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North Adams schools

Morale has been sagging among teachers in North Adams schools, a survey found. Now the district is exploring solutions

Students depart buses

Drury High School students depart from buses for the first day of school in September.

NORTH ADAMS — Last spring, 38 percent of teachers in North Adams said that they did not feel valued for their work as a teacher.

That was one takeaway from a North Adams schools survey of morale done through a pilot program with EAB, an education consulting firm.

District leaders, who presented survey results to the School Committee on Tuesday, are looking at ways to boost morale.

It’s a concern that was raised last year by the teachers union.

“Things aren’t really great in terms of teacher morale,” the district’s family and community outreach coordinator, Emily Schiavoni, told the School Committee on Tuesday night, recounting what the union told the administration last year.

It’s not an issue specific to North Adams. Teaching amid the pandemic has led to burnout in schools across the country.

Students sit at their desks

Drury High School students settle into home room on the first day of school in September.

“I think with all of the stress of COVID and just the increased workloads and lots of changes to our practice, teachers were just feeling overwhelmed and were just looking to have a voice and to have administration be willing to hear concerns,” according to Mary Scanlon, the elementary co-chair of the North Adams Teachers Association, who spoke to The Eagle.

Now, she said, teachers feel heard.

The survey, which got input from 80 percent of teachers, found that the district needs to improve most on teacher recognition and resources.

Forty-six percent of teachers, for example, said they disagree or strongly disagree that teachers are recognized for excellent work by district leaders, and the same percentage said they hadn’t gotten recognition in the past week for doing their job well.

Later focus groups pulled out main a few main takeaways: Teachers feel supported by colleagues, families, students and the district’s literacy coordinator, but didn’t get enough personal check-ins from administrators. Teachers felt overwhelmed, which they thought was also affecting their students.

“The theme of this year was ‘take care of yourself,’” one teacher commented. “There was more stress and mental health issues and we could NOT ‘take care of ourselves.’”

“With all the short staffing,” another said, “maybe have someone pop in to see if a teacher needs a bathroom break.”

The initiative had several proposed strategies, and teachers ranked reviewing the district calendar as their top choice. That means looking at school calendar “to understand teacher time requirements and identify any trainings or events that have similar or overlapping goals,” Schiavoni said.

Superintendent Barbara Malkas is forming a subcommittee to work on the calendar review, and the district plans to survey teachers several more times throughout the year.

So far this school year, morale seems to be better, Scanlon said.

“I think I definitely see a positive shift going on this year. I think people are happy to be back in the classroom working directly with students,” she said. “I think people are feeling good, but there’s still some aspects that are overwhelming because were are having staffing issues.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@berkshireeagle.com or

413-496-6272.

Reporter

Greta Jochem, a Report for America Corps member, joined the Eagle in 2021. Previously, she was a reporter at the Daily Hampshire Gazette. She is also a member of the investigations team.

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