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Students walk through the halls of McAllen ISD’s Achieve Early College High School on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, in McAllen. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

This year’s McAllen ISD professional employee opinion survey, which trustees received a report on Monday, remained relatively on par with results from last year.

For the most part, results in the annual survey changed only by a percentage point or two, or remained the same.

In broad strokes, the central takeaway from the survey is fairly clear: employees feel strongly that the district is functioning well, but they increasingly feel like they’re not being paid enough to work there.

“I think that it just shows that the district is maintaining. We’re not really dropping, but there’s always room for growth,” Carolina Canchola, chairperson for the Joint Professional Consultation Committee, told The Monitor Tuesday.

That’s both good news and bad news for district leadership.

On one hand, the district has a lot to brag about. Most indicators remain very positive.

The survey indicates that staff largely have faith in their campus principals, that they work well with coworkers and supervisors, and that they believe they’re doing important work at the district and doing it well.

Employees think the district communicates well, feel safe and think they’re supported in several ways.

The data also shows that a fairly significant reduction in faith in district leadership — its superintendent and its trustees — indicated by last year’s survey appears to have mostly stopped sliding downward.

On the other hand, however, indicators in that area remain in a slump.

Perhaps most significantly, only 26% of employees feel they’re being paid competitively and only 34% feel they’re being paid fairly.

Both of those markers dropped 8% and are at four year lows.

The board, which held its sixth budget workshop Monday, is having a difficult time increasing pay for the second year running.

Canchola, who presented the findings to trustees, was sympathetic with the struggle.

“What a lot of teachers don’t understand is that McAllen ISD is not a rich district, even though it’s a rich town, it’s not a rich district,” she said Tuesday. “So we don’t get the kind of monies that the other districts get.”

Faith in district leadership, meanwhile, is on average about 13% lower than in 2021, when that category saw a four-year high in positive results.

Confidence in the district’s leadership acting in the best interest of students and whether leaders value employees only ticked up by a few percentage points this year.

Whether employees view leaders as honest and trustworthy went down a percentage point.

Superintendent J. A. Gonzalez told trustees that the numbers still indicate a long term improvement if you consider numbers from over eight years ago.

Then, he said, the percentage of employees responding positively to those three leadership categories usually numbered in the 60s. This year’s report averaged out to a percentage in the 70s.

“So, consistently in the 60s to consistently in the high 70s, 80s … we have a lot of work to do, but we’re better than we’ve been,” Gonzalez said.

The reduction in those scores remains a concern for at least some trustees on the board — four out of seven of which are newcomers elected after the survey was conducted.

“I do feel that we do have a lot of issues as a board and as a team to address,” Trustee Erica De La Garza Lopez said. “But what kind of balances that out, is it makes me happy that teachers are comfortable in their home campuses with their leadership there. So that makes me feel a lot better.”