Sunday, February 15, 2009

Flawed recruitment, retention harming TYC morale

A retired TYC training specialist and current McLennan Community College juvenile corrections teacher, Mike Miller, offered up a guest column in the Waco Tribune-Herald yesterday ("Gritty challenges at TYC") declaring that recruitment and retention of quality staff at TYC remains the agency's central shortcoming. According to Miller:

Job stress contributes to a high turnover rate. Inappropriate staff are allowed to remain employed just to cover the shifts. Most earn the same as more competent co-workers because of the lack of job performance accountability.

This fact is noticed and resented, works as a contagion and impairs workplace morale and efficacy of TYC’s prescribed youth treatment procedures.

The solution, he says is for the agency to "hire and retain qualified, dedicated direct-care staff"; read the full column for his specific suggestions.


Anonymous said...

This is an accurate assessment of the problem, but it's not taxpayer's fault. In Ms. Townsend's latest e-mail she informs us that all state agencies are expected to cut the budget by 25%, but then announces the hiring of 5 executives that will probably never set foot on a campus long enough to see the problems, much less fix them. As long as the lege is part of the entropy of this agency, it can't be fixed

Anonymous said...

Actually that was 2.5 % but the writter is correct about moral. As a case manager with a masters degree I have to work the floor,do visitation, take youth to the bus station as well as other duties best suited for the dirct care staff. When I do these duties, I'm not doing Conextions. What she said is below, please edit if it's too long:
A lot has been happening since I last communicated with all of you. The legislative session continues to require a lot of my time as many eyes are on TYC, and numerous lawmakers have questions about our success in implementing the initiatives contained in Senate Bill 103. I want you to know that I’ve spoken to many members who appreciate the work we are doing and have promised to do whatever they can to assist us in our mission. During my meetings with both our elected officials and their staff, I share with them my observations from my visits to TYC facilities. I have personally observed so many staff engaged in the rehabilitation process with youth and making a positive difference in their lives, like Ms. Bolton who taught upper level math at RJ and Ms. Richardson who teaches language arts at Mart. Unfortunately, all those efforts are forgotten when another employee either does the wrong thing or our system breaks down in some way. That is one of the reasons that members of the legislature and their staff are asking so many questions. It is clear to me that we have to be very focused on taking the actions necessary to complete the reform efforts and to proactively identify any gaps in our system, particularly in keeping youth safe. And, we must continue to keep everyone informed about our progress.

We are fortunate that Texas has not been as severely affected by the recent economic downturn as many other states around the nation. However, all state agencies are being asked to find ways to reduce their budgets. We have already identified for lawmakers a number of cost-cutting measures we could implement without drastically affecting our ability to rehabilitate our youth. The right-sizing measures we have taken will help us in reaching our budget target for this year. Additional reductions are still necessary to operate within our budget for this fiscal year. All state agencies were also asked to make an additional 2.5% reduction this year and to identify where we would cut 10% next year if it became necessary to do so.

Three of our challenges are how we can operate within budget, produce the outcomes that are expected and which are tied to our mission, and recruit and retain staff in an environment of reform. It sometimes seems like an impossible task. It reflects well on all of you that you continue to be committed to this work, to reform and to our youth and their families. I am excited that we have also been able to recruit four new members to our leadership team to help us in our continued transformation to excellence. These are existing positions and not additional positions.

Lori Person joined us in November 2008 as Director of Government Relations. She will be helping us to organize and coordinate our responses to Legislative requests, fiscal note impact requests, and other legislative needs. Lori's experience includes working as a legislative staff member in the Texas Senate and governmental relations and strategic planning staff at several state agencies. Most recently she served as Director of Strategic, Business and Technology Planning at the Office of the Attorney General.

Last month, Dr. Clint Carpenter joined us as our new superintendent of education. He brings more than 20 years of both classroom and administration experience with him. Dr. Carpenter most recently served as an assistant professor in the College of Education at Texas Tech University, where he taught leadership classes and coordinated the school’s superintendent certification program. He has served as a Superintendent of two school districts in Texas. He received his Doctorate of Education from Texas Tech University. I’m looking forward to working with him to make our education department strong and even more responsive to the needs of our youth.

