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Great schools = great places to work

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Several schools from across the state were named some of the best places to work, according to a recent Des Moines Register story.

Though perks are nice, the story said, that’s not what makes one business or school stand out from others.

“What makes a workplace great is the feeling that employees are doing work that makes a difference, that contributes to a clearly articulated vision of where the company is going, and how it plans to get there,” the story said.

Of course, there are other benefits to a great workplace: Lower employer turnover, higher employee innovation.

Among the schools listed, the Iowa Department of Education asked three districts – one considered a large employer, another middle-sized, and the last a small employer – what makes them a great workplace.

Superintendent Rick Colpitts, Western Dubuque Community School District
Ranked No. 6, large employer

The main reason I believe our district is a great place to work is due to the strong sense of community in our school system. Although we are the largest geographical district in the state, there is a great community feeling within our schools that makes this a great place to live and work.

As one of the largest employers in the area, creating a working environment that draws people to our district is important. We want to hire individuals who are passionate about helping our students learn and grow into confident and well-prepared citizens. Creating an inviting workplace that draws employees who are interested in this work is imperative to making our district a place that is great for kids.

I think that creating a positive work environment is extremely important. Developing a culture of forward thinking individuals with a can-do attitude has really made a big difference in how our people feel about coming to work. We believe that creating this environment takes time and energy and you must have everyone working toward the goal of a positive place to work to make this happen.

Superintendent Mary Fonley, Algona Community School District
Ranked No. 10, medium-size employer

As a school district, one of the factors I would point to that creates the culture that exists is the consistency due to the longevity we have. As an example, since the district was organized in 1886, we have had a total of seven superintendents. Historically, the average tenure of a board member is 12 years. Administrator, teacher and staff turnover are all very low. People come to work in the district, and stay until they retire. That sense of tenure allows for a sense of community with consistency, which allows for growth as expectations are clear with both short-term and long-range goals. Once people retire, we also see these people supporting the district by continuing to be involved in district events and activities.

Another factor that contributes to this environment is that we promote family: Your individual family comes first followed by the district family. We work to be as flexible as possible to support our staff. A family-first philosophy supports the concept that when people are taken care of, they take of others. I think we have a very cooperative and trust-filled environment. Our district has had a tradition of encouraging staff educational development, and teachers are allowed to pursue the task of educating children without interference. Our teachers are encouraged and supported to take leadership roles both in and out of the school district, and many of them have advanced degrees.

I think for any school district, a positive and supportive work environment is crucial when it comes to hiring and people wanting to stay once they are hired. That environment also extends to the students in the building, creating a student centered culture that is positive and family oriented, where everyone is looking out for one another and is supportive of one another.

Superintendent Shane Ehresman, Lynnville-Sully Community School District
Ranked No. 20, small employer

The focus of the school district is student achievement. Employees go out of their way to do what is best for students.

Employees who enjoy their working environment are more likely to stay in their position and be more productive.

You need to allow employees to be a part of the school improvement process. A top-down management style does not create a healthy working environment.


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Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on May 22, 2018 at 4:11pm.