New Ideas at SWCSD No. 1 Focus on the Moving District Forward

New Ideas at SWCSD No. 1 Focus on the Moving District Forward

ROCK SPRINGS – After a busy summer, Sweetwater County School District No. 1 continues to focus on making positive changes as they move forward. On Monday, the Human Resource Department gave updates on some of these changes.

The department’s overall new focus is about empowering and celebrating staff by providing quality training and support focused on a commitment to students. Human Resource Director Megan Mentzel gave the board a look at how they are accomplishing this.

This year, SWCSD No. 1 hired 122 new certified staff. Of these, 45 are first-year teachers. Mentzel said the district has had and does have many strong teachers and employees and a major focus moving forward is retaining quality staff.

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Focus on Retaining Staff

To do this, the district began doing exit interviews with certified staff last year. Mentzel performed these interviews and explained none of the interviews were added to personnel files or passed along to other administrators. By doing this, she explained it gave staff the freedom to speak without fearing retaliation or having their comments follow them.

While only certified staff participated in the first exit interviews, the district wants to conduct classified staff exit interviews in the future.

After completing the interviews, Mentzel looked at all the information gathered. Three major things stood out in these interviews.

The first item Mentzel spoke about was employee engagement. She explained many of those interviewed – especially the newer teachers – told her while they felt somewhat engaged in the school district they felt like there was no connection to the community.

Another concern voiced was the lack of a way for staff to provide administrative feedback and new ideas. Finally, Mentzel said there was frustration voiced that the Human Resource Website lacked important information and links to community services. Examples included things such as available housing, costs and daycare availablity in the community.

With this information in hand, the district went to work addressing the issues. This year, they restructured the new employee orientation and had the first ever community kickoff.

The district started an online employee engagement and feedback form. Mentzel said all employees (certified and classified) will be able to provide ideas and feedback to the administration.

The district has also started the beginning phases of redeveloping the human resource website. Mentzel said they have reached out to entities such as the Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce to get ideas on what information should be included on the website.

The district hopes to have the website done by the middle of spring semester. Along with links to community resources, the website will also have the feedback forms as well as all the bullying and harassment policies and reporting forms all in one central location.

The district will continue to conduct exit interviews but will also start doing “stay” interviews with staff  in November.

Mentzel said they will choose random employees (both certified and classified) and talk to them about the district. She explained that while they want to hear some of the concerns, they also want to find out what the district is doing right. Finding out why employees have remained with the district is how Mentzel explained it.

She stressed what is said at these interviews will also be confidential and will not go in employee’s files.

“We want employees to feel comfortable talking to us,” she said.



Another aspect touched on was recruitment. Currently, the district focuses on the University of Wyoming and its job fair.

SWCSD No. 1 has always had a focus on attracting University of Wyoming education students. While Mentzel said this will continue, she explained they are also looking at attending a wider variety of recruitment events in the coming year.

Those mentioned included a school psychologist National Conference in February of 2016 as well as doing a variety of presentations at university education classes in surrounding states for the remainder of 2015 and into 2016. Mentzel added they will also have a presence at local and surrounding education job fairs.

Mentzel and the district is specifically focused on three of the district’s main needs. They are a school psychologist, special education educators and speech language pathologists.


Substitute Teachers

The district felt the impacts of a lack of substitute teachers last year and made changes for the upcoming school year. This year, Mentzel said they have worked to make substitutes feel part of the district.

Last year the district had 80 substitute teachers. This year they doubled in size as now the district has 160 substitute teachers. The biggest change was a pay increase for substitutes going from $100 daily to $175.

Mentzel said they also had mandatory training for substitutes on the standard response protocol or the new emergency training put in place over the summer. Mentzel told the board they did have several subs who could not attend the training and the district is working closely with the Rock Springs Police Department to provide a makeup training day for those who missed.