Also joining us is Toysha Martin, our new General Counsel. Toysha replaces Steve Foster, who left last month to pursue new career opportunities. Toysha most recently was senior counsel for litigation and workout at Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Prior to that, she was a deputy county attorney in the Maricopa County, Arizona County Attorney’s office, where she excelled in prosecuting all types of offenses. She was selected as the outstanding juvenile prosecutor on more than one occasion. Toysha also served as an assistant attorney general for the State of Arizona Office of the Attorney General and has worked in the Dallas County Criminal District Attorney’s Office. Toysha received her J.D. from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston. I have a great deal of faith in Toysha’s ability to make sound legal and policy decisions, and I’m certain she will be an asset we all appreciate.

Another personnel announcement concerns our Office of Inspector General. Most of you are aware that Bruce Toney is leaving TYC to rejoin the OIG at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Bruce built the OIG from the ground up and has done a remarkable job of instilling professionalism and ethics into all areas of the OIG. He will be greatly missed, and we wish him the greatest success in his new position. Fortunately, on February 17, he will be replaced as Chief Inspector General by Cris Love. Most of you already know Cris, since he has served as a Captain with the OIG since July 2007. He had primary responsibility for developing the Incident Reporting Center and has continued to supervise its implementation and on-going operations. He has also managed and supervised in the investigative program. Cris has 24 years of experience in law enforcement and criminal justice. I expect that his experience overall and his specific experience with Texas DPS-Texas Rangers Division and with the OIG will serve him well as the Chief Inspector General. Cris is a leader, a listener and a team player. Please join me in congratulating him and welcoming him to his new challenges and opportunities.

I appreciate that the vast majority of TYC employees come to work each day excited about the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of young people and to contribute to the safety of communities throughout Texas. You take advantage of opportunities to learn new skills and to become licensed providers of clinical services. You take a deep breath instead of saying something inappropriate in response to a youth swearing at you. You work both individually and as a member of a team. And, you hang in there when you're anxious about right-sizing, reform, and regionalization. The end result, our common purpose, is our mission. Thanks for all you do!

Anonymous said...

'Most importantly, the state should offer JCOs an immediate pay raise and full retirement benefits after 10 years of dedicated service that would begin at the time they terminate their state employment.'

I certainly agree with the above statement.

Anonymous said...

This article described state employment in general as the same is true for TDCJ and Child Protective Services.

Both agency turnover rates are astronomical.

Rage Judicata said...

I agree they need to be paid better and root out the bad guys.

But no way in HELL should they get retirement after ten years that starts for the rest of their life. If they start at 19, and retire at 29, the taxpayers are supposed to fund them for 50 years on just ten years' service? Bullshit.

Vest at ten years? Fine with me. But pay after retirement age.

Anonymous said...

I agree w/1111....No Way to retire at full pay with 10 years. Thats dumb and a state rip off. Morale is bad, but thats mainly because of administration policies...misuse of employees, as CW above states. Read "Raped by The State", for details of employees abuse and youth mismanagement.

Anonymous said...

"...full retirement benefits after 10 years of dedicated service that would begin at the time they terminate their state employment."

I thought maybe that was a misprint. Mike's article was informative, but he lost me to some extent with such overreach. I'd like to know his reasoning.

Additionally, case managers and program specialists might argue that they deserve the same benefit. More and more, they are called upon for direct-care work. Case managers (I believe) earn less than upper tier JCOs, and program specialists make just a hundred dollars or so more than JCO VIs.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone has to worry about the legislators giving anybody retirement benifits after 10 years or a pay raise to attract good staff. Be real nice though, I will hit that 10 year mark in the next few months.

Anonymous said...

Lets see, the economy is in the tank, the ledge is asking every state agency (but not TDCJ) to cut back 2.5 % for this quarter. Basically this is 10% of your overall budget, and you think a raise is on the horizon??

