School employee survey reveals undercurrent of dissatisfaction, distrust, of system and administration


Virginia Beach teachers give school superintendent (Tiny) Tim Jenney and the school board low marks for leadership and staff morale, but say in a survey that the education system is a good deal and serves students well.

Jenney surveyed school administrators, classified, and teachers on a variety of topics  last year to determine employee attitudes toward the system, school superintendent, and school board in meeting the goals of providing quality education.

The survey was taken last October, but the school board knew nothing about it until a copy of the results was requested by the media.  It was then that the board got a copy of the survey and the results, but no explanation why they hadn't known about it initially.

Jenney's handling of the survey and its results validated one of the survey's statements about which teachers were asked to rate:   51.5% of the teachers strongly disagreed that "The school board is providing quality leadership for our school division".  "The board knew nothing about this until Jenney was forced to make it public," said one teacher. This has been a major criticism of Jenney; that he runs the board and the board is nothing but a rubber stamp panel of followers afraid to challenge him. 

(That changed recently when Jenney, seeking nearly $19 MILLION for this year's school budget went public in calling for a tax increase - an action outside his job description - that resulted in some board members privately taking him to the woodshed for speaking out of school.  Only the city council has the authority to call for a tax increase).

The 2nd major criticism of Jenney is his short-man syndrome, heavy handed management style with employees.  If you aren't a yes man (or woman) to him, you are an enemy.  That was likewise reflected in the survey when teachers were asked:  "The superintendent is providing effective leadership for our school division."  More than 61.8% of the teacher disagreed.  This validates hallway conversations that TLD (Tiny Little Dwarf), as he is unflatteringly called behind his back, is more about his personal image and career than he is with education substance and well-being of  his personnel.  Even 19.5% of the administrative staff also disagreed with that statement.

In other negative aspects, which may be why Jenney never told the board the survey had been taken, much less tabulated the following was revealed:

  • 67.1% said they don't have the respect and support of the system's leadership

  • 66.4% said staff morale is bad

  • 53.8% of the teachers denied the school administration has an effective system whereby teachers could make suggestions for improvements - to do so, some felt would be regarded negatively by administrators and Jenney.

  • 56.6% of the teachers said they don't believe the work environment encourages free and open exchanges of ideas and information - they don't believe their opinions are wanted.

  • 57.8% of the teachers said the employee input process does not effectively represent the needs of the employees.

  • And in fact, 32.1% of the group said they didn't believe it when the school division says it is serious about honesty and integrity in the workplace. "Looking at how your leadership works, you have to assume they are leading by example," said one teacher, "and I don't believe they are being honest and above board."

On the positive side and despite Jenney's dictator-like style of management and distrust of the board's leadership, the teachers saw some good in the system:

  • 66.4% said they considered working conditions in the beach school system 'good'

  • 51.6% said the system provides them with a positive sense of accomplishment, but 47.3% said their accomplishments and contributions aren't recognized by Jenney & Co., and 51.2% said they don't believe the systems evaluation system helps improve job performance

  • 63.4% there are effective staff development opportunities for all employees

  • 56% agreed there is no concern over job security

  • 85.8% said the employees with whom they work do 'quality work'

  • 72.1% said Virginia Beach is a good place to work, all things considered

  • 62.5% said the beach system is a good place for students to learn

Tomorrow:  How the school administrators see the superintendent and the system.