Enduring Excellence – two powerful words that describe the professional environment of the Indian Hill School District. For the fifth consecutive year, the Indian Hill School District has earned the title of Top Workplace by the Cincinnati Enquirer.
“Our work environment reflects the daily efforts, energy, enthusiasm, care, and compassion of our staff members,” said Indian Hill Superintendent Dr. Mark Miles. “Our results have been consistent since 2015; we have highly engaged, enthusiastic employees – which is the culture we strive to create and maintain. Our team creates magic for our students, and we want our team members to know they are valued and appreciated.”
How do you create an award-winning workplace? We sat down with Superintendent Dr. Mark Miles to find out. Please see the Q&A below.
Indian Hill School District (IHSD): How does the District create a culture where employees feel valued?
Dr. Mark Miles (MM): Central to feeling valued is knowing that you are appreciated; key to creating a culture where employees feel appreciated is making an investment of time. At the Indian Hill School District, there are many ways we invest in time with our entire staff.
At the start of the school year, we begin by gathering for a staff opening day breakfast where we focus on the most important part of our work together – using the upcoming school year to help co-author an amazing chapter in the lives of our students. That is our absolute focus.
Following that day, Treasurer Mick Davis joined me in a “Tour of Schools” to meet with our team members in each building; during these meetings, we discussed our Strategic Plan for Transformational Excellence – and provided each team member a one-page document to display in their workspace that clearly articulates our shared vision, mission, values, and strategic focus areas. We try to take this tour once each quarter to share important updates with our team; it gives team members an opportunity to ask questions directly.
In addition to the “Tour of Schools” – we have made a practice of providing a monthly communication sent directly to our entire staff that serves as a reminder about the important work we are doing, highlights significant news for our District, and recognizes accomplishments.
Finally, we want to share the amazing work of our incredible staff with our stakeholders. We developed a weekly feature we call #BRAVESpotlight to highlight one team member. It places our team members in the spotlight … and the results have been incredible. Some of the comments that have been made by our parents on Facebook about how our team members have positively impacted the lives of our students have been an absolute inspiration to me.
In addition, we have a Wellness Committee dedicated to developing opportunities for our staff to focus on emotional and physical well-being. This team promotes healthy activities for our staff – and also plans fun … and often competitive events. This spring, the Wellness Committee hosted our annual wiffle ball tournament – where staff members were invited to compete for fun after the work day.
IHSD: What is the District’s strategy for creating a fair and equitable workplace?
MM: Each member of our team has a voice, and we strive to ensure their voices are heard.
Some examples of what this looks like …
• Our District has been very intentional in creating opportunities to develop leadership roles for our staff.
• An “Instructional-Team” of teacher leaders who work directly with the District to develop all aspects of our building improvement plans and goals which are under a constant state of review and analysis.
• We have a District Leadership Council I meet with quarterly; staff members from each building are represented on this team.
• We coordinate monthly meetings with our classified staff to gather their perspectives and feedback.
• Five years ago, we began a program called “Courageous Conversations”; this process guides our discussion of race and equity and their impact upon education.
Our District is also unique in that – in 2014 – our teachers made the decision to discontinue their affiliation with the Ohio Education Association, and they developed a local association – the Indian Hill Educators Professional Organization (IHEPO) – to work as a partner with District administration and the Board of Education for the benefit of our students. This collaboration has been amazing. At least once a month, IHEPO President Anne Kuhn and I meet to maintain an open line of communication.
We are in a constant state of seeking feedback from our team … asking them how we can improve the Indian Hill experience. Every two years, we deploy an “Are We Making Progress” survey to gather a snapshot of the District’s climate and culture.
IHSD: Resources and benefits are important for hiring and retaining top talent; what are some resources and benefits for Indian Hill School District employees?
MM: In education, we are life-long learners. Within the Indian Hill School District, we focus on personal growth. When new team members join our District, they become part of a teacher-led internship program – no matter how much experience they have coming to us. This relationship is developed over the course of two years.
Understanding that we have resident subject-matter experts, two years ago we began a professional development program called “Braves Academy” – where our staff members design coursework for peers. It is an amazing experience to see colleagues share their passion for education in this way.
Our District also reimburses four semester hours per year for staff members who want to continue their studies at the university level.
I should add that this is all supported by our outstanding Board of Education; we have an incredible Board with members who are dedicated to our vision of Enduring Excellence in Learning, Leadership, Innovation, and Service. Having that type of support and guidance is critical.
IHSD: Building a workplace that is the “best’’ generally means a workplace that is inclusive for all employees. How do you accomplish that?
MM: We believe every member of our team is an educator and has a voice. As educators, we are all focused on a singular mission – providing exceptional educational services to ensure the intellectual development, personal growth, and social responsibility of each student.
It is our hope that each team member, through the variety of opportunities we have discussed, feels included in that mission. Our staff members maintain a healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo and seek to improve all aspects of the organization.
IHSD: What sets the Indian Hill School District apart as one of the best places to work in the area?
MM: We have a very purpose-driven organization that allows our employees significant autonomy in creating meaningful and memorable educational experiences for our students.
We are very intentional about connecting each employee to what we call our Indian Hill Promise. At Indian Hill, our promise is to create magic for our students … we encourage them – all of us – to think, to question, and to grow. We promise to provide each child with unparalleled opportunities in academics, the arts, and athletics – to get to know each child’s individual talents and interests, and to support the beauty of the diversity in all of our students.
At the conclusion of each school year, I join Assistant Superintendent Dr. Mark Ault and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Melissa Stewart in interviewing members of the graduating class. This serves as a reflection of their time at Indian Hill; during these interview sessions, we ask students to tell us about the staff members who have made a positive impact on their lives … and from our Primary School, to our Elementary School, to our Middle School, to our High School – they share the names of the people who have made this impact. We end this experience by crafting a “Positive Impact” letter that is shared with every staff member who was mentioned.
Receiving this letter, and understanding that you made a difference in the life of a child … could there be a greater honor?