GCSD Addressing Findings On High School ‘Leadership, Culture’

GCHS Interim Principal Lorraine Duitsman

 A new principal isn’t the only change coming to Glenwood Community High School.

Following Principal Cole Albright’s sudden resignation earlier this month, the Glenwood Board of Education met with its outside consulting group to publicly unveil the results of a comprehensive study of the high school at a special meeting last Monday. Along with the findings of the report by the Lori Stohs Consulting Group, district administration revealed its early efforts to develop an “action plan” designed to address the issues identified in the survey.

The report, dubbed the “High School Leadership and Culture Study,” was compiled with the help of a Gallup Poll survey of the teaching staff – of which 76 percent responded – and a series of 30-minute, one-on-one “qualitative” surveys of randomly selected staff.
Administrators and at least two instructional coaches were also included in the interviews.

The survey questions focused on methodologies, communication and accountability with those surveyed asked to rate their agreement on a 1 to 5 scale, with 1 being strongly disagree and 5 being strongly agree. The survey was conducted between April 18-28.
Stohs, who appeared via Zoom at the meeting, presented a PowerPoint broadly identifying highlighted findings in the surveys and subsequent interviews.

“Teachers and administrators were asked about their feelings about the climate, the culture and the leadership,” Stohs said in Monday’s meeting.

Stohs said qualitative and quantitates analysis revealed three categories of “focus” they directed the board and administration toward: creating clarity with direction, roles and responsibilities and relationships.

The findings did also highlight areas of “strength” and “opportunity” the study showed, pointing to high scores in staff integrity, collaboration, cooperation, open communication, job expectation and high levels of extracurricular participation as just a few of those areas.

The report did not refer to any staff member by name nor any specific incidents of comments made by staff, but it did present a picture that was concerning, said Superintendent Dr. Devin Embray.

“I think there were some takeaways that I was a little bit taken back from in terms of not realizing the depths of the concerns,” Embray said, but declined to go into specifics.

When asked if Albright was at the center of his concerns, the superintendent said the issues were “bigger than one person.” In a previous interview, Embray said Albright’s departure was a “mutual parting of the ways” but would not discuss the specifics of his departure.

“The big takeaway for me was that we trusted the leadership at the high school was doing their job, we were working with them from a district perspective, and we didn’t realize that there were concerns to the level there were,” Embray said. “The audit brought it to light and exposed that and based on that we’re developing plans to address that and having a better teacher experience for our staff moving forward.”

When asked if he felt district administration wasn’t getting a complete or accurate picture from leadership at the high school, namely Albright, Embray referenced his comments about not fully grasping the level of concern among the teaching staff at the high school.

“I’ll just say we trusted that things we’re moving forward and all indications from the outside looking in was that things were moving forward. We’re very grateful that obviously someone pumped the brakes, and we now have information that will help us have a better experience at the high school for both our students and our staff.”

That brake pumping, as it were, is a result, it appears, of an email sent to the school board from a high school teacher requesting a meeting between the teachers and the board to discuss “teacher attrition at the high school.”

In all, nearly a dozen teachers at the high school, or about one-quarter of the teaching staff, has resigned this year. That number is three times higher than the previous year.

The district has declined to name who sent the original email but within days of receiving it, the school board contracted with Stohs consulting to conduct its climate and culture study at a cost of $10,000, according to school board president Matt Portrey.

Portrey said the letter contained a “general feeling of concern and a desire to work together with the board for solutions to improve our district.”

Monday’s special meeting was not the first time the board heard Stohs’ findings.

On May 3, Stohs and her team met in a closed-door session with the board of education to discuss the preliminary findings of the audit. Also present at that meeting were Superintendent Dr. Devin Embray, Director of School Improvement and Human Relations Chad Lang, Director of Student Services Cindy Menendez and Albright.

Following that meeting, Embray and his staff were tasked with creating a draft “Culture and Leadership Action Plan” to address the issues of the report. That plan was then presented to the board of education and teachers.

On May 4, Albright submitted his resignation, effective immediately. Albright was on the job less than a year. He is the school’s fifth principal in the last 12 years.
Assistant principal Lorraine Duitsman, who herself was also hired last year, was named the interim principal for the 2023-2024 school year. Cory Faust, the school’s head football coach and physical education teacher at West Elementary, will assume the new position of Dean of Students for the 2023-2024 school year.

The action plan, based on Stohs’ input, is in its infancy but Embray did say it would be developed collaboratively with the intention of growing teacher experiences and creating a better environment for students and staff moving forward.

After the high school staff reviews the proposed steps, a “collaborative team” comprised of teachers and administrators will be tasked with refining that plan over the summer to implement this fall. That plan will revolve around Stohs’ three areas of concern.

“We came up with action steps to start the conversation, to start the dialogue,” Embray said. “Things aren’t going to get better unless the teachers are involved and clued in. We’re trying to help grow teacher experience and make it better. They have to be 100 percent involved in it to make it better.”

Embray went on to say the district has come through “a long two months and we’re starting to turn the corner into some positive.” He sees the survey and its resulting action plan as a positive for the high school and the district.

“This is probably the best data set of information we’ve been able to get on anything we do in terms of what’s going on,” he said. “So absolutely, this is a positive step moving forward that we’re going to be able to help and make things go better.

“These things will take time but we’re going to address as many of the little things we need shored up right away and we have collaboration with that and then we’ll get onto the more process-oriented things. It’s going to be making sure everyone shows up and puts forth their best efforts.”


The Opinion-Tribune

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