Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Keep board away from hiring decisions

We have enjoyed a small but welcome break from hiring controversies in Neshaminy, but we must never lose sight of keeping politics out of the personnel process. A school district in Luzerne County has decided to do more than talk about eliminating board interference in hiring decisions; they are asking the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) to adopt it as part of its platform.

According to one board member in the Hazelton district, "School board members are neither equipped nor qualified to choose the best teachers . . . Let the people who are directly accountable for our children’s education choose the best candidates for the jobs.”


Bill Spitz and I have been fighting against this in Neshaminy for years, and we have opposed formation of a Board-level Personnel Committee. Some Board members are indifferent about this issue while others think the Board should determine who gets a job. Just a couple years ago, one Board member said that the superintendent should present their top 3 choices for a position to the Board and allow them to make the final decision. Smells like a recipe for disaster to me.

Thankfully this hasn't been an issue here recently but keep an ear out for discussions on "personnel committees" or any time important job openings are being filled. Let's make sure that the people making the hiring decisions are the ones qualified to do so.



acs said...

I am completely supportive of this. However if we agree on this I would also like to see boards take a very vocal and proactive position in pushing for merit based pay and separation of many failing and lazy teachers that survive due to tenure and the inability to get fired for performance.

Rebecca said...

Talk about our darkest days! Let's not have a repeat of what happened last year. I admired you and Mr. Spitz for taking this issue head on last year when there was board interference in an administrative appointment, but I have to say it was very uncomfortable to watch. You gentlemen did the right thing but I hope we never have to see that again.

swelle said...

We won't see that again because of what they did. Did you notice that there was a change in board leadership since that time? Have you noticed the change in how the board behaves in front of the public? Do you think that's a coincidence? This kind of crap has been going on for years and the only way to stop it is to stand up to it.

Wing Man said...

Merit based pay? Firing ineffective teachers? We can't even get the union to agree to kick in for benefits. There is no way the board can sneak that into this contract. These are good ideas but they'll have to wait for the next contract assuming there ever is a settlement on this one.

Reality Check said...

Very ironic that you post this the same week interviews concluded for 2 vacant admin. positions at the high school. Does this have anything to do with a certain "vocal taxpayer" (and father of an applicant) being spotted dining with a school board member Sat. night? If it smells like a rat..........??

William O'Connor said...

Sorry to disappoint you RC but the timing of this post is coincidental only to the article referenced within.

Our Superintendent has already shared with the board the process for how candidates will be chosen for these open admin positions, and everything appears to be above board (excuse the pun). As long as the process is fair, objective and consistent, the board should support Dr. Muenker's recommendations.

FeasterVillain said...

Reality Check is teasing us. Anyone can figure out who the "vocal taxpayer" is but what about the other details? Which board member? Which restaurant? What did they eat? Did the vocal taxpayer pay for the whole meal or did they split the check?

Come on Reality Check, paint the whole picture for us. Then I want to watch the next board meeting to see who supports and who opposes Muenker's candidates.

Jake said...

How would "reality check" know that interviews just concluded for a open job unless they were a teacher. Maybe they were an applicant and they are trying to sabotage the interview process by causing doubt. Why don't you admit there was no secret dinner instead of spreading a rumor. You are not fooling anyone!

JS said...

Well Jake, the truth is that no one can speak to that dinner, but anyone can look at the publicly posted positions and figure out when the interview process will be. There are such things as "applications due" and "position filled by" dates. Thus it is very easy to figure it out.

Mr. O'Connor has edited me before on this specific issue. I will refrain from using names so that he doesn't have to do it again. With that being said for most people who keep up with Board meetings over the years, it isn't very hard to figure out who Reality Check would be referring to. Also since said person could be directly connected to these openings by a prospective (again I don't know if they even applied) applicant things could be very cozy.

With all that being said Mr. O'Connor I do think you have to agree with people being uneasy about hiring practices. There was a very public disagreement about a hire a couple of years ago. That leaves the public a little leery that the process might not be above board. I guess we'll just have to see the outcomes of the hiring process and see if anything seems "fishy".

William O'Connor said...

The public has every right to be concerned about Neshaminy's hiring practices, and it is up to District Administration and this Board to ease those concerns.

The District will utilize first and second-level interview teams, with each interviewer completing a separate scoring matrix of each candidate. Dr. Muenker will share the results of the scoring along with the Team's recommendations to the Board.

While the interview process is established, what I cannot guarantee is what board reaction will be to Admin's recommendations. From my standpoint if the process was fair, then I (we) should support Admin's choice - no matter who it is. But as we've seen in the past, some board members may have opinions of their own.

The public should watch the next meeting carefully and observe the discussion/vote of the personnel report which should include candidates for open positions. If everything goes smoothly, which I suspect it will, you can feel reasonably comfortable that the process worked. If people have questions about the process, they should address it before the full board to receive an official response.

If you're familiar with this blog at all, you know I have been critical of the hiring practices in the past. Right now, I am comfortable with the process that is being employed by District Admin. Stay tuned for our August meeting to see how everything shakes out.

FeasterVillain said...

I'll just be watching to see if you know who comes up to the microphone. If he complains about the process, then you know everything went just right.

Some people only complain about those things they no longer control.

JS said...

Well "rumor" has it that a certain person and their connections will be disappointed by the personnel choices. (Again I don't even know if they applied, just hearing roughly who the people chosen by Muenker are)

If it happens again where recommendations by the Administration are made, yet certain Board members go their own way, you should call them on it. Blatantly. Hopefully you won't have too, but you never know.

William O'Connor said...

The last time the board went against the superintendent's recommendation, there was such public outrage that I do not believe the board would do that again. The process this time was fair (as it was the last time), and there is no legitimate reason I can think of why anyone should object to the recommendations.