North Sanpete looks at changing hiring policy
Proposal could change policy requiring district to hire ‘from within,’ if possible
MT. PLEASANT—Discussion about changing a district policy favoring hiring from within stirred debate between North Sanpete School District’s (NSSD) board members and the North Sanpete Education Association (an affiliate of the Utah Education Association) at the school board meeting held Tuesday, Sept. 20.
Ultimately, the board decided to check with other rural districts to see how they handle the issue before making a decision.
Current policy states if the district is unable to find a “qualified” candidate within, it can go outside the district to seek applicants for a given position.
A district official said the district and school board started looking at a possible change toward the end of the last school year at the time the position of principal at Fairview Elementary opened up.
But because the school board has a longstanding policy of not making policy changes over the summer when teachers may not be available to react to the changes, no action was taken. Meanwhile, the district hired an internal candidate to fill the Fairview position.
The board resumed consideration of the policy change at the Sept. 20 meeting, which was the first meeting after school started. Coincidentally, the district had recently opened another high-level position, a directory of special education working out of the district office. So far, the position has only been advertised internally.
Educators at the school board meeting said the timing of resumption of discussion of the policy change them suspicious.
Some employees have said they are beginning to feel that the board already has an out-of-district candidate in mind for the special education position and fear their opportunity for advancement could be stripped away, said Cindy Johansen, a North Sanpete Middle School teacher and co-chairwoman of the North Sanpete Education Associaton.
“I don’t want to know I have been passed over because someone had ‘this’ credential or ‘this’ piece of paper on the wall who knows nothing about my district, my kids and my community,” Johansen said.
She said the term “qualified” is sensitive because it is subjective. She said the verbiage in administrative policies defining the term is “demeaning” and makes teachers within the district feel undervalued.
“We’ve been told we’re not good enough, we’re not qualified enough and we’re substandard, which isn’t flying well with anybody,” Johansen told the school board.
“When you say you’ve got to go somewhere else to hire ‘qualified’ people, it’s demoralizing. If you change that policy, it just says, ‘We’re not really sure.’ So I don’t know that we need to change the policy, maybe just follow the (existing) policy, so if you can’t find someone in-house, then you go outside.”
North Sanpete High Principal Nan Ault and North Sanpete Middle School Principal O’Dee Hansen agreed with Johansen and said a policy change could affect morale, especially with people who have put in years of service to improve their schools and communities.
But Rich Brotherson, school board president, said a position needed to be filled soon (by inference the special education job) and only a few district employees who had applied met the qualifications.
He argued that a deeper pool of candidates, which might be obtained by advertising outside the district, is better than having only a few when it comes to the well being of students.
He reminded educators in attendance that the district had followed the internal hiring rule in filling every administrative position over the past decade, with the exception of one principal.
School board member Robert Garlick supported the education association position and said the district could be a better place if teachers felt trusted and knew they had opportunities to advance from within.
School board member Greg Bailey saw it differently and said leaving the policy alone would paint the board into a corner if they wanted to rehire a former NSSD employee who went elsewhere to further their skills, then later wanted to return to the district as a more valuable asset.
Even if internal and external candidates submitted their resumes at the same time, Superintendent Sam Ray said the proposed policy change would give “preference” to qualified district employees.
“Perception is people’s reality,” Ray said to the board and all in attendance, “and our teachers need to know they are valued.”