Langley Advance Times is offering this weekly feature, called “At Your Service.”
It’s another forum in which to put questions to our local politicians about key issues facing our community and its residents.
Using a basic question-and-answer format, elected officials will be asked one question at a time and given the opportunity to respond (to a maximum of 250 words) on that said issue.
Alternating between elected groups, Langley City and Langley Township councils, Langley school board, Langley MLAs, and Langley MPs each have a chance to participate.
The answers provided will be published in their entirety online Sundays.
Each school trustee was asked the same question: After a stressful couple of years, what should the district do to ensure that it retains skilled and experienced staff?
Board chair Rod Ross
A. 1. Teachers are learners by their DNA. Therefore creating creative learning opportunities is a key to retention.
Ensuring our professional development is engaging and meeting the needs of our staff.
2. Hire within our district first. Staff need to see that opportunities are available or they will look outside of the district to fulfill their career aspirations.
3. Hire the best new hires to inspire current staff. People want to be on a winning team with other winners.
4. Focus on being “world class.” Everyone wants to be on a team that is pursuing excellence.
Trustee Shelley Coburn
A. This trustee failed to reply to this query, prior to deadline.
Trustee Charlie Fox
A. The issue of staff retention and staff recruitment is one which is always front of mind for our school district.
As a trustee, I am fully aware that staff is the backbone of a successful district and having the best staff is always the goal – regardless of their role and position in the district.
Retaining staff at any time is a very important aspect in a district as large and diverse as ours.
Recently, the district completed a comprehensive staff survey, which had an excellent response rate. The results of that survey are critically important as our senior staff plan for, and adjust to, the working conditions and needs as we move forward with or without COVID.
This opportunity is an important part of engaging, respecting, and retaining our staff.
One aspect of retaining our staff is the support you give them in their role.
Langley School District has a robust in-service program for it’s school-based staff. This is an important aspect of supporting staff and engaging them in their growth and personal commitment to the profession.
Recruitment of staff is again a top-of-mind issue as we as trustees want the best of the best in whatever role they have in the system.
With many university education programs coming to an end, the new graduates will be looking to be hired. I know the human resources team from our district is out recruiting and offering jobs to those recently completing their degrees.
Fortunately, Langley School District has an excellent reputation in the education realm and recruitment becomes a very important aspect of not only filling the needs based on retirements and vacancies, but also defines the future of our employment base.
Our vision is: an innovative, inspiring, and unified learning community – and staff is the core of that.
Trustee Suzanne Perreault
A. It has been without a doubt a challenging journey all our school districts have been on.
With respect to supporting our own internal community, maintaining leadership support through our wellness program via our mental health literacy team, supporting them to evolve as learning and understanding become exposed through best practices in equity and with continual engagements of surveying staff needs is key.
Providing voice where we can is critical to staff satisfaction in a safe and equitable manner. Through this, building a workplace that continues towards an inclusive and diverse environment is foundational in all our movement forward.
Equity in space and place is key.
A big celebration point, perhaps a historical event, is after five years of board work, our district is now part of “Metro Branch” with the BC School Trustee Association, which allows us to be competitive with some of our staff wages within the Lower Mainland, which is key when we look at the impact of cost of living at the moment and staff retention.
Trustee David Tod
A. This trustee failed to reply to this query, prior to deadline.
Trustee Tony Ward
A. Langley continues to draw top candidates for career opportunities – many finding life-long employment.
We need to ensure that we retain this excellence.
In addition to strong compensation packages, we need to:
• Continue to build a vibrant and positive SD35 culture – appreciate what everyone offers, identify unique strengths, create an environment where staff can be nurtured to flourish where they feel that their personal contributions to our district family are indispensable.
• Help employees find a work/life balance. Flexibility can be a key to retaining employees.
• Help staff find their mentors and cheerleaders who support them, love them, laugh/cry with them, and inspire them.
• Sometimes we just need to get out of the way; teachers (for example) who just love to teach need to be supported, not smothered, so they can bloom. We don’t want to quench their enthusiasm for what they do and why they chose their profession in the first place. We don’t want our staff to get burned out. As a teacher recently told me “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
• Ensure developmental opportunities are available. Promote from within if possible.
• Ensure that employees not only feel valued but feel like the work they do has the power to impact people for their whole lives.
• Develop an employee retention strategy. Additionally, we need to find out why employees leave and work to prevent it.
• Pride ourselves on pursuing excellence in all areas.
When we invest in our employees we invest in our children and their futures.
Trustee Marnie Wilson
A. The Langley School District is one of the largest employers in Langley, so retaining staff is crucial to its success.
As with any workplace there are three main components to creating a good working environment: 1. Employees need to feel valued.
2. Employees need to feel safe and supported.
3. Employees need a healthy work/life balance.
Those three basic elements contribute to productive employees who remain with their employer and have better overall mental health.
I believe our district has room to improve in all three of those areas.
COVID has added extra stress to an education system that was already extremely strained. We know that educators are experiencing burnout at an alarming rate.
Last year the district (for the first time) engaged its employees in an employee satisfaction survey. The results of this survey showed us where we need to improve and gives us a baseline with which to gauge improvement in future years.
It is crucial that the district recognize where the gaps are and work to implement strategies to increase employee satisfaction, which will lead to increases in recruitment and retention.
Next week, Langley MLAS are being asked: Should school districts like Langley, which saw enrolment go up by more than 100 students after the start of the school year, receive a per-student funding top-up from the province?
Watch for their answers online Sunday.