January 13, 2022
from Bill Hudson, Head of School
This is the second of a four-part series of Head’s Messages that dives deep into MPA’s new strategic plan, 2024ward. Today we will outline this priority: Affirm and inspire our exceptional and dedicated faculty and staff through competitive compensation. The first article may be found here. An overview of 2024ward may be found here.
“It’s like baking a lasagna and baking a cake at the same time in the same kitchen, but you can only use one bowl,” responded one teacher when asked in a national survey to describe what teaching has been like during the pandemic. Teachers have demonstrated and modeled incredible resiliency as they pivoted to remote learning, to hybrid learning, and back to in person learning (and back to remote, unfortunately) along with a number of health and safety measures layered upon what typically happens in a classroom. Together with those in the medical field, public health, and first responders, teachers have been real heroes over the last two years.
Nowhere was this more evident to me than observing master teacher Mari Espeland one day in the fall of 2020. Mari was teaching music to two first grade classrooms simultaneously, one via Zoom, without singing. I marveled at the ease in which she transitioned between three distinct learning activities within 30 minutes. However, as a teacher myself, I know that what appeared to be effortless required a great deal of planning, a deep knowledge of music education, a thorough understanding the developmental needs of young learners, and many years of experience. Despite the limitations brought on by the pandemic, the students in Mari’s class were engaged, joyful, and learning about rhythm.
Employers are finding it increasingly difficult to find qualified employees amidst the stress and uncertainty of the global pandemic. According to the federal government, 20 million people quit their job in the second half of 2021 in what many are calling, “the Great Resignation.” A recent national survey of teachers found that 53% of them are thinking and planning on leaving the profession. Never has it been more important to retain exceptional and dedicated teachers. While I do not believe that is the case of MPA teachers, I do know for certain that more is expected of teachers than ever before and many feel that their bandwidth is being tested.
It is in this context of high demand, fewer teachers, increasing expectations, and changing needs that 2024ward, our new strategic plan, calls us to affirm and inspire our exceptional and dedicated teachers and staff. In order to ensure every student has a competitive advantage in our globalized society, to further individualize the education of each student, for curricular innovation that maximizes technology, MPA needs to do all we can to continue attracting and retaining exceptional teachers and reward them for dedication and hard work.
As the labor market tightens, MPA must be able to offer a competitive compensation package that includes a salary that aims to keep pace with inflation, affordable healthcare, and a reasonable retirement program, all of which is largely dependent on tuition. And while compensation is very important, so too is fostering a culture in which teachers are empowered to make an impact on their students, where they feel supported by colleagues, where they enjoy a large degree of classroom autonomy, and with small class sizes that enable them to truly know each student individually. MPA must also carefully calibrate increasing expectations and an attractive work/life balance.
Great schools depend on great teachers, and staff. In the parent satisfaction survey conducted in December, parents identified teachers as the number one reason they value MPA. In the words of one parent, “Teachers have an excellent connection with their students, really get to know them as individuals and help them to develop skills that will benefit them throughout their lifetime.” Another parent wrote, “The teachers care so deeply about the students. They really notice them. The teachers are incredibly passionate about the subjects they teach and seem to really love what they do!” We are fortunate at MPA to have teachers whose lasagna and cake both taste good!
The priorities of 2024ward will position our school to meet the emerging needs of our students in a rapidly evolving world. To empower our students to live, learn, and thrive, we must have exceptional and dedicated teachers. To attract, retain, and reward them means offering competitive compensation. I invite you to join together with me to realize the full promise and potential of MPA moving forward.