Charleston County Superintendent Nancy McGinley earned her highest marks ever from the district’s teaching force this year, according to a recent survey by the Charleston Teacher Alliance.

Seventy-five percent of respondents to the teacher advocacy group’s questionnaire said McGinley was an effective leader, an increase of five percentage points from last year. Her ratings improved in the five areas surveyed, including eliminating nonessential spending, seeking teacher input, and visibility and accessibility to teachers. Her best rating was for effectively communicating with teachers, with 79 percent of teachers agreeing she did so.

“She has good interpersonal communication skills,” said Kent Riddle, chairman of the alliance and a kindergarten teacher on Johns Island. “She’s easy to talk to and presents herself well. In the past, we haven’t had superintendents who were good in that area.”

The alliance surveyed the district’s 3,500 teachers on school climate and administrative leadership, and more than 1,400 responded.

Riddle said McGinley’s ratings likely would be even higher if she would do more to address teachers’ workload concerns. Seventy-five percent of teachers said they thought the district could make changes to reduce teachers’ workload without jeopardizing student achievement.

“I really wish they would do something there,” Riddle said. “Those numbers keep growing. I don’t think most administrators or teachers outside of the classroom understand how much work teachers are taking home.”

Riddle served on a committee of teachers and administrators who met for about a year talking about ways to reduce teachers’ workload. None of the committee’s recommendations have been implemented, he said.

McGinley disagreed, saying she’s met with principals and asked them to be respectful of teachers’ personal time. Some of the committee’s recommendations involved making blanket mandates for what should happen in schools, and she said she wouldn’t mandate a one-size-fits-all policy. She also wants principals’ input, she said.

“We are willing to work with them,” McGinley said. “But working with a committee is always a compromise, and there would have to be teachers there representing different points of view. The door is not closed.”

Riddle said more than half of the emails he receives are concerns related to teachers’ workload, and 63 percent of survey respondents reported working more than 50 hours each week.

“When you don’t see anything coming out to fix it, I don’t think it shows appreciation or respect for teachers’ time,” he said.

On her personal efficacy scores, McGinley said she saw those as a cumulative reflection of her work for the past several years. Teachers value having a stable and constant leader, and they understand that she supports them, she said.

“I’m very humbled by the scores … and I’m proud of the work,” she said. “This isn’t a new attitude that I’ve adopted this year; it’s been my mantra for the last five years. Teachers are most important in our organization, and that’s where we have to throw all of our support.”

Riddle attributed the boost in McGinley’s scores in part to her commitment to increase teachers’ salaries in the upcoming school year’s budget. McGinley has proposed giving teachers an additional two-step increase for years of experience, as well as a 2 percent cost of living adjustment. Teachers also appreciated receiving the bonuses during winter break, Riddle said.

“People are happy with her coming out on the salary issue and explaining that if we want to have quality schools, we have to have quality teachers,” he said.

McGinley said she was pleased with the overall positive ratings most principals and school climates received, and she said she would follow up with schools where that wasn’t the case.

She also planned to check on schools where teachers reported not having a duty-free lunch, another question included in the survey. McGinley promised duty-free lunches at least once each week, but 26 percent of those surveyed reported that wasn’t happening in their schools.

Reach Diette Courrégé at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.