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How to Build A School’s Culture So That Staff Won’t Want to Leave

by Staff

A positive school culture and climate are key ingredients to not only attracting school staff, but keeping them. So, too, are ensuring that staff concerns are heard and giving staff members the necessary professional support to thrive.

David Arencibia and the administrative team at Colleyville Middle School, in Colleyville, Texas, have done just that, according to some staff members who’ve turned down lucrative job offers from other schools and districts.

Here’s what some staff members have said about why they are staying at Colleyville Middle School.

Lauren Jones, the school’s head band director, has built an award-winning program, with the 7th and 8th grade program picking up regional and national honors.

It’s not surprising that other schools have tried to recruit Jones, now in her 11th year at the school.

She loves the support from school administrators, but also cited the buy-in she gets from parents and student as a major reason why she has no plans to leave. Money, she said, is not even part of the consideration.

“I love working with my co-workers and I love the support that the parents and the kids and the administrators give me,” Jones said. “It’s hard to be interested in starting over somewhere when you feel like you’ve developed and found an environment that works really well.”

Aaron Arroya leads a discussion about puppets during one of his theatre classes at Colleyville Middle School in Colleyville, Texas on Tuesday, April 18, 2023.

Aaron Arroyo has been a theater teacher for seven years, two of them at Colleyville Middle School.

He turned down an offer from a private school this year, in part because of the investments in theater program from the school and district. The private school position would have paid about $15,000 more annually.

Fine arts, he said, are often relegated to the sidelines, especially in Texas, where football is king.

But the school and district have poured money into the program—adding funds for a new stage, lighting, and other upgrades. They’ve also allowed him to continue to take local acting gigs and have paid for professional development opportunities so he can deepen his instructional expertise.

“They are not just invested in the program itself, but in me and the students, which is more than any educator, especially right now, can ultimately ask for,” Arroyo said. “I am not just a warm body in the classroom. I am educator. I am valued, especially as a fine arts educator, which can be undervalued in many instances.”

Stephanie McAvoy peers at her students as they raise their hands to answer a question during seventh grade english class at Colleyville Middle School in Colleyville, Texas on Tuesday, April 18, 2023.

Professional support is important to Stephanie McAvoy, who’s taught English at Colleyville for the last three years. She values the backing from the school’s principal and the high expectations that come from the administration.

“Voice is really big on our campus,” said McAvoy, whose commute is about one hour each way. “So, it’s always, ‘How can we be better?’ If I were to come to Dr. [Arencibia] and say, ‘As the department lead, I am noticing we need this that or that,’ or ‘How can we do this? Here’s my end goal. Here is my solution,’ he is going to be like, ‘Go do it. I support you.’ ”

The principal sets the tone for the nurturing environment, she said.

“As a principal you have to be transparent, 100 percent,” said McAvoy. “You have to really build up your staff. You have to believe in what you want your staff to believe in, and you need to be 100 percent about it.”

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