Faculty and Staff
Ten years ago we noted in our Strategic Plan that close work with outstanding teachers has been the defining experience for students throughout Commonwealth’s history.
The Committee discussed composition of the faculty—their compensation, evaluation and support, and workload—all of which have been subjects of concern in recent years, as various pressures have combined to increase demands on teachers and limit salary gains.
The Committee reviewed Commonwealth’s compensation, the past decade of faculty and staff hiring and attrition, surveys of faculty and staff about orientation and support systems, and the data from a week’s work diary submitted by all faculty and staff in the fall of 2012.
A review of compensation banded by years of experience found that Commonwealth salaries and benefits, especially when factoring in the value of the sabbatical program, remained competitive with area schools. The cash salaries, however, particularly for teachers with less than twenty years’ experience, lag a bit behind the top tier Boston independent schools. The Committee felt that Commonwealth should work to strengthen compensation in order to remain competitive with those schools.
The importance of the sabbatical and Hughes Grants programs to teacher development, morale, and retention was universally agreed upon. It was noted that sabbaticals are currently funded out of the operating budget and the Hughes Projects from a spendable fund totaling $400,000 created over a decade ago. The Hughes Fund will have just enough to fund the program through 2014.
Faculty and staff retention has been strong, and Commonwealth has continued to attract outstanding new teachers. A review of the past decade revealed no patterns that might raise general concerns. Hiring, however, with the exception of 2013, was notable for the relative lack of diversity among the new teachers, and all agreed that there was a desire to increase the diversity of the faculty.
The Committee determined that the orientation and support of new faculty to Commonwealth is, in general, working well, but that much of the success is owed to informal systems of support. There is room for strengthening and expanding our formal training for teachers and staff.
While the faculty evaluation process was generously inclusive, it was felt to be slow and cumbersome, resulting in a limit on the number of teacher evaluations that could be accomplished in a year. As a result teachers, particularly new teachers, did not have the opportunity for constructive feedback and conversation as regularly as the Committee would like.
The diaries confirmed that Commonwealth teachers and staff work hard—the average work week for teachers during the academic year was sixty hours—but that there were some imbalances as, for example, administrative assignments tended to be directed to the most efficient and away from the less efficient.
In all of the above a common finding was the limited time the Director of Faculty Support and Hiring has available: there is a clear need to expand that position.
The Committee formulated a statement of vision for Commonwealth’s faculty and staff to articulate the goals of its recommendations.
We want our faculty and staff to …
1) Be competitively compensated.
2) Enjoy staffing levels that sustain our high level of personalized student guidance and advising.
3) Have a workload that allows for both planning and attention to priorities and a reserve of time and energy to react to unexpected circumstances.
4) Be recognized locally and nationally as educators and scholars.
5) Serve as a model of a collegial, diverse, and cohesive community of teachers and staff.
6) Have the resources to engage in the same analysis, cooperation, commitment, and enterprise that we ask of our students, and in order to help shape the school.
To better live up to this vision, the Committee recommends the following:
- Through a campaign, fund pay increases for teachers with twenty or fewer years of experience and create an endowment or dedicated, multiyear funding for our Hughes Grants. Ideally the pay increases would permit adoption of a competitive salary scale. To the extent that sabbaticals can be funded from a dedicated fund or endowment, operating funds will be freed up for salary.
- Expand to half-time, minimum, the position of Director of Faculty Development to oversee:
- Faculty recruitment and hiring, a major priority of which is expanding faculty diversity, including the development of specific plans for outreach to attract candidates of color.
- New teacher and staff orientation and mentoring, enhanced as outlined in the October 2012 Mentoring Recommendations and the January 2012 Report on Faculty/Staff Support.
- Faculty evaluation, including the development and implementation of a two-tiered process that enables streamlined evaluation for teachers and staff who do not require an in-depth review.
- Promotion and oversight of the Hughes Projects and other faculty enrichment programs, in collaboration with the Headmaster.
- Workload planning and support in collaboration with the Headmaster and Director of Studies, including the development of guidelines and tools, including time logs, to measure, adjust, and support teachers to ensure equitable and reasonable faculty workload.
The most acute need is the funding of the Hughes Grants program for 2015 and beyond.
Dean of the Faculty
High priority must also be given to the expansion of the Director of Faculty role to a half-time Dean of the Faculty. The expectation is that the transition to this expanded role would begin with the 2014-15 school year. Mara Dale has already started working on more comprehensive orientation, support, and mentoring, and on creating a more efficient model for teacher evaluation. Implementing the Committee’s full slate of recommendations for recruitment, orientation and mentoring, and retention and evaluation will have to wait until the job is restructured.
The funding of salary increases will have to be part of a significant fundraising campaign.