BY COURTNEY KIRCHMAN, PRINCIPAL, ROOSEVELT LEARNING COMMUNITY

Coming out of the pandemic, we faced several different challenges at Roosevelt Learning Community. Our biggest being frequent and lengthy staff absences due to illness, exposure, and a feeling of overall burnout. On average, we were experiencing 120 absences a month. It really became evident that I needed to ensure staff well- being because we were never going to be closing our achievement gap and this learning loss that we had experienced during COVID, if our staff didn’t show up and do their best every single day.

As we faced these challenges coming out of the pandemic, I realized the only way to solve the problem ahead of us was to be present. I needed to be side by side with my staff in the learning environments. When I looked at myself, what I saw was I was spending the majority of my week in my office dealing with the problems and really the net effects of my staff’s struggles.

I realized I was never going to solve the problem from inside the four walls of my office. I had to get out. I needed to be with my people.

I started by empowering my office manager, who really took over the majority of administrative tasks that I didn’t need to be handling. She would manage my calendar, set appointments, and handle all of the things that would run through the front office. Just by doing this one simple thing, it freed up about 15 hours of my time each week and this allowed me to get out of my office and spend that time in learning environments.

I was able to talk to my teachers, to the other staff, and during this time, I learned how to better support them. Well, after a year of consistently being in classrooms with a focus on solving the staff well-being issues that we were facing, we were able to reduce our average number of staff absences per month by 29%. We also do regular staff wellness surveys and we saw a huge increase in our staff well-being.

We had an increase of 33% in our staff self-identifying how well they manage stress. There was a 19% increase in their work-life balance and a 30% increase in how the staff self-reported their overall well-being on a day-to-day basis. When looking at our staff retention, we had 100% staff retention last year and this also had a direct impact on our learners’ academic achievement.

We had an 11% growth in ELA and a 7% growth in math when we were looking at year- to-year comparisons. Living out the Breakthrough Coach Practices has really brought out the best in me. I find I’m present when I’m with colleagues or other staff members.

I’m calm in stressful situations, probably because I don’t feel pulled in a variety of different directions, and I’m not trying to do everything for everyone. I go home each day satisfied by what I’ve accomplished and my family benefits from having my full attention because I’m not bringing work home with me.

Watch the Courtney Kirchman interview on The Breakthrough Coach YouTube Channel.