Portage School Board to hold first listening session for staff Monday

May 18, 2017 GMT

School Board listening sessions intended to improve communication in the Portage Community School District will get their start Monday at Portage High School.

Members Dan Brown and Fred Reckling will host the session in Room 201 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. for high school staff and other district staff who wish to attend, Reckling reported Wednesday. Listening sessions are part of the district’s “next steps,” following a School Perceptions staff survey that showed staff believed communication in the district could be better.

The School Board at its special meeting this week decided to hold one listening session before its next regular meeting, June 12, when Brown and Reckling will report back to the board about how it went.

“We have to see how the teachers react (to the listening sessions),” Brown said at Monday’s meeting. “If we have healthy talks and it seems to be informative we’ll then have to decide (how to proceed) as a board.”

Board member Matt Foster was uncomfortable with beginning the process without establishing parameters for the listening sessions, such as whether the sessions would be recurring, who they would involve and where they’d be held.

“There’s a lot to consider,” Foster said.

“(But) we’re the ones who put (the survey) out there,” Brown responded, “and we need to react to the survey. There’s plenty of reason to find out more.

“And that’s the idea,” Brown continued, “to see what they’re thinking, what they’re saying.”

Reckling on Wednesday said it’s the board’s hope they’ll soon “get around to all the buildings,” but with the end of the school year just weeks away, it’s difficult right now to say whether another session will be held before the start of next school year.

“We’ll determine how much we do by the response we get Monday,” Reckling said.

“We’d like to get other board members (in the sessions), but this is a trial and well see how it goes.”

The listening sessions, Reckling said, are intended to be an opportunity for staff to “provide an observation they made or a feeling they have,” and the listening sessions won’t be a place where any “promises” are made.

“We’re hopeful they’ll come forward with things they see, things we don’t see or things we don’t have information about,” Reckling said. The listening sessions, he added, are in no way an “undermining” of administration. “(We) just felt there was an undercurrent in the survey that (staff) didn’t have a route of communication, and we just want to provide this for them.

“We just want to see what they say, as board members.”

Other “next steps” planned by the district in the coming months include newsletters, a district blog, re-establishing a “blind mailbox” for staff suggestions via email and improving a recently established compensation plan for teachers.