Many folks are losing their houses, jobs, etc, and this 8 billion dollar stimulus package that just passed will not create any new jobs but rather make this country the poorest of any in the next 10 years and those that have jobs should hold onto them.

I do agree a better pay would bring in better staff and retain them but this will not take place at this juncture. What we need to do is rid the agency of the corrupt staff by listening to the ones in the trenches and follow up when we hear or see something out of place.

I have not seen any real leadership from the head of residential or treatment services and this will have to occur for this agency to move forward. Ms. Townsend is working hard but needs some help from those around her rather than what she is receiving right now.

Anonymous said...

Most of the time, staff retention is not about money; more money keeps employees happy and performing for about 10 days. Retention really is about showing employees respect and being committed to their success. Sometimes a "thank you" would be nice. Frequently employers cant make necessary changes in how employees are treated because they are trapped by their own traditions and beliefs. Sometimes outsiders can help them see the details that need to change and can give them the support and courage they need to make the change.

Larry Wenger
Workforce Performance Group

Anonymous said...

I would agree Larry, but when you have to hold down two jobs to make ends meet, "Money" does make a difference on morale.

I'll take a pat on the back any day, but when I do not have to show up for the graveyard shift at Wal-mart and get to spend more time with my family, I become a happy employee. All the motivational blah, blah, blah, does not take the place of this. Money does not make the person it just makes the person able to fulfill other obligations if their lives that are important to them.

Anonymous said...

TYC has screwed so many past employees for so many years they have used up the pool of potential workers in areas where TYC facilities are located. TYC's reputation as a very bad place to work will take years to overcome.

Anonymous said...

TJPC has proposed to cut the funding for Grant H that COUNTY departments use to divert kids from TYC. They did not propose cutting any of their operational costs. They still get new positions and salary raise but screw the kids in the field who need placement, not TYC. Get ready for a spike in committments thanks to poor planning on TJPC part.

Anonymous said...

126 just nailed the problem. TYC has, over the years treated thousands of good employees with disrespect and ruined their visions of progressing, or simply being treated humanly. Money/pay increases can never replace respect and a pat on the back once in a while. Management has always blamed employees for its own failures and lost the respect of its workers, potential workers and the general public. Until the badly soiled image of TYC is corrected, money will not solve ant of TYC curent problems. The widespread abuses and poor management must be replaced.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, you really can blackball yourself out of access to the pool of good, prospective employees. It happens in private industry all the time. Then, all you have to select from are the losers that can't get a job with any of your competitors. Then, the only option you have is to raise salaries and benefits in hopes of getting access to good employees again.

Anonymous said...

With 12 caseworkers on board at West Texas and only 100 youth, how can you say TYC does not waste money? How about the three psychologists for only a few youth? Those who advocate for more money need to look around at what we already have. Our managers are wasting what money we do have for convienence. How can that be justified by Austin, ot to the legislature? How can we improve our image to the public, you ask?

Anonymous said...

Come to Al Price to see how it's employees are treated, esp the Education staff. Now that the new principal quit, yes he quit after what....9 months. Wonder why??? Try working with the assistant principal...who sleeps on the job, is a racists against white employees and is not drunk with power! You'd quit too. WAKE UP TYC, only the fools are staying!

Anonymous said...

I agree witht the previous commenter on the morale in Education at Al Price. It is at a all time low. The assistant principal who should have been termintated a long time ago is out to replace all of the caucasian faculty members with her "possie". She needs to be stopped! She is DRUNK with power! PLEASE SOMEONE STOP HER BEFORE ALL THE GOOD TEACHERS ARE OUT OF THERE. No one should have to work under that kind of stress, and if you are Black and join her crusade, you are on the chopping block too. Ms. Townsend, WAKE UP and check out the problems in Education at Al PRICE...WE ARE BEGGING YOU

Anonymous said...

