Summit School District ramps up human resources presence
Department plans to survey current and former employees to get data on job satisfaction and retention
As the Summit School District looks to improve staff retention, it’s upgrading its human resources department with a goal of being more proactive in identifying staff needs and providing them with better resources to be successful.
Chief Human Resources Officer Grant Schmidt took over the department this year and is aiming to increase the human resources presence throughout the district. He said he wants the staff in his department to be approachable, available and to simply be human. Schmidt recently hired two new human resources specialists, Amanda Southern and Marissa Gavender, who he said bring great experience to the district and will allow the department to be more responsive to the needs and concerns of teachers and other staff members.
During a school board meeting Oct. 14, Schmidt said he liked the idea that classrooms have walls that talk — teachers will often display information on their walls for when they aren’t immediately available — and he said he wants the district’s website to serve a similar function for staff, providing easily attainable resources online.
“The idea is (to) give them the opportunity to have the resources they need immediately at their fingertips wherever they are 24/7, and then if they can’t find it then certainly come to us,” Schmidt said. “We don’t want to leave folks out there where they have to wait on a response when they might be able to find it rather quickly on the website.”
The department is also going to send out a survey relating to job satisfaction to both current staff members and those who have left in the last five years, something the school board has talked about recently as it looks into helping with housing. Schmidt is working with a colleague at the University of Colorado Denver to administer the survey, hoping to get better data on why folks leave the district and why current employees stay.
“The idea there is to get a sense (of) how we are doing with job satisfaction,” Schmidt said. “That falls under human resources because we’re all about making sure our human resources are satisfied and doing the best they can.”
Schmidt said he is expecting to have data by the beginning of December. He said the survey will gather information on staff demographics as well as their housing needs, which will provide district leadership with better data as it enters conversations around housing and what price points are viable when trying to recruit and retain staff members.
During the meeting, school board member Lisa Webster asked Schmidt if there would be any questions about changing housing needs for staff members undertaking major life changes like marriage or having kids. Schmidt said while the survey wouldn’t address life changes directly, he noted that it would provide insights on attainable housing based on household size.
Board member Gloria Quintero said while housing is a big priority right now, she wants to keep the district’s bilingual staff and their needs in mind, as well. Schmidt said there are a few things his department does to help the district’s immigrant population and that it’s also looking into visa sponsorship. Currently, it reimburses staff when renewing their J-1 visas.
Board president Kate Hudnut said she and fellow board member Tracey Carisch discussed surveying the district staff in their early years on the board and that she is thrilled to see it happening. She said she’d love to ask about the work climate, the value of professional development, housing and child care in the process.
“If we’re doing a survey, and we’ve got a third party that’s helping so people really feel safe to fill it out, let’s really think that through,” Hudnut said. “… Obviously we know about salary (and) we know about housing, but what are the other pieces that we’re all hearing?”
Schmidt said he will have a draft of the survey completed sometime this week. Interim Superintendent Roy Crawford noted that the survey will be free for the district because of Schmidt’s partnership with the university.
In the last couple of weeks, Schmidt and his team have also worked to implement pop-up human resources offices throughout the district’s buildings, meeting with about 30% to 40% of the district’s staff. He said it’s been a great opportunity to put faces to names, and he hopes to do it again at least twice more this school year.
“The concept is that we’re spending about 2 to 2 1/2 hours at every location,” Schmidt said. “… We answer every question they might have about human resources.”
Schmidt said they have also increased the speed of the district’s onboarding process, and it will further improve due to a new software system they’re having put into their offices. He said it will speed along the background checking process, which can typically take multiple days or even weeks.
Crawford said the district’s human resources department has “transformed” and that Schmidt is a valuable asset for the district overall.
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