LAND O'LAKES — Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning has high aspirations for the school district.
To get there, he wants to improve the culture of the system.
His administration took steps in that direction on Tuesday with the introduction of results from a Gallup survey that measured employee engagement on the job.
He called the responses to the questions a "baseline" from which to begin planning for growth.
When teachers feel good about themselves, about coming to work and about their students, "they will deliver," Browning said. "We believe when all those pieces align and they click, we're going to see greater things happen in the Pasco school district."
Gallup asked faculty and staff a dozen questions aimed at determining how connected they feel to their jobs.
These included whether they had received praise for good work within the past week, and whether they have had opportunities to grow and learn in the past year.
Gallup uses the same questions for businesses and schools across the country. Project manager Tim Hodges said Pasco's initial data came in about as expected for an organization that has not been deliberate in measuring and improving engagement.
Twenty-six percent of respondents were considered fully engaged, and 21 percent were found actively disengaged. The numbers varied by school and department.
Being engaged is critical, Hodges said, and it starts with strong school leadership, then moving to classroom leaders.
"If they're not engaged in the work they do, it's real difficult for students to be engaged," Hodges said. "It's easy for them to check out if they can tell the adult in the front of the room is checked out."
He stressed that it would be a long-term effort and results would differ from work site to work site.
Assistant superintendent Amelia Larson said the district already had started reviewing specific outcomes and would kick off conversations with leaders about how to make their work conditions better.
Larson said some schools' data indicated improvements from the past year, when the district conducted a different type of climate survey.
Connerton Elementary and Sunlake High, for instance, showed high levels of employee engagement. A year ago, both schools had extreme leadership problems turn up in their surveys.
"The change in administration has opened up the channels for engagement to increase," Larson said. "It is what we want to see."
Some schools had responses that raised eyebrows.
Ridgewood High, for instance, had just 2 percent of teachers considered engaged. Larson suggested that reflected a lack of control that the school had when under the strict rules of a federal improvement grant.
"They are great and committed, but do they feel empowered and in charge?" she said.
On the other end of the spectrum, New River Elementary, which had student results pointing toward an F state grade, had 64 percent engagement, one of the best in the county.
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"Go into that school and what you see is incredible," Larson said, contending that the survey highlights the disconnect with state accountability mandates and measures.
That's why the survey cannot be used to take instant steps, Browning said. Rather, he expected long-range planning to turn the climate in the right direction.
The goal, he said, is to create an environment where employees feel appreciated, valued and contributing.
The district plans to repeat the survey next school year.