HARTFORD — Six teachers and staff members spoke about staff morale issues at Hartford Union High School during the school board meeting on Monday night in the Drama Lecture Hall at HUHS.
Sheila Parker, an English teacher and department chair at HUHS who just won Educator of the Year, announced she was resigning at the end of the year to go to a school further away for less pay during the public comment section.
Parker cited issues with the school’s curriculum, culture and morale as reasons she was leaving HUHS, and the reason teachers before her left as well.
Five other teachers and staff members spoke about the culture at the high school.
According to business education teacher Emmett Williams, the work environment is toxic and micromanaged.
Kristen Helms, a math teacher and coach at HUHS, said that staff morale hasn’t been this low in the 21 years she has been at the district.
According to staff member and Best Buddies advisor Beth Hermann, the culture needs to change, and if it doesn’t she fears more staff will leave the district, too.
Physical education and health teacher Angie Hall said there were serious concerns at HUHS. Technical education teacher Jason Kraus said that it’s difficult to grow curriculum and the school with the staff turnover that has happened at HUHS.
All of the teachers and staff encouraged the board to ask questions about the culture survey that staff recently took, and to investigate the findings.
The culture survey was discussed during the Pillar 4 update.
According to Ben Hoffmann, a science teacher at HUHS and Culture Committee member, the culture survey showed that teachers and staff members feel they lack a voice.
The survey said there is a lack of cross department communication, communication isn’t timely or consistent enough, there is a need for a raise in compensation, trust and respect of the staff need to be increased and staff would like a say in professional development, among other things.
Hoffmann and Principal Kelly Lam, who also presented the culture survey findings, said the committee and administration would be meeting to come up with solutions.
One solution includes updating the school website so that there is a hub of information for teachers and staff to have access to so that they know what is going on in other departments. Some teachers have said they feel like they are in “silos” and don’t know what is happening in other departments.
Other solutions to issues brought up in the survey include a communication audit that is currently going on, increasing relationship building and increasing teacher and staff voice, recognition and appreciation.
The board voted to table the decision of constructing eight new tennis courts across the street from HUHS for two weeks until their next meeting on May 9.
Board President Tracy Hennes cited the failure of the recent outdoor athletic facility referendum as a reason to take more time to gather further information on the proposed project and get more input from the community before they vote on it. The board voted unanimously to table the vote.
The project will use $45,000 in designated donations, a $35,000 grant from the US Tennis Federation and $800,000 in Capital Improvement Funds to build the courts. Using the $800,000 for this project is what the board will be voting on May 9.
In a previous article it was reported the school had only $800,000 in Capital Improvement Funds, but that was incorrect. The school would use $800,000 of Capital Improvement Funds for the project, the remaining balance of Capital Improvement Funds would still be a little over $1 million over the 25 percent mark that the district is required to spend down to based off a decision by a previous HUHS school board and administration, according to Superintendent Jeff Walters.
That $800,000 would have been used to improve lighting and flooring in the high school and remove asbestos from the building if the referendum had passed. But there is still money available in the Capital Improvement Fund to do that, depending on how the school board decides to spend it to get down to the 25 percent mark.
Walters said during the meeting that some people were surprised the school had asbestos, and added that the high school is an older building and older buildings have asbestos.
Craig Westfall and Don Pridemore each took their oaths of office for their terms as school board members during the meeting as well.
The next school board meeting will be May 9 at 5:45 p.m. in the Drama Lecture Hall at HUHS.