I thought Townsend had an Email address where employees could send correspondence and/or complaints? I think it's

If you are referring to the VP who drove down to Sabine Pass to mooch some hurricane relief money that she wasn't entitled to, I know who you are talking about. The local news down there caught her on camera in the act! Yes, what a shining individual she is. I guess TYC admins don't keep up with the local news where their units are located.

Anonymous said...

5:55 Good luck, we have been putting up with the same stuff for many years now and I can tell you, it an't going away. They do not care what your going thru and they will tell you its the management style of your adminstrator.

Anonymous said...

Right, the management style, got TYC in a sex scandal and has caused hundreds of good employees to leave TYC. WHY doesn't Austin elites see this and do soemthing? This is TYC way of allowing their pet racists rule as they please.

Anonymous said...

Miller's article has some good ideas, but history shows that:

The Texas Legislature has always run it's institutions on a shoestring.

Agency Administrators have traditionally allowed for a greater disparity in pay levels between upper level administrators and "direct care" staff.

Hiring has retention has been based on a supply - demand model, not a competency - career ladder model.

For those who are aspiring to a long term career with advancement, it doesn't take long to see that once an individual begins to apply for positions above the $50,000 level, then it's all political and who you know. The interview process is usually "pro forma" process, i.e. "we gave you a chance to interview as policy required, now go away and don't complain, because we already know who we want to have the job, and if you become a pain, you will regret it". This is pretty much a mirror of Texas Politics in general, where those in power build their teams based on allegience and loyalty, not on professional competance or integrity.

If the legislature gave JCO's retirement after 10 years, they would have to do the same for TDCJ Officers. With no supplemental funding from the legislature (by raising taxes), that would put such a tremendous burden on the Employee Retirement System's cash flow, that the system could become insolvent.

While Miller's suggestion for a 10 year retirement is a nice idea, it's an unlikely scenario, unless there is a drastic paradigm shift in the legislature.

Until all of the dust settles around TYC's fate, the issue of JCO recruitment and retention will not be addressed in any meaningful way.

Another looming recruitment and retentions issue for TYC will be the recruitment of trained and licensed counselors, psychologists, sex offender therapist, and chemical dependency counselors for the new treatment initiatives. The current pay scale will make it a challenge to recruit these kind of folks, especially in the more rural areas of the state.

Until the Legislature puts the Texas pay scales for various state jobs more in line with the national averages for similar jobs, and Texas stops being proud that it pays some of the lowest salaries in the nation as a way of controlling taxes, not much will change, especially in the current economic climate.

Institutional culture changes come slowly because of the organizational politics that keep those decision makers with the most to loose, guarding their power over employee selection and retention. It's an integrity problems as much as anything, and that's tough to change.

Anonymous said...

That's not an $8 billion stimulus bill, it's an $800 billion stimulus bill -- and I agree. We can't spend our way out of a recession, and we can't buy honest and competent staff no matter how high the compensation or how beautiful the parachute. Having higher salaries and more liberal retirement rules won't necessarily attract better staff, but it might attract more people looking for entitlement, and we have enough of those already.

Anonymous said...

Until TYC reduces the size of Each campus with kids on this Connections program, it want matter what kind of good staff you aquire thru pay or benifits it will not be able to retain them.
This program is a good program if your working with a very small group of kids , in a group home setting. I personally can not see it working on a campus with 150-300 kids in one campus. Its not working now and it is not going to work as big as we are. Just IMO. I hope I am wrong as rain.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2/16/2009 08:34:00 PM said:
"Having higher salaries and more liberal retirement rules won't necessarily attract better staff, but it might attract more people looking for entitlement, and we have enough of those already."

That might be the case for JCO's and other staff dealing with incarceration, but education staff is a different story. TYC can't even seem to stick to their own policy as far as education salaries. Their policy states that they have to stay consistent with those salaries of the local school district regarding non-administrative salaries. However, I know of some instances where they don't, and some non-administrative education personnel haven't recieved a raise in almost three years. Consequently, the good personnel leave TYC and return to employment with the local school districts.

