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Attracting and Retaining Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation’s (MVCSC) Backbone: The Importance of Classified Employees

Article Published in NAEF February 2024 Newsletter

By: Renee Oldham

Renee Oldham serves as the Executive Director of the Mt. Vernon Education Foundation, showcasing a profound commitment to education and community development. Over the past six years, her visionary leadership has propelled transformative initiatives, including Parent University and The HS Career Biz Roundtables. Through her efforts, over 1M has been raised to support classroom needs.

With a rich career spanning 27 years, Renee is recognized for her expertise in strategic planning, public-private partnerships, and elevating educational outcomes. Beyond education, she demonstrates proficiency in areas like affordable housing, downtown development, entrepreneurial ventures, business incubation, and enterprise zones.

Renee has garnered national recognition for her commendable efforts, with her accolades prominently featuring the Sagamore of the Wabash Award, a testament to her unparalleled contributions to the community.

In the bustling hallways of MVCSC, Jenny, an instructional assistant, helps a student understand a complex math problem. Meanwhile, a dedicated maintenance team ensures the school’s facilities run seamlessly. This scene underlines a fundamental truth: it’s not just teachers who are pivotal to a school’s operations.

A substantial portion of the operational efficiency of any educational institution lies in the hands of its classified employees. MVCSC, in collaboration with the Mt. Vernon Education Foundation (MVEF), established a task force to further bolster the attraction and retention of these indispensable members.

Who Are the Classified Employees?

Boasting 278 members, classified employees make up a significant 47% of the MVCSC staff. Their roles, spanning from instructional assistants and administrative support to bus drivers and maintenance crews, might be diverse, but their collective importance is unequivocally vital.

Understanding the MVCSC Culture

The bedrock of employee longevity is undeniably culture. A nurturing environment, abundant in support and acknowledgment, can drastically mitigate turnover rates. For MVCSC, the goal isn’t mere retention but also to attract budding talent. To delve deeper, the task force poses salient questions like, “How do we encapsulate our present work culture?” and “What visions do we hold for MVCSC’s future ambiance?”

Addressing Bias and Championing Inclusion

“Every individual, regardless of their role or qualification, is a cornerstone in the foundation of a school’s success. Biases mustn’t obscure our recognition of every contributor’s worth,” asserts Renee Oldham, Executive Director of MVEF and Task Force Co-Chair.

Classified staff’s insights are indispensable. Directly embedded in the operational fabric, they perceive the intricacies and demands of their departments better than anyone.

Valuing Classified Employees

“Central to retention is genuine appreciation. As Chris Smedley, Assistant Superintendent and Task Force Co-chair, once said, ‘By hiring locally, MVCSC integrates individuals with community spirit – many of whom have an intrinsic bond with the district.’ While competitive remuneration is vital, simple gestures, like handwritten thank you cards or recognizing their profound influence on students publicly, can profoundly boost morale.”

Strategies for the Future

In developing our campaign with the joint endeavors of the MVCSC/MVEF task force, our vision takes form in tangible ways. Maria Bond, Director of Community Relations, crafted the strategic marketing plan from the task force that outlined forward-looking strategies for the present and future. Initiatives include providing enriched onboarding experiences filled with school promotional items, marketing our community culture, and providing employee-focused plans, as well as celebrating our staff’s unwavering commitment.

MVEF proudly sponsored a Staff Appreciation Event at the Jet Access Indy Airport Hangar where our nearly 600-member staff were treated to food, live music, and a staggering $4,000 in prize giveaways. “From offering a welcoming onboarding experience adorned with school pride to crafting employee-focused plans, our clarion call is clear: value and invest wholeheartedly in our workforce,” Bond stated.

Immediate strategies encompass perks such as events, wellness center partnerships, financial planning services, designated parking, and other tailored incentives. Additionally, innovative concepts like job-sharing aim to offer the classified workforce the work-life balance they covet. To further their growth, opportunities like assisting an instructional assistant’s transition to becoming a certified teacher are on the horizon.

In Conclusion

MVCSC’s collaboration with MVEF illuminates their holistic approach to education. Beyond just academic instruction, it’s about nurturing a community where each member, regardless of their designation, has a role, a voice, and a profound impact. This integrated vision promises a luminous future for MVCSC and sets a commendable precedent for institutions everywhere.

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