Spring To Mind--Staff Newsletter February 2007

Monday, February 19, 2007 9:35 AM | Allie Maloney

Spring to Mind

Co-written by the board of the NOLS Instructor Association

February 2007

The mission of the NIA is to communicate and advocate instructor views,

working within the NOLS community to promote the school’s mission and values.


Congratulations, and welcome, to NOLS’ newest future instructors; those just off the Sailing Instructor Course in Mexico.


Recent points of focus

NOLS’ 2007 budget was based on 4% growth.  Though the school missed the fall enrollment target and we’re a bit behind on spring enrollment, most other areas look good.  After reviewing the budget, employee survey, and SRDR recommendations:


∑ This year, base and intermediate field staff are eligible for part-time health reimbursement if they work 13 weeks (a change versus 15 weeks in the past), and take and pass at least one training seminar, and commit to working in their prime season.

∑ The school absorbed most of the increase in health care premiums.

∑ The payroll budget line was increased.

∑ The pay range increased for all starting positions at the school.


These are the signs of a fiscally healthy organization that is putting funds towards compensation and benefits to their employees based on feedback they have solicited.  Though compensation remains an important area for change at the school, the NIA continues to be encouraged by the will, and the concrete steps taken, by the administration to address these issues.  We look forward to continued initiative towards increasing wages throughout the school.


The Noble Hotel renovation is done.  The third floor, reserved for field staff, is in operation with nice new kitchen facilities.


The school completed its largest capital campaign ever, one month early, and exceeded the fundraising goal.  Instructors have mentioned the desire for endowed faculty chair positions. Will this be a new fundraising goal for the school?


Staff Recruitment Development and Retention committee, part 2

The primary outcome of the first meeting of this second SRDR committee is that Field Instructors are currently being encouraged to fill out a questionnaire (at surveymonkey.com), which explores topics that weren’t addressed in depth in the Morehead surveys.  This new questionnaire attempts to speak more directly to instructor concerns.


With this survey the SRDR’s field staff subcommittee hopes to gather information, moving towards data-driven recommendations to be announced in March.  Their discussions have focused on recruitment, development and retention of staff in general, and specifically in response to the results of the Morehead survey.  They focused on pay, compensation, program supervisors, gain sharing, recognition and communication.


More points from the SRDR meeting:

∑ Gain Sharing: Discussion of the 42 days that staff need to work to meet gain sharing and a look at recommending a change.

∑ Developing a report structure for improved communication regarding compensation.

∑ Program Supervisors and the positive impact the position has on field staff.

∑ Discussed methods for retention and recruitment.

∑ Continued increases in program supervisor pay so field staff have an incentive to take program supervisor positions.

∑ Discussed developing a program only for program supervisors that their in-town work would be recognized for field weeks.


A big thank you to Sam Talucci, former NIA president, and current instructor extraordinaire, who is the NIA representative to the new SRDR committee.


At the time this is being written, the surveymonkey.com questionnaire is closing, with responses from about 266 Field Instructors.  The number of Field Staff who completed the Morehead study this summer was 257.  NIA membership often hovers around this mark as well, about half the number of instructors who work in a year.  What does this mean?


2006 NIA Web Communication in Review

This year saw a substantial volume of e-mail communication on the NIA member’s Yahoo “listserve”/website, a forum open to all NIA members.  It's the primary venue for discussing NIA business, including responses to current and proposed NOLS policies and practices, and sharing information with other instructors.


Among the message topics posted this year were:

∑ International and socio-economic diversity at NOLS

∑ Reports and Updates from the NIA Board and President

∑ Discussions of the travel plan and compensation for field staff, as well as retention of Program Supervisors

∑ Ecological issues across the school, and a call for action

∑ Suggestions, responses and reminders surrounding the SRDR, Morehead and Surveymonkey initiatives

∑ A poll of all members regarding banning tobacco products on courses

∑ Information regarding excess revenue and the financial state of NOLS

∑ Accounts of personal experiences working as field instructors at NOLS and making the decision to move on


By far the topics receiving the highest number of posts were the discussions of:

∑ What makes field instructors feel valued as employees

∑ NOLS Pro, and the ethics of military partnerships


We look forward to another year of communication and networking in cyberspace.  We encourage all instructors to become members of the NIA, to sign up to the Yahoo site, and to participate actively in the forum.  We would especially like to hear ideas on where you would like to see the NIA investing energy in 2007, and any new topics of discussion you would like to share with your fellow instructors.  If you haven't already, please consider joining the NIA and sharing your voice.


Inside the NIA

The NIA had 226 members at the end of 2006 (42% of active field staff).  Memberships end with the calendar year, so we are in the midst of our January membership drive.  We have over 100 members through 2007, and some as far ahead as 2009.  In recent years we’ve been able to add 130-205 members between January and June; we’re aiming for our all-time (2004) record of 307.


However, over 100 memberships expired at the end of December, please check http://360.yahoo.com/nia_nols to see if you’re one of them.  If you teach one course at least every two years, please consider a two or three year membership, it’s more efficient for everyone.  To give you an idea:

∑ The NIA truly needs to have about 300 members every year to break even.

∑ If we fall short of this goal we need to dip into our Canadian Oil Sands stock (kidding!), which means we are a less resilient organization in the future (not kidding).

∑ This winter we are also contributing travel expenses for the NIA representative on the SRDR committee.


NIA Board

Your elected NIA board members (ask them about it, the next time you see them) through 2007 are:

∑ Jaime Musnicki

∑ Pat Mettenbrink

∑ Jake McArthur

∑ Jake Freed

∑ Sarah Annarella

∑ Frederik Norsell (New Zealand representative)

∑ Diego Allolio (South American representative)

∑ Mike Clelland (membership driver/Teton Valley representative)

∑ Matt Lloyd (treasurer)

∑ Les Van Barselaar (Vice-president / Mexico representative)

∑ Tomas Amodio (through 2008)

∑ Alison Frost (through 2008)


Toby Harper has come to the end of his two-year term as president of the NIA.  “It has been an excellent experience for me, an honour to have the responsibility of representing my fellow instructors, and of working with NOLS administrators and trustees.”  Are you the next NIA President?  The NIA is actively seeking presidential candidates.  This is an exciting leadership opportunity at the school and a way to interact with NOLS instructors, administrators and trustees in a whole new way.


Consider running for the presidency or nominating a candidate; the president should be an active instructor, but not necessarily one that works 25 weeks per year.  Please note, the NIA president generally receives a stipend of $5000 per year, and holds a two year position.  If you would like to know more about this position, please contact Toby Harper at toby_harper@nols.edu


As always, the above report reflects the views of the NIA board which attempts to represent our membership.  Please do not hesitate to contact us with your comments or questions.  Thanks and take care,


The NIA Board.

Think creatively.

Act collectively.

Join the NIA.

The mission of the NIA is to communicate and advocate instructor views and to work within the NOLS community to promote the school's mission and values

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