Little Falls Community Schools named as Top Workplace for second year

75 percent of district employees responded to survey

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

When the Star Tribune published its list of its 150 Top Workplaces for 2015 — Little Falls Community Schools was one of just two schools on the list.

This is the second year in a row the Little Falls Community Schools has earned that distinction.

Of the nearly 400 employees, about 75 percent responded to the survey done by Workplace Dynamics, an independent company that specializes in employee engagement and retention. Rankings were composite scores calculated purely on the basis of employee responses.

Supt. Stephen Jones told the School Board being chosen was reason to celebrate.

“Out of the 45 regions in the United States where projects like this are done, where they name top workplaces, the Minneapolis area and Minnesota area scored the highest of anybody any region in the nation,” said Jones. “So theoretically it’s hard to be a top workplace in Minnesota because the expectations are high — the numbers come back higher — so we’re really in the top workplaces in the nation. That’s a pretty cool deal to me.”

Noted with a response rate of nearly 75 percent, “The vast majority of our people participated.”

Jones said the information gleaned from the survey will be used not only to pat the district on the back, but also as a heads-up for areas that need work.

“It gives us the opportunity to address some people’s concerns about the district, about the direction we’re heading and how we can ultimately engage our people, our 400 employees to truly do wonderful things for our kids and our families and that’s what it’s really all about,” Jones said. “Obviously we take pride with being one of the top 150 workplaces in the state, but we won’t rest on our laurels and we’ll come back stronger and use that information to make us better.”

The Star Tribune’s Top Workplace website lists some of the things employees at the Little Falls Community Schools had to say: “I am fulfilled,” “It is rewarding seeing the smiles on the children’s faces when they succeed” and “The students and staff are excellent to work with.”

To qualify for the honor, a company must have more than 50 employees in Minnesota. More than 2,100 companies were invited to participate and rankings were composite scores calculated purely on the basis of employee responses. More than 69,100 employees at Minnesota public, private and nonprofit organizations responded.

The Franciscan Sisters based in Little Falls made the list, as did Central Minnesota Credit Union and Midwest Machinery Company, both with offices in Little Falls, also made the list.

Little Falls School Board Briefs

In other business at Monday’s meeting, the Little Falls School Board:

•Approved hiring Deborah Kurowski as media center paraprofessional at the middle school; Brian McCormack, EBD teacher at the middle school; Brenda Mrosla as guidance office administrative assistant at the high school; Melissa Notsch as ECSE teacher at Lindbergh Elementary and Steve Salber, as groundsperson for the district, effective July 1;

•Accepted the resignations of Katie Knutson, kitchen assistant at Dr. S.G. Knight Elementary; Deborah Kurowski, Kids’ Korner lead; and Brenda Mrosla as attendance secretary at the middle school;

•Approved lane changes for Melissa Berg from BS to BS+10; Rachael Cota from BS to BS+10; Sally Heier from MS+20 to MS+30; Steven Theis from BS+10 to MS; Heather Ziemer from BS to BS+10 and Jacob Zierden from BS to BS+10;

•Approved Policy 427, which outlines the workload limits for certain special education teachers;

•Approved the 2016-2018 technology plan as outlined by Mark Diehl;

•Approved a two-year contract with the Education Minnesota union, with a 1.75 percent salary increase for the 2015-16 school year and a 1.75 percent increase for the 2016-17 school year. The contract also includes an increase in health insurance benefits;

•Were informed the district had met the criteria for pay equity compliance;

•Approved the district’s budget for 2015-16. Finance Manager Nancy Henderson noted all labor contracts had basically been settled and those numbers were used in the budget. Henderson noted the budget indicated there would be no need to borrow money. It was noted the district usually borrows money because the state’s payment to school is always behind and the legislature also has the ability to delay any payments to school districts;

•Heard Supt. Stephen Jones say that the state budget contained some good news for school districts as far as an increase in dollars (about 2 percent) as well as the fact that it isn’t dedicated to specific programming. Jones said more would be discussed in the future about the facilities piece of the state budget. He credited Rep. Ron Kresha with the positive outcome in facilities funding for districts in Central and rural Minnesota;

•Jones said after the failed referendum vote May 19, people wanted to know what was coming next — plans were to begin during a meeting with TSP and Contegrity Inc. to assess the vote and decide which way to go. Jones said eventually, the public would be invited to get involved. He said hopefully voters would understand the district would be back with another referendum;

•Heard from Jones that participation in school activities including sports, arts and other programs, was at what he called its zenith and that every participant paid the same activities fee, which he said is one of the lowest, if not the lowest, in the Granite Ridge Conference. For the 2014-15 school year, 404 boys and 341 girls took part in sports and 276 students took part in fine arts activities such as band, choir, one-act play and speech. “For many, many kids and families, activities are their connection to the schools,” Jones said.

The Little Falls School Board’s next business meeting is at 5 p.m., Monday, July 20, in the Board Room at the County Government Center.

  • J. SKI

    From what I see here is that “of the nearly 400 employees”, only about 300 are “happy in their work”…that leaves about 100 “disgruntled” employees. When I went to school, 70% was a passing grade…this response is barely a C+.

    Supt. Jones states “It gives us the opportunity…to truly do wonderful things for our kids and our families and that’s what it’s really all about”. No, Mr Jones, this should only be about the academic achievement of the kids, as that’s why they’re in school.

    It is apparent that Supt. Stephen Jones’ mind is still in the “sports gutter”, not even a mention of academic success of students…it’s all about sports and fine arts programs. If he keeps pushing the same agenda with TSP and Contegrity Inc., he will be unwisely spending the 2% increase on sports programming, as well as additional facilities money from the state…it should be spent on the maintenance/upgrades and upkeep of the existing buildings…nothing more.