Anonymous said...

On the 10 year retirement, I agree that will never happen. That said, Law Enforcement and TDC correctional officers do have a 20 year early retirment. It pays alot less than what is earmed under the regular program for the same time. (RULE of 80, age plus time in service) This is what TYC would like to go under for the JCO's and case managers. The program is funded by employee, employeer contributuions and investments.

Anonymous said...

Many TYC teachers had to leave when they were forced to stop occuping youths time with crosswords. Real teaching does not happen in TYC, so many non-teachers are attracted to TYC as a hideout. Make teachers actually teach and they quickly move on. Its not about money.

Anonymous said...

Fully agree both with Larry Wenger and related comments: while it is rarely the money that motivates,it is often the lack of money (and the related stress) that demotivates. The legislature continues to set the cost of state employees at the lowest levels possible, cut every corner to avoid paying those amounts (e.g. "use it or lose it" holiday and comp time"), and requires the worst management practices possible. (As an example,cannot have 2 people occupy the same employee slot at the same time. May sound like a great idea, until you realize that means no one can be hired and trained to fill a position before the current staff leaves. Imagine trying to opeate a business that way; the purchasing clerk retires and the replacement cannot even go into the building much less the office, until the retiree is gone (and in some cases uses up vacation time etc). Remarkably, the legislature treats all state employees as cannon fodder, then expects them to act like valued and trusted parts of the team. Even when TYC was respected in the communities, too often good employees left to go to better paying jobs.

Anonymous said...

Most prior TYC employees left because they were tired of the abuse, mismanagement and poor treatment by administrators hand picked by neglegent managers in Austin. The pay is always a sore point but not the primary reason good staff move on. Its piss poor management by TYC leadership. They really don't care about the regular employee, just their team administrators who will play along with the company line.
Many observed others being abused, some were directly abused, and after being all this, the road is greener anywhere, after the TYC experience. It has changed little and will not change anytime soon. Buy into the corruption or move on.

Anonymous said...

Employees have always known there were sex abusers and criminals in their own ranks, but ignored the process opposed to stirring up the system. Background checks were faked many, many times just to secure a body. Best example - the guy with a warant out for his arrest from TDC, yet Brownwood placed him in charge of youth and he abused, sexually at least two of them. TYC management can do most anything and get away with it....its in the news even today. The system is still so warped that who wants to take a chance on it? Money cannot replace, or correct negligent supervisors...the culture will take years to change.

Anonymous said...

Customer/Employee retention, I’ve written a few applications that deal with this market so I have some exposure. Least the industry experts be naive, Jim Collins of Good To Great fame couldn’t fix tyc’s employee morale problem. This is a 120+ year old state institution whose history is all about the practice of child abuse and its cover-up. The tyc employees have been screwing children and each other since its inception. Everyone in the business knows it and nothing has ever been done about.

Regarding the issue of the vice principal at Al Price, do you people know how hard it is to get rid of a black female over 40 from a private sector business let alone a government agency? Even one that’s in your face a useless piece of crap like this vice principal y’all are talking about. Unless y’all are being racist, and if your white your guilty by skin color according to some. The tyc is a great place for anyone to build an empire, but with the changes in law and policies surrounding minorities, you just promote that type of behavior you have in the vice principal at Al Price, so if you don’t like it, find another job, cause it isn’t going away. It’s the role model for your students, lol.

On an employee related topic, what about the job description retardation that goes on with your hr people who put men and women under 30 in charge of a dorm? In example jco Spain and the idiots in hr that would hire 25 and under to work a dorm at Mountain View 2, I mean mart. Come on, most seasoned mature adults do not have the skills to deal with the manipulative tendencies of state boys, but a kid, from Waco, what are “you people” thinking? Its almost like that kid was deliberately set up, perhaps to cover for some empire building and/or child molester, perhaps a minority.

And there are policies preventing successful former state boys from talking to current state boys about how to make it in the free world.

