, the survey results list the quality of the employees, technology, programs and professional development among the top positives.

The survey came from a discussion on the issue by some board members, Crist said.

“It kind of spun off of that,” he explained. “Morale isn’t necessarily at the bottom of the barrel, but the board wanted some information. Then I had a discussion with these students from the SUNY Educational Administration class and they said, ‘Are there any issues in the district you’d like to have addressed?’ And that’s how this all came about.”

Board member Tom DeCastro said he had been told some employees didn’t take part in the survey because they felt that because of the first question, which asked whether they were part of administration, custodial, instructional etc., that they could be identified.

Responders were also given an opportunity to tell the district where improvements could be made.

Many wanted to feel valued by the board. Others said the board members administrators should visit the schools more – including building walk-throughs.

One of the students, Rebecca Chynoweth, a Syracuse district educator who worked on the survey told the board members, “They want you to stop in and see what they are doing. This response was heard loud and clear in the survey.”

Seeing district leaders and board of education members visible in the (school) buildings was a huge point among the survey takers, she added.

One responder commented that community members should also come in to the schools to see what goes on in a day-to-day setting.

In the recent past, the district did have a program in place where each board member was assigned as a liaison to a specific school for the year, Crist noted.

They attended events at the school and visited with staff and students while serving as a link to the board.

The survey recommended re-starting such a program.

Others recommended employee recognition and appreciation, a district/community wellness fair and board of education linking (with the community).

If everybody feels good about themselves and coming to work and doing what they did, then productivity could improve, the superintendent said.

“If they have ownership of whatever they do whether they are a bus driver or teacher, custodian or whatever that would improve the morale,” he said. “I was impressed with the large number of people that responded.”

The board members will continue discussions on the issue in the future.

“This will be a continuous process,” Crist said. “It isn’t a one-time thing.”