Exeter-Milligan faculty and staff posed for a photo at the HUMANeX conference in Kalamazoo, Mich. Pictured from the left are: Denice Kovanda, Laura Kroll, Marla Weber, Katherine Roemmich, Laura Steuben, Treven Cerveny, Lisa Soukup, Shelli Mueller and Paul Sheffield.
Two years ago Exeter-Milligan Superintendent Paul Sheffield “had a gut feeling that things just didn’t seem right” with the staff, faculty and students in the school district.
Around that same time Sheffield was at an administrator’s day and was introduced to the vendor HUMANeX which help companies and schools evaluate their relationships and community.
HUMANeX examines the entity and according to their proposal objective they are “creating and driving sustained excellence in organizations through expert education, equipping and execution to impact key outcomes in a significant and sustained manner.”
The district hired the company to come into both the elementary, middle and high school and Sheffield and Exeter-Milligan Principal Laura Kroll are both enthusiastic about the work that HUMANeX has done at Exeter-Milligan. Kroll explained, “They evaluate the culture of your school and help you to find a direction and set goals each year. The biggest help for us is the survey they do of all the staff, not just the teachers. They collect information and from that information tell you where you areas of need are and where your strengths are.”
HUMANeX doesn’t just evaluate and spit out reports. They have been very hands on in their evaluations according to Kroll, “They meet with the staff without the administrators there to talk about the things that are their concerns and the directions they want to go.”
HUMANeX has designed surveys with over 100 questions that the faculty and staff have answered during professional development time. Kroll shared that the information from the surveys really “opens up the conversation, and creates a dialog and a partnership. This creates a change of culture so everyone understands and is working toward the same goal. It also gives everyone an opportunity to voice their opinion.”
Fourth grade teacher at Exeter-Milligan, Shelli Mueller, feels the district has benefited with the HUMANeX experience, “I think there was some disconnect there (between administrators and faculty). This has narrowed our focus as a group and helped us see what needs to be worked on. It really showed what our strengths are and what we need to work on especially with new staff in Milligan.”
Last year, between teachers resigning and changing campuses, four new teachers were hired for the Milligan campus.
Mueller added, “Having two sites it is important to see how we can improve our communication. We met at the end of the school year and HUMANeX was impressed with the improvement in our numbers, but we told them we could do better. We are a motivated group.”
“It’s really a way for us to get a pulse on the organization as a whole and makes improvements,” explained Sheffield.
Kroll noted that communication was the primary goal that “rose to the top through the survey. The K-6 goals were that ‘Our team effectively communicates with each other’ and ‘I feel in on things that are happening at E-M public schools.’”
Similar goals were revealed through the 7-12 survey’s with them sharing the top goal of effectively communicating with each other. Their second overall goal was ‘I am on a team that encourages each member to surpass expectations.’
These goals are those that HUMANeX found through the survey given to all of the teachers.
HUMANeX seems to have enjoyed the relationship with Exeter-Milligan as well and invited the administrators to their annual conference in Kalamazoo, Mich. “We were first invited as participants and then HUMANeX met with some of our elementary staff and they wanted all of them to come to Kalamazoo.”
In June, nine teachers and staff at Exeter-Milligan took the HUMANeX sponsored trip to Kalamazoo as well as Sheffield, Kroll and Guidance Counselor Denise Kovanda presented at the conference. Sheffield emphasized that the positive responses he received from representatives of large corporations after the presentation confirmed that the district was seeing the results of their interactions with HUMANeX.
While the Exeter-Milligan administrators presented at the conference, the teachers served as a panel for the session. Mueller enjoyed fielding questions from the audience.
Mueller thought the Kalamazoo leadership conference was “amazing. We listed to awesome speakers. It was one more way to bring our district together. We were one of the few groups from a school that brought nine.”
Recently, the Exeter-Milligan school board completed a survey tailored to their relationships and trust level. In the next phase, Exeter-Milligan will utilize HUMANeX with their coaches and student athletes. The long term goal, according to Sheffield is to do a community survey, “We would love to be a pilot school and community for HUMANeX. They haven’t done an entire community yet.”
Kroll agreed, “I think it’s a great way to get everybody on the same page working toward the same goal and making sure that your school is growing.”
During the conference HUMANeX recognized the progress at Exeter-Milligan calling Sheffield on stage and presenting him with a set of John Gordon books.
“Our ultimate big picture goal is helping Exeter-Milligan be the place to be We want people from the outside say, ‘I want my kids to go there or I want to go there,” explained Sheffield. “This has helped with growing our culture and the internal growth and at the same time knowing that you can’t be complacent.”