Stop feeding the tyc monster.
Start feeding the community based programs.

Sheldon tyc#47333 II c/s

Anonymous said...

4:10 2/16...

WTSS is down to 7 CMs, only 5 of whom can work a dorm. The rest were RiFed a month ago.

But right back on the subject, the remaining 5 CMs are still being used for JCO duties. Management has been told many times over about the requirements of the new CoNextions program, yet the JCO duties continue. Enough staff exist on paper to handle everything (barely), but more and more they aren't showing up because of poor morale. They're self-fulling their fears that WTSS will be closed.

10 year retirements sound nice in a make believe world of the future (some books I read 10-15 years ago predicted we'd have 30 hour full time work weeks by now!). The 20 year retirement option for JCOs and CMs is doable and would help the recruitment/retention problem somewhat. Realigning the pay scales so that progression is smoother (Program Specialists being paid the same as or less than their subordinates is one example) could encourage more talented and dedicated people to apply for promotions and start the transformation of leadership culture to where we need to go. As many have pointed out, current leadership culture is a major component of the morale problem. The rest consists of getting the lege to back off and support us enough to get the leaders we really need and make the changes that need to occur.

Anonymous said...

I agree that morale is harmed more by management practices than by recruitment. The way this agency deals with problems is the worst possible method, go with the first possible solution that seems like it will work, rather than spending time exploring alternatives to find the best solution.

The CoNextions program could work if we had enough qualified staff to implement the highly individualized treatment modality.

I disagree with the argument about pay. there are many professional staff who would love to stay to work with this population but the mere reality of student loans and the TYC pay scale prevents it when public opportunities pay so much more.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago employes would be laughed at if they took time off for stress relief. TYC management has made this term a daily ritual, and everyone uses it to the fullest. They can't be blamed. The ones who do stick it out are misused by administrators even more (CW's doing every job imiginable), just adding more to the problem. When they assigned the chaplain as the DOS, it caued him to resign also, earlier than he had planned. Most of the problems at West Texas and other institutions are caused by bad managers, who continue on even as the place burns down. Sorry for the good staff and damn the ones in charge that has caused it all. If you do leave and are a 'team player', you get a picture and writeup in the local media disaster; if you are unliked or gripe, you leave with nothing. More great management!

Anonymous said...

Sheldon tyc#47333 II c/s 2/17/2009 04:52:00 PM said:
" you people know how hard it is to get rid of a black female over 40 from a private sector business let alone a government agency? Even one that’s in your face a useless piece of crap like this vice principal y’all are talking about."

You must be right. As I understand, Al Price had a really good principal for awhile, and he did the best he could to unload the dead wood. But, she managed to outlast even him.

Before TYC can become the shining example of juvenile rehabilitation, it will have to do something about it's reputation as a jobs bank for incompetents.

Anonymous said...

If you take out the incompetents in TYC, the staffing would be cut in half and the grievances would almost disappear!

Anonymous said...

TYC bailout... BS
What about the adult probation officers??????
BEXAR COUNTY CSCD CHIEF has pending sexual harassment, retaliation and several wrongful termination lawsuits, poor morale, high turnover and overworked and TYC gets the attention... BS.BS.BS.

Anonymous said...

Most adult probation officers sit on their butts, and this is not about your area, anyway. Go back to sleep, as you are over paid for doing just that!

Anonymous said...

The biggest part of the TYC morale problem sits in Austin. The crap that those people (leaders?), put to the field is unbelievable. Programs that don't work(CoNections), allowing youth to control the campus; stringing staff out until they break; keeping out of touch administrators and other incompetents in charge. Overacting on minor problems and not acting to correct major problems. How do we change the TYC leadership? How do we get rid of the institution management? Did I say management...correction...Chaos. Stupid can not be fixed.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

This comment string was ended because of commenters flaming individuals and making sweeping, racist (naturally, anonymous) assertions which have now been deleted. Grow up, people, and if you can't contribute constructively, DO NOT COMMENT ON GRITS.