by Paul Bowers
A survey released this week showed a mix of blessings and burdens for Charleston County School District teachers. While more than half of teachers said they found their work hours unreasonable, nearly three-quarters said they viewed their school as having a positive climate.
The survey, administered by the teacher advocacy group Charleston Teacher Alliance, gauged the opinions of just over 1,000 teachers in the district (the district has about 3,500 teachers total). First, the bad news: Only 28 percent of teachers surveyed said that the hours required to complete their job were reasonable. Meanwhile, 54 percent said they did not find their hours reasonable and 18 percent said they weren't sure. (Click here to see the full survey results)
Just three percent of teachers said they were working 40 hours or less per week, including time spent on school-related work outside of school. Fifty-eight percent reported working more than 50 hours per week; 14 percent said they worked more than 61 hours per week.
Survey respondents were also asked to respond to the following statement: "Teachers do not have to worry about retaliation from school administration if they disagree on an issue or report a concern." Fifty-eight percent said they either strongly agreed (30 percent) or somewhat agreed (28 percent). The other respondents either somewhat disagreed (19 percent), strongly disagreed (15 percent), or were not sure (8 percent).
Now for the good news: 72 percent of teachers surveyed said their school had a positive climate, up 10 percentage points from last year's survey.
Almost all principal scores improved this year over last year, with principals earning high praises for conducting productive meetings (73 percent positive), making "a sincere and sustained effort to address teacher concerns" (77 percent positive), and conducting classroom observations (80 percent positive). Overall, 76 percent said their principal was an effective leader.
Eight schools received 100 percent ratings for principal effectiveness: Academic Magnet High, Belle Hall Elementary, Drayton Hall Elementary, Harbor View Elementary, James Island Charter High, Jennie Moore Elementary, Pinckney Elementary, and Stono Park Elementary. The following three schools' principals received at least 90 percent approval ratings: Hursey Elementary, Oakland Elementary, and Wando High.
Superintendent Nancy McGinley, who has held the position since April 2007, got mixed reviews from teachers. Compared with last year's survey, McGinley made small gains in the areas of effective communication with teachers (73 percent positive), eliminating nonessential spending (37 percent positive), and being an effective leader (72 percent). Her ratings dropped, however, in the areas of visibility and access to teachers (55 percent positive) and seeking teacher input (43 percent positive).
McGinley and members of the school board drew the ire of some teachers last year when they pushed for the implementation of the BRIDGE program, which would link teacher salaries partly to student scores on standardized tests.
"Based on survey comments, teachers expressed doubt in whether teacher feedback was genuinely sought or considered before making decisions such as the BRIDGE program," CTA Chairman Kent Riddle wrote in a summary of the survey results.
The number of teachers who responded varied between schools. For example, while 81 teachers responded from Wando High School, just four teachers responded from Burke High School. No teachers responded from Apple Charter School, Charleston Charter for Math and Science, Charleston Development Academy, East Cooper Montessori, Frierson Elementary, Horizon House, or Minnie Hughes Elementary.
One area that the survey did not address was salaries. According to district's the 2013 state report card, the average teacher salary was $45,476.