Continuous Connections = Continuous Improvement

If you ever watched “ER” or “House” on TV, you know that the richest and most meaningful dialogue always took place when the doctors and nurses were on their “rounds.”

It should come as no real surprise then, that when Bayfield schools adopted the “Rounding” practice as part of the school district’s Continuous Improvement Initiative, conversations between school leaders and staff members became richer and more meaningful as well.

It's a way to find out what they're doing and thinking, and make personal connections,” Bayfield Primary School Principal Jan Alderton said.

Administrators in all of Bayfield’s schools are using rounding as a systematic way to ensure that they are checking in with all staff members on a regular basis, and Alderton said she and BPS Dean of Students Savannah Baird have both embraced the program and are already discovering its benefits.

“Implementing the rounding cycles has given Savannah and me relationship building opportunities,” Alderton reasoned. “We do a lot with different groups of staff and we do midyear reviews and observation meetings, but this has given us a platform for truly engaging with people.

As adopted by the school district, rounding requires administrators in each building or department to periodically touch base with each individual staff member and record their responses to five questions:


What's working well?

What challenges are you facing?

Do you have the resources and support that you need?

What can I do to help you?

Who has been helpful to you?


The answers to those questions are valuable to administrators because they often reveal challenges or concerns that would otherwise only be apparent to staff.

“I’m trying to hear that from my staff and acknowledge it,” Alderton said.

She noted that it is also important for those staff members to know that something is actually being done with the information they are providing to their leaders, and Alderton said she and Baird are keeping track of the responses and even plan to summarize and share them with their team.

“Savanah and I meet and put all of the rounding on a Stoplight Report,” Alderton explained. “We are going to present it to our staff during professional development and talk about what we are doing with the information.

The Stoplight Report sorts the feedback administrators receive during their rounding sessions into three categories. Items given a green light are those that were easily accomplished or addressed, and red light items are those over which there is no apparent control or obvious solutions. Yellow light items are those issues for which possible remedies have been identified, but those solutions are still in-progress.

“Pretty much everything is in the yellow,” Alderton said, indicating that one item from the first session of rounding was moved to green while another was acknowledged as a “red.” Many of the in-progress, or “yellow,” items represent common concerns or challenges pointed out by more than one respondent, and the BPS leadership team is eager to share those with the entire staff to see if they can collaborate on improvements.

“Especially in the challenges we are looking for common threads, and I want to share them publicly so we can address them with everyone,” Alderton said.

She admits that nobody is entirely certain what the next step will look like exactly, but there is some shared excitement over the fact that administrators and staff members alike are eager to continue on the path they’ve started and see where the process takes them.

“I’ve never taken the next step to present this to my staff, but we’ve had a lot of discussions in administrative meetings about what is the next step,” Alderton reflected. “We also took it to our building leadership team a couple of weeks ago, and I think they were pleasantly surprised to hear that it is going further, and that there is more to this.”

The first and last assigned questions in this initial session of rounding were designed to generate positive responses, and Alderton said she appreciates the way the program encourages recognition of things that are being done well.

“When you hear from several people that the same person was helpful, then I can reach out and have a discussion with that person and let them know how much I appreciate how they’re supporting their colleagues,” Alderton said, indicating that thank you cards are written to every person who is mentioned as being helpful to another staff member.

Positive reinforcement for team members who go above and beyond is nothing new at Bayfield Primary School, but the rounding sessions have made those moments more frequent and regular.

“We have a ‘Shout Out Box’ and at staff meetings we let everybody pull one out of the box. It’s there, and it has always been there, but how often it happened was minimal,” Alderton explained. “Taking that five minutes to stop and fill out a card and get it to a person is hard. This is a busy and pretty stressful line of work, and every minute counts, so giving teachers time during a staff meeting allows them to take those steps they’ve been thinking about but haven’t had the time to do.”

The feedback that Alderton and Baird have received from their rounding exercises has also helped identify and develop leadership in the building.

“I have a theme that everybody here is a leader, and you don’t have to have the title to exhibit leadership,” Alderton said. “Rounding helps us notice more what is happening behind the scenes, and who is really living out leadership.”

She believes the staff has already recognized the value of the rounding exercise, and Alderton said they even seem to be looking forward to the visits.

“Most people were very receptive to it, and when we got to them they were very excited that it was their turn,” she reported. “They realize it is a platform for being heard and for recognizing, and it also provides a way to get things off their chest.”