"In the Know" Weekly Newsletter - The International School

News from Robert - Feb 18, 2014

Dear Parents,

Thank you to all teachers, students, parents, special visitors, and administrative staff for a wonderful International Festival! The Festival may seem like a one day event, but the planning, preparation, and memories all bring their own lessons which will enrich our students for years to come.

Experiences like the International Festival are enabled by our school's strong operational base. With that in mind, I will share our findings and plans from the Human Resources section of our accreditation self-study. This section asks schools to reflect on their policies and practices for ensuring that “employees are well qualified, adequately compensated, appropriately supported through effective evaluation and strong professional development, and are sufficient in number to support the school’s efforts to achieve its mission”.

As with many aspects of TIS, our human resources policies and practices have evolved and matured tremendously, particularly over the last two years. Teacher compensation went from seemingly random and significantly under market, to being based on a school-wide salary scale at market rates. Human resource functions went from being dispersed among staff members, to being centralized and organized with a full time professional human resources (HR) generalist. Benefits administration is now within the HR function, providing better service for employees. In 2012 we also added 100% employer-paid short-term disability insurance.

The administrative team, although still quite lean by independent school averages, now includes more purposeful support for technology, academic supervision, summer camp, compliance, and development (see summary of administration self-study section). For all positions, recruiting and hiring have been standardized and aligned with best practices, with special consideration for our multilingual needs. The school now has standard processes for recruiting and hiring substitute teachers as well. Thanks to parent generosity through the Auction Special Appeals, we have significantly increased faculty professional development including seminars and workshops at training centers, workshops brought in-house for professional development days, and specific forums for teachers to collaborate and share expertise.

We have also made significant strides toward employee evaluation & performance management processes. The first step was a rigorous, inclusive process to develop comprehensive and accurate job descriptions for all teachers and teacher assistants. These job descriptions will now form the basis for our evaluation, assessment, and professional development systems. For teachers, those systems will be based on the Danielson Framework for Teaching.

There are many other human resource areas where we have made significant progress but must continue building. We need a more comprehensive new employee orientation that lasts throughout an employee’s first year, and a refresher-training program for school procedures, safety and health, and emergency preparedness. We would like to implement a mentor program to help all our teachers learn, grow and benefit more from colleagues’ expertise. For our administrative staff, we must continue to assess job responsibilities and workload. Every area of our administrative function is stretched thin, with single-person departments (or part-time equivalents) for admissions, finance, operations, HR, technology, and communications. Most of our administrative positions carry multiple disparate responsibilities. Our information systems need updating to accommodate a school of our size and complexity. From a facilities standpoint, we need a designated employee break room and a nursing mothers’ room on each campus.

As with all of the self-study, this HR section has helped us see our accomplishments and the work that lies ahead. We remain focused on providing a superior education with a well qualified, engaged and appropriately compensated staff.

Robert Woods, Head of School, RobertW@intlschool.org, 503-226-2496 x122