From 2011-2016, Haines school staff attitudes about school leadership and involvement trended downward, according to the results of a statewide survey administered in Haines during the last school year. Administration attributes that to turnover and changes within the school in recent years.
“There was a lot of change,” says Principal Rene Martin.
She met with staff to talk about the survey results. Staff survey ratings decreased for respectful climate, staff attitudes and school leadership.
“I came on as Dean of Students for a year. So I’m learning everything new. Then as principal but I had a different superintendent each one of those years. And that trickles down. And so as much as this office you try to protect that and keep your staff up and try to not let change effect everybody, it does effect everybody,” says Martin.
In the past three years Haines School has had three different superintendents. At the start of the 2015-2016 school year, 10 new staff members started at the school.
The School Climate and Connectedness Survey is a statewide poll developed by the American Institutes for Research, in partnership with the Association of Alaska School Boards. It measures school climate, how connected students feel toward adults and peers, social and emotional learning, and observed risk behaviors.
In Haines, 114 students in grades 6-12 and 24 staff participated in the survey. That includes 51 students and nine staff from the middle school. At the high school 63 students participated along with 15 staff members.
Martin says the survey results display some really positive things about the school environment. For instance, both students and staff gave high scores for school safety.
“I think one of the really good things is that our students do feel safe in our school,” says Martin, “they do feel people care about them. And I think the staff felt that same way.”
She says to her that means there is buy-in – students and staff genuinely care about the place they learn and work.
“They want their school to be a great place,” says Martin. “We want our school to be a great place. We want to come to work and love what we’re doing every day and I think that that’s in place.”
Since the last survey was administered in 2011, student ratings increased for parent and community involvement, as well as student involvement in the school. District-wide, students felt closer to the adults in the school.
But not all of the trends are positive. Student attitudes are more negative overall for peer climate.
Another potential statistic of concern is students and staffs perception of increased of delinquent behaviors and drug and alcohol use. Martin says that result is concerning. She feels drug use needs to be a greater focus for the community.
“We can educate kids here,” says Martin. “We can give them all the tools that we have. But if it’s not continuing on into their life outside of this protection of this school, that’s scary.”
In some areas, students and staff had disparate views. Respondents were asked how they see respectful relationships among and between students and staff. Overall, students responded with scores lower than that of staff. But, since the last survey in 2011, student rates for this answer increased, while staff rates decreased.
Martin attributes these discrepancies to a knowledge gap. Teachers are privy to information that students are not. She calls it a ‘double-edged sword.’
“So in one way that’s good,” says Martin. “That the staff knows and sees these things but the rest of the student body doesn’t know it. On the other side that’s bad, because then the student body doesn’t realize that there are repercussions for students that don’t adhere to our expectations at school.”
In the staff meeting regarding survey results, they chose five areas to target for improvement: student involvement, respectful climate, risk behaviors, secondary parent involvement, and peer climate. Next, the student government will meet to review the results. From there, Martin says the goal is to develop a mini strategic plan to improve the school climate.