Sep 26, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The Cazenovia Board of Education last week filled the fifth grade teaching position in the middle school that was added the week before school started — but not until the board had a lengthy discussion over district hiring policies and whether or not the board itself should get involved in selecting position candidates. Such a change — the board currently only approves or rejects new hires put forth by the superintendent after being selected by a committee — would fundamentally alter the hiring policy and give the board a responsibility that is currently held only by the superintendent.
“It’s my job to recommend who we hire,” said Superintendent Bob Dubik. “If you take that job from me that’s a difficult road you’re going down.”
The issue was broached at the board’s Sept. 16 regular meeting during a vote on personnel approvals, one of which was the hiring of the new fifth grade teacher, Vicky Gilliland. Gilliland is a 2008 graduate of Cazenovia High School, a 2012 graduate of Niagara University and was previously employed at the Syracuse Academy of Sciences.
Board member Leigh Baldwin asked Dubik why, in a field of more than 70 candidates for the fifth grade position, the district selected someone with only one year of teaching experience. He said the district seems to be hiring people based on lack of experience and therefore a lower starting salary rather than hiring the best candidate in the field who may cost a little more.
“Experience does matter … It’s easier to judge someone with a track record,” Baldwin said. “I’d like to make sure as a board we have a policy on this.”
Board member Cindy Bell Tobey agreed, and noted, “This is the third time we’ve hired right out of college.”
Last month, the board approved a new fourth grade teacher and new high school English as a Second Language teacher — one was a first-year teacher and the other had only a few years of teaching experience in a private school.
Dubik explained the hiring process to the board and said the process is not as simple as basing it on salary. He said the district first posts the job opening internally to see if anyone in the district wants it; if not, they post it externally and the building principal receives the applications. The principal then creates a hiring committee comprised of teachers and administrators who narrows the field down to the three top candidates. Those candidates teach a lesson to the committee, after which the final decision is made. The committee makes its recommendation to the superintendent, who makes his recommendation to the board. The board then approves or rejects the recommended candidate.
Dubik said the teachers and administrators who make up the hiring committee know “who and what” they want in a teacher, and he trusts their expertise and their process. In response to a question from board member Kathy Hahn, he said there was no salary restriction placed on the hiring committee.
Board President Pat Vogl and member Karin Marris both agreed with Dubik and said they, as a school board, are not teachers or administrators and do not have the expertise that the hiring committee has. Marris said the Cazenovia district has a record of “great teachers and staff” and very few personnel problems, all chosen through the current process.
Board member Jan Woodworth said Baldwin seemed to be looking at the issue through his business background rather than through an education perspective. She said candidates freshly out of college often bring “certain advantages” to the job that teachers farther away from college do not. She said the fifth grade teachers and middle school principal are “forming a team” and know what they are looking for in a team member, which often can be “qualities that are not found on paper.”
Board member Lisa Lounsbury said some district prefer young teachers to older ones. Woodworth agreed and said that some districts see younger teachers as easier to “mold.”
Baldwin said he just did not understand the thought of hiring a person with little or no experience over someone with years of experience, and he believes the board’s personnel committee should review all new hire applicants the way it reviews all candidates for tenure.
Dubik, who appeared frustrated by the suggestion of board intervention in new hires, repeated his faith in the hiring committee and its processes, and said, “There’s so much more to this, so many variables. It’s not an exact science.”
“I think you’re going down a slippery slope,” Vogel said to Baldwin.
“I agree,” said Woodworth.
The board agreed to discuss the issue more at its October meeting.
The board voted 5-2 to approve the proposed personnel approvals, with Baldwin voting no and Marris abstaining.
Also at the meeting, the board:
—Heard from Len Carrissimon, the district’s external auditor, that the district had a clean audit with no financial issues, no disagreements between the auditor and “no major issues.” Carrissimon did say — in a statement that echoed what assistant superintendent for business and finance Bill Furlong has been telling the board for months — that the district has seen a “significant decline” in its fund balance as a result of a yearly practice of using reserve funding to plug gaps in the overall budget. He said the district is not making irresponsible spending choices but is seeing the effects of increased costs and reduced state and federal aid. Carrissimon said, and Furling agreed, that the reserve funds are going to run out in one to two years if circumstances do not change.
“Our goal is to watch the spending and see where the budget takes us next year,” said board President Pat Vogl in response to the audit report.
—Heard from the principals of all three district buildings that the opening of the 2013-14 school year during the week of Sept. 4 was very smooth and positive all around.
—Heard from Athletic Director Mike Byrnes that the Otselic Valley school district approached him about have the two districts combine their modified wrestling schedules to practice and attend meets together. Byrnes said Otselic Valley would change its schedule to match Cazenovia’s and Otselic’s coach would be a “supervisor” to the Caz team. The partnership would allow the two districts to split referee costs and would give Cazenovia wrestlers “more variety” in who they wrestle.
—Heard from Vogl and Tobey about their meeting with BOCES Superintendent Jody Manning concerning the process to begin the search for a new Cazenovia district superintendent. They said the board needs to determine a candidate profile for what type of superintendent they want, and should start looking at when and how often the board should meet to work on the details of the search process. The board scheduled at executive session to discuss the issue for Oct. 1.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.