Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Recognitions, Awards, and Outstanding Work

One of the noteworthy qualities of highly successful individuals is they are action-oriented. In particular, they continuously look for opportunities to improve, possessing an “I can do better” attitude. However, attitude alone isn’t the reason that seemingly everything they touch turns to gold. The root of their success lies in what gives them this attitude - a confidence that comes with having the ability to develop, improve, and enhance their performance. They don't rely on one strength, the proverbial hammer looking for a nail, or their past accomplishments, but they continuously develop many skills and strengths simultaneously. They refine their strengths, overcome unproductive habits, and build a robust set of capabilities and abilities that benefit those around them.

Raising the bar of performance doesn't necessarily require significant analytical intelligence or a special genetic make-up. It depends more on desire and discipline with a relentless focus on results. At the practical level, it is where people turn what they want to do into how they do it; it takes the right mindset and ability to execute.  It’s not the ability of a single hammer, but the ability of a suite of tools, each accomplishing the task for which it was intended. The asterisk after "You can do anything you set your mind to*" represents the fine print that is often overlooked. It is the reality that effecting change on an individual or organizational basis requires more than knowing what to do, or wanting to do something. Change that achieves its fullest potential and is sustainable requires more than knowledge or desire. Both are important, but are insufficient on their own. We need to act on this knowledge and take bold steps to move past the status quo to benefit the students, staff, and parents we are entrusted to make a difference with. This is the foundation of the SDJ Journey to Excellence Blueprint. All of these qualities embody what high performer behavior looks like in the School District of Janesville.

Recently, there have been a few questions about how the district recognizes and rewards employees for high quality work. When SDJ recognizes and rewards behavior, it is not just being nice--it is important to thank people for the great work/effort that helps us achieve district goals. The SDJ believes that recognizing people encourages others to do the right thing, and ultimately it encourages the consistency needed in order to create a culture of excellence. After all, the vision of the District is “Educational Excellence: Building our Future.”

Everyone in our district has a role to play in helping achieve the mission of “Educating Every Child.” For some, the work of providing a quality educational experience to children, or a nutritious meal to a child that might not otherwise have one, is a reward in its own right.  We know that to do our work effectively, we must feel welcomed and supported in our jobs and appreciated by our colleagues and supervisors. 

There are many ways the district recognizes and rewards employees for their efforts. Some are colleague to colleague, some are from principals to teams, some from the directors to employees, and some are from me to an employee that deserves recognition. These rewards and recognitions take different forms, such as a "thank you" delivered in conversation, or through written personal notes. The School Board supports the efforts to recognize our teacher leaders and our non-certified leaders, and also thanks and recognizes employees for exemplary work through commendations and other presentations. Another example is the way the district annually recognizes employees for their years of service. This is done to acknowledge that we all benefit from the wealth of experience from those that have been with the district over the years. We learn, grow, and become better employees and colleagues through these efforts.

The district has also offered monetary awards or stipends for staff that go above and beyond and those in leadership roles at their school sites or in the district. Employees may receive a stipend for their additional work to train, coach, or work with staff throughout the district. Criteria for these would include performance based outcomes, SLOs, LEMs, and work that supports the District wide goals. Employees may also be rewarded for doing something extra--they took initiative to create a program, or a training opportunity, or some other effort that benefited their colleagues, school, or the district. These action-oriented staff members do much to add to collective excellence of our district.

From the unbudgeted funds the district had available in October 2015 for the 2015-2016 budget year, we spent $277,600 on certified staff which came from the ELDI and STEM allocations and $59,300 on non-certified staff which came from their leadership allocation in reward stipends.  We had 161 certified employees selected and 107 non-certified employees selected, or about 22% of our full time staff.  These employees were selected by their principals, managers, and supervisors.  Some were taken off the list if there was not agreement between Dr. Sperry or I, the principal, and/or the manager/supervisor.  The rewards ranged from $500 to $2,300.  The purpose of this was to reward and re-recruit our high performing employees.  We looked at a number of factors in their selection:
      1.  Adherence to Standards of Professional Behavior
      2.  Volunteering and extra duties performed
      3.  High performance 
      4.  Previous evaluations
      5.  Demonstrated leadership
The reward money was not payment for specific work that was done. That would fall into a different category. Here are a few of the comments I have received:

Hello Dr. Schulte,
I wanted to let you know that I have heard from four staff members already who received the stipend. They are so appreciative. I cannot describe what a morale boost this has been for our school. Thank you so much for doing this!

Dear Dr. Schulte,
I just wanted to say thank you for the stipend I was given on May 25th, it is always nice to be recognized and that people take notice of what you do. I hope that you also reward other custodial staff as I know there are a lot of others that deserve the same. Thanks again.   

Dr. Schulte,
I wanted to thank each of you for the recognition of work for our students and the stipend. I feel professionally recognized and valued in our district. I am very appreciative for the many opportunities I have to work in leadership roles and develop opportunities for staff and students in our district. Thank you all very much!

Everyone wants to work where they feel valued and appreciated. We all like to be recognized for the work we do. It is the practice of the SDJ to recognize and reward employees for their outstanding work. The School Board supports this, and the District uses a variety of programs, recognitions, and rewards to accomplish this recognition. I encourage you to find a way to recognize your colleagues as well-- a simple note can go a long way in making someone feel appreciated. By encouraging rewards for and recognizing our colleagues, we foster a better working environment for each other. With that in place, we can better perform to meet the needs of the students and families in our schools. Efforts to reward and recognize outstanding work are essential to building and growing that positive culture in SDJ, and that ultimately helps create the setting where all students can achieve at high levels.

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