Harrisonburg Schools working to improve teacher morale

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 5:22 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The Harrisonburg School Board is exploring ways to improve teacher morale across the school division. Last week the board reviewed the findings of a staff morale survey and a number of focus groups. The school division has since set out six possible solutions to improve teacher morale.

“Teachers have described what they’re feeling as being drowning especially at the elementary school level. So we came up with six potential solutions, some are easier to implement quickly and some which will require some budget work through,” said Harrisonburg School Board Chair Deb Fitzgerald.

One of the primary concerns of teachers is a workload that they said often has them spread too thin and a lack of ample time and resources in the classroom for which the board is considering several changes.

“One is to revist the weekly use of time, the daily and weekly use of time with teacher input. Because one of the things that they told us is that they don’t have time enough in the day to teach the curriculum that they’re supposed to teach,” said Fitzgerald.

The board is also looking at more long-term changes to boost morale.

“Permanent subs in each building, we’re looking at workdays to make sure they’re unencumbered. That is we don’t take a teacher work day and load it up with a bunch of professional development time. We’re talking about additional behavioral support for students in the classroom,” said Fitzgerald. “We’re talking about redesigning professional development so that it’s really efficient and gets teachers the information they need in a way that’s really timely and streamlined.”

The School Board will be looking at money to hire a permanent substitute in each school as it begins its budgeting process in the coming months.

“It would be everything from giving a teacher a break for 20 minutes in the middle of the day to hit the restroom to maybe working through some planning time issues, to kind of the Swiss Army Knife of the schools, the person who is able to do a lot of things at a lot of grade levels to help teachers,” said Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald said that she is hopeful that the changes will make a big difference in morale.

“There’s been this systematic examination of what teachers in our system right now, in this semi sort of kind of post-COVID world, what they’re experiencing. So what we’re planning on doing with these potential solutions is coming from what the teachers are telling us,” she said.