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School board to streamline hiring process

School District 833 is changing procedures in how it hires administrators that will "streamline the process without losing integrity," said Superintendent Tom Nelson during a school board retreat July 10.

Nelson said past procedures were the "most detailed" he'd experienced, taking longer than to get through than other districts' systems.

To speed things up, the district will cut the size of administrative search and screening committees. In the past, both committees had up to 15 members in some cases, said Mark Porter, district director of human resources and legal services.

While the district wants staff and parent participation on the committees, large committees find it harder to reach consensus and make decisions. They also tend to "preserve the status quo."

In the future, there will be limits on committee membership, Porter said, but the number is remaining flexible depending on the job being filled.

Teacher hiring procedures were also discussed but no major changes are being considered, Porter said.

The district only accepts applications through an online process.

All teachers are 'highly qualified' under No Child Left Behind federal law requirements, Nelson said.

"We get hundreds of applications," he said.

Teacher prospects take a computerized "teacher perceiver" test by telephone. The test is "fairly accurate" in predicting if teachers have the needed qualities to be in classrooms, according to Nelson.

After that the Human Resources department and a screening committee develop a list of candidates for a position through initial screening. Those who make it to final consideration and are not chosen, remain in a pool of candidates for other positions.

Nelson said substitute teachers applying for permanent positions probably have an advantage in the process.

"Overall, the process works well," Nelson said.

Board Member Leslee Boyd asked if anything can be done to improve the quality of substitute teachers.

"Some districts require in-service training," Nelson said.

The district, especially during spring when vacation days are taken, has had problems in the past having enough substitute teachers.

Nelson said Porter is "reining in" that situation."

Board Member Denise Kapler asked if the district's hiring process is getting in the way of hiring qualified minority teachers. If the process is too long, she said, they might find jobs in other districts.

"We've made a serious attempt to hire minority teachers," Nelson said. "With 22 percent of students being minority and only 5 percent of teachers being minority, we are lagging."

The shortage of minority teachers is also the case in other metropolitan districts, according to Board Member Jim Gelbmann.

Another change to the hiring process is that job candidates will be notified sooner if they are no longer in the running for positions.

In the past, there have been lulls between when a candidate is selected and when he or she agrees or rejects a contract. This delays telling other applicants they were not selected, according to a summary Porter gave board members.

It's the intent to tighten up the process and keep applicants fully informed at every stage of the hiring process, Porter said.

One issue, however, is whether internal candidates have preference when jobs are posted outside the district because they are a known quantity, Nelson told board members.

In some cases, postings for administrator positions are done internally only.

"Because of the talent pool in the district, I feel comfortable with that," Nelson said.

"You also know the negatives," said Marsha Adou, board member.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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