Friday, January 27, 2012

The SDJ Vision and the Handbook

The word “handbook” seems to strike fear in the hearts of many employees whereas one short year ago no one would have paid much attention if I said, “I was designing a new handbook.” By July 1, 2013 the SDJ will have a Handbook that replaces the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. This is a requirement of state law. “What will this look like? How will it affect me? Will there be major changes?” These are questions everyone is asking.

The creation of this “Handbook” is creating anxiety among many employees and I want to attempt to alleviate some of that anxiety by writing a weekly Blog. You will see a new post each Friday. I want to keep all employees abreast of the process. More importantly I am also going to create a vision for you of what I believe we can become as a school district. I believe we have an unprecedented opportunity to create the kind of school district where employees enjoy coming to work; educators are valued for their hard work, dedication and compassion toward students; and every child has the opportunity and hope for a better quality of life. I will begin by describing where I am currently at in the process.

As I began the daunting task of thinking about how to approach putting together a handbook, I reviewed handbooks from other Districts, many that rushed to put something together. I realized that this was truly an opportunity to rebuild our District in a way that takes into account the values, hopes and dreams of our employees. To begin the process I needed to know what several of our leaders in the district thought about numerous topics. I invited four people and I asked the Board President to appoint two Board members to share in this task with me. Those members are Steve Sperry, Kim Ehrhardt, Keith Pennington, Angel Tullar, and Commissioners Hesselbacher and Feldt. These folks are some of the best and brightest minds that I have the pleasure to work with. They share common values with me, but also bring in differing areas of expertise by virtue of their employment or areas of interest. I believe they are representative of our school district at the leadership level.

Our first task was to think about what we all believe - to see if there were commonalities in what we value. We each wrote a vision of how we want the school district to look in the future. We are currently working on a series of Guiding Principles that we will use to guide our work. These Guiding Principles include items such as:

  1. Students are actively engaged in their own learning. All employees are actively engaged in the organization.
  2. Parents’ needs are an important priority for the organization.
  3. Standards of Professional Behavior will lead to a quality work environment. (We must continue to ask, “Is this a good place to work?”)
  4. We will recruit, retain and recognize high performing employees.

There will be a time when we will listen to you and your concerns. We are purposely going slowly. We want to do this right. I hope you will continue to read this Blog and comment as you see fit.


  1. I appreciate the promised feedback about the process. I also respect you and the members of your aforementioned leadership team.

    I realize this is mostly uncharted territory and, thus, will be a slow, deliberate process as you describe. As you seem to recognize, how our district creates the new employee handbook may be as important as what is created.

    I see your ending note promises input from employees (and, thus, I should be patient). However, the opening process feels a bit like Thanksgiving dinner where the secretaries, custodians, teachers, and support staff are sitting at the kids' table, while the adults are having the important discussions.

    Do you eventually anticipate a more diverse leadership team comprised of administrators, board members, teachers, and support staff to formulate the new employee handbook?

  2. Glad to see you have at least some former educators on your handbook committee. Current educators would be the experts in areas one and three for sure.

  3. Hello Dr. Schulte,
    Thank you for your post. I have a few curiosities about state law, the handbook(s), leadership, and Guiding Principles.
    2. I was not aware that having a “handbook” was a state law. Could you please site a valid source for me to read so that I might be better informed about the law?
    2. You mention that you have studied handbooks from other districts. Could you please list these so that I might remain abreast of the streams of thought that might be of consideration in composing a handbook?
    3. You listed the administrative leadership that will share in the handbook process as you work to consider the values, hopes and dreams of the employees. At some point, and as you move forward, will there be any exployees on the actual development committee addressing these values, hopes and dreams?
    4. In "Guiding Principles" you use the term "organization" in a manner that appears to be defining "school." The connotation confuses me. Could you please clarify?
    Thank you, Karen. I know this is a difficult task at a difficult time.
    Luiza Semrad


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.