CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Teachers have lower morale than other Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools employees, especially their bosses, according to survey results released this week.

Officials acknowledged that poses a major challenge. Not only are teachers the largest employee group in CMS, but they work on the front lines with students.

But newly appointed Chief Communications Officer Kathryn Block told the school board the relatively low engagement ratings for teachers don t mean they lack enthusiasm for their classrooms. Instead, many reported disillusionment with central offices, a sign of the work that lies ahead for Superintendent Heath Morrison and his staff.

Morrison commissioned the employee survey as part of the groundwork for his long-range plan, which he ll present Nov. 26. Even before he officially started work July 1, he identified low morale as one of the top issues in CMS.

The survey is part of a $140,250 contract with K12 Insight, a Virginia-based education consulting group, to do surveys, focus groups and analysis throughout this school year. Morrison said this week that listening to employees and keeping them informed is a first step toward rebuilding their confidence.

Our employees are not saying they want to make all the decisions, but they want to have a voice, Morrison said.

The K12 Insight poll asked about a range of issues, such as job satisfaction, pride in working for CMS and whether employees believe supervisors and district leaders listen to them. The answers were crunched to create an engagement rating, defined as the sense of connection that individuals have with their profession in general and with their current jobs in particular.

Of employees who responded to the online survey, conducted this fall, 70 percent of teachers were rated as engaged, compared with 76 percent for all employees. At the top of the list were school administrators, with 92 percent engaged, and central office administrators with 89 percent.

The fact that 47 percent of all employees (including 43 percent of teachers) didn t participate indicates low staff engagement in general, and survey findings may overestimate the level of engagement, the summary of results notes.

At least 80 percent of all employees who participated said they feel motivated to contribute more than what is expected of them, find their duties interesting and are satisfied with the work they do. Just more than 70 percent described themselves as proud to work for CMS.

Employees tended to express confidence in their principal or direct supervisor while giving lower ratings to district offices. The lowest ratings were for district administrators understanding employees needs and explaining key decisions. Almost 90 percent of employees reported that they respond to email within 24 hours, but only 32 percent said the district office answers their questions within 24 hours.

When he released the survey results Tuesday, Morrison also announced that he was reorganizing his administration and replacing the officials in charge of human resources and communications. Consultants found significant problems in both areas.

Morrison said the new leaders will help him do a better job of keeping employees informed, getting their advice on key decisions and providing prompt service to schools. He promised that the survey will not be a one-and-done.

Terry Abbott, the consultant who reviewed CMS communications, agreed that low morale and lack of information is a problem.

The arrival of the new CMS superintendent has generated plenty of hope and excitement among district employees and community members, Abbott s report says, but there is also a healthy wait and see attitude among many who want to believe better things are on the way for CMS.

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