School & District Management Letter to the Editor

Cost-Cutting Measures Have Caused ‘Ad Hoc’ Hiring Practices

January 02, 2015 1 min read

To the Editor:

University of Washington Bothell research professor Dan Goldhaber’s statement that “hiring by school systems in this country looks to be pretty ad hoc” struck a chord with me. In many U.S. school districts, the position of human resources administrator (in charge of hiring) has been downsized, eliminated, redistributed, or otherwise fragmented.

In my own auditing of human resources operations in many school districts, I have found evidence that this “ad hoc” descriptor is unfortunately accurate: Recruiting is outsourced; screening of applications is cost-center-based; research-based techniques do not guide interviews; interview teams are not uniformly trained or coached; and the continual annual layoff of nontenured teachers leaves wide holes in succession planning in educational environments.

We can add administrative turnover to this cacophony of inefficiencies. The lack of academic graduate programs designed to improve selection processes at universities and other confounding crosscurrents—such as budget shortfalls, transfer language in collective bargaining agreements, and the new exhaustive and time-consuming evaluation systems that have arrived in the Race to the Top overlay—result in the kind of catch-as-catch-can hiring and retention systems that are so often found in districts where the human resources department has been dismantled and reassigned. Its loss is felt.

There is no blame here. Everyone is trying to do things right.

To compensate, many districts use mentoring programs. These are beginning-teacher programs, peer-reviewed with targeted coaching. However, in districts with a full-time human resources director, these efforts tend to be aligned with student needs and focus on the long haul to improve student learning. Sadly, with fragmented HR operations, this is less apt to occur.

Thomas P. Johnson

HR Associates

Harwich Port, Mass.

A version of this article appeared in the January 07, 2015 edition of Education Week as Cost-Cutting Measures Have Caused ‘Ad Hoc’ Hiring Practices

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