The teacher shortage issue plaguing some school districts is not a problem in Kuna.
As Kuna School Board trustees prepare for the upcoming school year, superintendent Wendy Johnson presented results from an annual staff survey, highlighting the district’s low number of vacant teaching positions.
She attributed that success to two factors: “One is who they work for and one is who they work with.”
This year, about 80% of Johnson’s staff — 553 people — participated in the survey, which is a good rate, she said.
“When you ask, you gotta be ready for the answer. And when we looked at this within our district, we were pleasantly surprised by what we saw,” Johnson said.
To see the full survey results, use this link.
The survey measures employee satisfaction with their work environment, training and leadership feedback. They will be used by the district’s strategic planning team to identify areas for improvement. Some results are listed below, from lowest to highest by the percentage of staff who agree with the statement.
- In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress — 65%
- In the past month, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work — 70%
- I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right — 74%
- At work, my opinions are taken into account — 80%
- I would recommend Kuna School District as a place to work — 82%
- This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow — 85%
- There is someone at work who encourages my development — 85%
- My associates and fellow employees are supporting each other — 86%
- At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day — 88%
- The mission or purpose of my workplace makes me feel my job is important — 89%
- Someone at work, seems to care about me as a person — 95%
- I know what is expected of me at work — 96%
“That’s pretty darn good,” Johnson said.
“We probably need to improve those top two areas, making sure that we talk about progress with our employees and making sure that they have goals and that we’re giving feedback. And then continuing our efforts to recognize people who are doing good — giving credit to our employees,” she said.
Johnson prefaced her teacher vacancy presentation with Lewis-Clark State College research. Teacher education chair Mark Haynal identified five reasons why teachers are leaving the profession.
- Poor pay, especially considering the level of education.
- Too much emphasis on standardized tests.
- Lack of respect from society and students.
- Lack of public support, especially when it comes to funding.
- Parents who shield their kids from the natural consequences of their choices and blame the teacher or principal.
Despite those concerns, Kuna is trending in a positive direction. Year over year, the district has reduced the number of vacant teaching positions by 52%. There are currently eight unfilled positions: one elementary, six secondary and one nurse. A year ago, there were 17: four elementary and 13 secondary.
“You can’t fire your way to success. You have to build the skills of people,” Johnson said.
Proposed parental rights policy stalls
On first reading, Policy 639 — a proposed district policy outlining parental rights in education — was sent back to the policy advisory committee for further discussion.
“I think there’s some things that we can improve based on what we heard tonight,” one trustee said.
Melissa Sommercorn asked the board to strengthen parental rights in the new policy.
“I had an issue with one of my children who was not able to understand the assignments. He was coming home confused and everything that I was asking the teachers was conflicting with what he was saying,” she said.
“We just needed to get to the bottom of what is going on in the classroom. Everything we had tried at home — rewards, consequences, following up — nothing was working. And so I proposed to the teachers that I just come in and observe and see what is going on.
“And they did not want that. And as a result, my son continued to flounder. And he treaded water academically for a year,” Sommercorn explained.
“Can you consider an appeals process? I feel like I could have helped the teacher. I wanted to help my son. I want to help the teachers and it was denied, because they could,” she said.
Proposed bathroom use policy moves forward
Trustees sent a policy on student bathroom use forward to second reading. The proposed policy requires students to use the bathroom or changing facility that corresponds with their gender assigned at birth.
If passed, the policy would align the Kuna district with an Idaho law passed by the 2023 Legislature.
A short discussion focused on making the policy’s title clearer.
According to the policy language, the definition of changing facility means a facility in which a person may be in a state of undress in the presence of others, including in the locker room changing during showering or restroom.
To more accurately reflect that, trustees suggested including “locker rooms, changing rooms, shower rooms and restrooms” in the title to more accurately reflect what the policy is referring to. There was no public comment about the policy.
Subdivision developer donates 10 acres
The developers of Seasons Creek Village Subdivision donated 10 acres to the district as a possible site for a new elementary school.
The district is not planning to build one at the moment, but it remains a possibility, as does selling the land and using the funds to benefit the district.
The minimum acreage for building a new school is 10 acres, Johnson said.