Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cart Before the Horse...Again?

Tomorrow night the HR Committee will discuss --again-- the hiring of a new position...a Human Relations and Recruitment Specialist.  The concept of the position is, and has been, quite good.  The main stumbling block that does not appear to have been removed is:  What is the plan for this position?  How can one individual single-handedly change the culture of a 1000-staff, 7,000 student school district?

This is the 3rd time the position has been discussed.  Each time, it failed not only for lack of funding, but also because the grand scheme has never been revealed.  Last fall, HR Director Annette Mikula related that of 40 new hirees, only one new teacher (2.5%) was not Caucasian.   Currently the district’s student population is about 25 percent students of color, while the staff population is 6 percent employees of color.

Hire a 1.0 FTE, 260 day per year, Human Relations and Recruitment Specialist for the remainder of the 2010-11 school year as soon as practical using the attached job description so that we will be able to build a program to address the diversity of our workforce within the SPASD.  This position would be in the Administrative Support Staff group at a salary of $55,016.00 ($26.45 per hour) per school year.  The funding will come from the un-spent, unallocated FTE that is currently in the 2010-2011 budget

Key Aspect from the District's"Minority Recruitment Plan" 
Tasks/Action Steps
13.  Propose a district level position with an emphasis on minority recruitment and retention. Responsibilities 
Executive Director of Human Resources Management Team
$42,9000 salary and benefits with a January 2009 start date
(2 years later and with our booming economy, the proposed salary increases 28.2% to $55,019

Ongoing with potential budget proposal for November 2008


1. District Commitment
If this is such a major need position....and given the single-handed responsibilities, why is it considered "Administrative SUPPORT"?  And why is the pay roughly equivalent to that of the district communications manager ($26.19 per hour as of the 2009-10 school year).   Doesn't the position description seem rather monumental?  While we're sensitive to salary costs...does  the salary reflective of commitment?
"--Develops and implements a plan to promote the cultural competence and educational practices of employees creating an inclusive learning environment for all students.
--Develops and presents new initiatives in the area of minority and high need recruitment, retention, and career development"

2. Where's the Plan, Stan?
As usual, the district offers no specifics....even after the board voted against hiring this same position last fall BECAUSE of the lack of a plan in place.
“I see the need, I see the value. It seems like we’re moving very quickly without a goal in place. I sit here with a bit of uneasiness because there doesn’t seem to be a comprehensive plan to address the issue... 
The biggest conflict I have is the budget and funding on it. The other piece of it is where have we been and where are going. I don’t have that today. If I don’t support it, it’s not because it’s not a good idea. I want to make sure we have all the pieces in place.”

Do we need to better match the diversity of our district staff and teachers to that of our students?  Unequivocally, YES.  That being said, however, the district tends to attempt to solve all of its problems one-dimensionally:   Let's throw a position at it!  The grim reality is that once a person is hired, it ceases to become a position, and instead becomes a real human being.  What if the plan doesn't come to fruition?  Do we then sever ties and send this individual packing?  It's precisely this question why board member John Welke is correct to be cautious about leaping into something without a concrete plan.  Perhaps there IS a plan...but if there is...the sun hasn't shone upon it.

Perhaps more to the point, there have been numerous side discussions that suggest that the district culture is not exactly inviting to individuals of more diverse cultural backgrounds.  These of course are sensitive discussions that the district would prefer to keep solidly locked in the dirty laundry closet.  But....these cans of worms have to be opened and not allowed to fester.  If the 3rd time is the charm, and the board decides to hire this position, the individual has to have a fighting chance of success.  Many quietly believe that old Sisyphus had a better odds.

Lastly, the inquiring public is interested in knowing of the success we have had to date with our minority recruitment and retention efforts.  A Recruitment Specialist is designed to bring minority hirees into the fold.  But then it's up to the district to have a commitment to giving these individuals the necessary tools to succeed. There have been reports of minority hirings only to have those teachers contracts not renewed.  That would be disconcerting if there is any element of truth to those rumors.  Unfortunately, we haven't seen any data from the district regarding the RETENTION of its minority hires.  Seems like that would be a good place to start.  Before we forge ahead, we need to know the level of carnage already in our wake.