Engaged Families and Communities

KEYS Helps Pflugerville Schools Adapt

By Ilana Kowarski

The population of Pflugerville, Texas is ten times what it was in 1990, and the people just keep on coming. What was once a small suburb of Austin, TX is fast becoming a cosmopolitan metropolis in its own right, and combining the old with the new is hard for many community-members who remember Pflugerville as a small, country town.

The winds of change are blowing fast, and they’ve blown right through the schoolhouse door and into the classrooms of teachers stunned by the way Austin’s urban sprawl transformed local demographics. The exponential growth of the student body means that teachers have more crowded classrooms and more papers to grade. And that’s not all.

The influx of students has also introduced another challenge: racial integration. In the face of increasing diversity in a Southern community in which whites were once the clear majority, local educators now have the moral imperative to ensure that public schools provide equal opportunity for all.

Initially, educators in Pflugerville Independent School District were overwhelmed by the task ahead. They wondered: How should they adjust to the increased demand on the public school system? How could they repair the work relationships that had been strained by the frustration and resentment borne of rapid change?

With the help of the NEA, they found the answers to these questions by asking their own community to propose solutions to the problems Pflugerville schools faced.

Their approach was simple. Through NEA’s KEYS program, they surveyed teachers, administrators, parents, school board members and others in the community to see how they thought the school system should be fixed. The result was a goldmine of valuable suggestions on how to adapt Pflugerville schools to accommodate the stampede of new students.

Though the KEYS survey was only done this year, educators have already introduced major reforms to address problems revealed by the survey data, such as a lack of respect between teachers and administrators. And many people say that Pflugerville schools have already been transformed.

“I believe that KEYS has strengthened our administration and Pflugerville Educators Association’s connection,” says Deann Henley, a Pflugerville teacher & NEA local president. “It has given us the ability to have a two-way conversation, rather than it being one-way, where Pflugerville Educators Association calls the administration. They’re actually calling our association and saying, ‘Hey, we have this need. Can we work on this?’”

Pflugerville parent Kelley Forbes says that Pflugerville should be an example for other schools in need of reform. The survey approach is the best way to engage the community in the work of change, she says.

“I think it’s very important that parents and teachers work as a team, she says. “That’s the only way we can succeed in creating these great little humans – these educated children.”

To watch the full story on how KEYS is making a difference in Pflugerville, check out the video below.

Pflugerville, TX – Empowering Educators from Green River on Vimeo.

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