Staff morale declines, MCPS survey shows


By Ben Waldman

The annual MCPS staff climate survey released Sept. 27 indicated that staff morale at Whitman declined from the 2017-18 to 2018-19 school year. Although the survey isn’t mandatory, staff members are strongly encouraged to take it and all answers are anonymized so that staff members can answer freely.

In the 2017-18 Whitman survey, 77.8% of the faculty agreed with the statement that “staff morale is positive in this school.” In 2018-19, the number dropped to 63.7%.

“Morale saw a huge hit last year,” a teacher said. “Part of that can be attributed to growing pains with a new administration, but part of it is directly as a result of decisions made by leadership at this school.”

Another concern among teachers is administration’s lack of faculty inclusion in making school-wide decisions. This past year, 18% fewer staff members agreed with the statement that “There is open communication within my school.”

“There’s a major lack of communication between the administration and the faculty,” the teacher said. “Faculty feels more so now than before that their voices are not being heard, that they’re being ignored, that things are coming down solely from the top without input from teachers.”

Faculty members also feel that the MCPS central office isn’t effectively articulating new initiatives, as seen in recent changes involving the English 10 curriculum and PARCC testing.

“Things would get rolled out from central office, and they weren’t communicated in a way that was functional for staff,” English teacher Danielle Fus said. “It felt like we were being shoved around a little bit.”

This trend could become problematic if low staff morale inhibits teachers’ abilities to develop creative lesson plans.

“When staff morale is lower, it makes it more difficult to try new things,” Fus said. “When you feel confident and comfortable, you’re more willing to take chances.”

Administrators have reviewed the survey results, and they have tried to incorporate staff into the decision-making process more this year, Dodd said.

“The scores were not what I would like them to be,” he said. “There are definitely some areas where we could improve.” 

To prompt these improvements and encourage positive communication between administrators and faculty, Dodd sends a “weekend update” email to staff every Sunday to outline weekly priorities and celebrate staff accomplishments.

However, some staff members believe that administrators’ changes are still inadequate. Current solutions to the staff morale problem are insufficient to address the faculty’s real concern: a lack of openness with the faculty, a teacher said.

Other teachers believe that this drop in morale is an anomaly.

“I’m hopeful that this was a little dip, and that morale will go back up,” Fus said. “Morale at Whitman is still higher than the county average, by a lot. I think our school is taking the right approach.”