Fatter paychecks help, but workload issues remain
Fairfax County teachers are happier about nearly every aspect of their working conditions than they were two years ago, amid their first raises in years and a campaign to decrease their workloads, according to survey of more than 10,500 teachers.
When asked if "teachers are relied upon to make decisions about educational issues," only 61 percent of Fairfax County Public Schools teachers agreed in 2010. On the same survey administered this January and February, 84 percent of teachers said their input mattered.
In 2010, 65 percent of teachers agreed that "Teachers have time available to collaborate with their colleagues"; that figure shot up to 79 percent.
Administrators also voiced rosier views than in 2010, with 95 percent agreeing that "In this district we take steps to solve problems," up from 78 percent.
Teachers and other school system employees received their first pay raises since 2008 this school year, as salaries were frozen because of the bleak economy. In January, The Washington Examiner obtained an internal teachers union survey wherein 76 percent of teachers said they agreed "very much" or "somewhat" that "teacher satisfaction is primarily dependent on salary."
"The salary increase does help a little bit, as people feel they're valued and appreciated," said Michael Hairston, who represents more than 6,000 teachers and support staffers as president of the Fairfax Education Association. "That has to have an impact on morale."
But even with improvements, some areas of the survey raised concerns to school officers and the system's teacher unions.
Less than half of principals agreed that central office administrators were allowing them to spend enough time on instruction, marking an increase of 34 points to 49 percent. And more than 40 percent of teachers said they didn't have enough out-of-classroom time to get all their work done.
Superintendent Jack Dale said in a June email obtained by The Examiner, "I will speak to all the principals about ensuring we do not create inappropriate work load/time demands on our teachers this next school year."
But union representatives said they don't believe Dale ever acted on his promise to intervene. A spokeswoman for the school system did not respond to requests for comment.
None of the school board members contacted by The Examiner returned phone calls seeking comment on this issue. The school board is scheduled to discuss the survey results on Monday.