I am a public school parent, longtime Blaine County resident, small business owner and taxpayer. I am also a strong believer in excellent education and have supported the Blaine County School District for more than 20 years. Educating our children well is the best opportunity we have to provide for their future as well as our own. The education opportunities we offer in our Blaine County public schools are critical to the success of our students and families, our local businesses and our resort community. Our school district must be highly regarded by voters and taxpayers if we want to pass levies that will provide the funding it needs to be successful.
The past year has been an especially troubled one for the district. Faced with lawsuits about personnel, apprehension about retaliation and intimidation of employees and adverse community reaction to policies that disrupted the schedules and lives of parents and students, many of my friends are questioning their commitment to funding the district in the future. It is imperative that the members of our community regain the respect and confidence they had for the district before all the recent problems shook their trust.
In particular, I am concerned about the deterioration of teacher morale. The Blaine County Education Association surveyed its members anonymously this spring and compared responses with a similar survey in 2014. Both surveys asked teachers whether they agreed with certain statements regarding their relationship with district leadership. Responses clearly indicate how significantly this relationship has deteriorated in the last five years. For example:
Staff response to “I feel valued for the work I do in this district” fell from 72 percent in 2014 to 40 percent now.
Staff response to “I trust the information I receive from the district leadership” fell from 62 percent to 23 percent.
And staff response to “There is a strong sense of teamwork and cooperation in this district and with administration” fell from 43 percent in 2014 to a mere 16 percent this year.
The school board was emailed the comparison of survey results on June 11. I’d like to suggest that board members reach out to a wide array of district employees to better understand the source of unhappiness and dissatisfaction so that effective action can be taken to address it.
Please reach out. Initiate conversations. Be curious. Ask questions. Seek information from multiple, diverse sources. And please carefully review the survey results you received. Community support for the district is fading. Future funding for our school district depends on improved staff morale.
Lara Stone is a resident of Blaine County.