PITTSBURG — Human Resources Consultant Jim Payne presented his findings during Monday’s board meeting.
Payne said that, while the board’s hiring process is generally sound, he does have recommendations for improvement.
Payne, who was selected to review the board’s hiring process, looked over both the general administrative hiring process and the hiring of Amy Robertson.
Payne has met with staff and anyone involved with the Robertson hiring — including the Kansas State Board of Education, and the student journalists who found the discrepancies in Robertson’s credentials.
Payne began his presentation by telling the board and the public before the review, he had never met anyone from the district and had limited contact with the board.
He presented his findings about posting the opening and commended the board for their timely and detailed job listing, but recommended the board increase the pool of candidates to provide more quality candidates through networking.
“Use PSU,” Payne said to the board. “Take advantage of what is in your backyard.”
USD250 Superintendent Destry Brown said there were only 10 applicants for the position of high school principal.
Payne said although the board knows what attributes the community and staff wish to have in a principal, it would be good to narrow those attributes to make selection easier. He also said the sharing of critical attributes with interviewees should be reconsidered.
“Sharing critical attributes gives them a chance to tailor their answers,” Payne said.
Payne made three recommendations regarding screening:
First, limiting the amount of people involved in hiring — there were over 24 people involved in the screening and interviewing during the last hire according to Brown.
Board Member Marlene Willis asked Payne what would be the recommended screening size and he said around five or six. Brown replied and said they typically have 10 to 12 during an interview.
Payne said the less people there are on the faculty committee and the more experienced these individuals have at reviewing applications and resumes, the likelihood of confidential information becoming public will be decreased.
Second, Payne suggested limiting the role of students during the hiring process.
“I have not used students during a hiring process” he said. “I’m not sure whether or not they will provide quality insight.”
Payne said although students roles should be limited, a good role for them would be during follow-up where the candidate could visit with them and display their interpersonal skills and other critical attributes.
Third, Payne recommended an internet search be used as part of screening and if discrepancies arise to speak to the individual and reference check.
Brown said the board used the internet to learn about Robertson and they found articles which raised questions about Robertson’s qualifications.
“We searched on the internet just like we do with all of our applicants,” Brown said.
However, Robertson was able at least in part to allay suspicion about her credentials.
Payne said to supplement interviews with other forms of assessment — such as public speaking and role-play. He said face-to-face interviewing would help assess the critical attributes the board is looking for and it will help the candidate demonstrate their skills rather than simple question and answer interviews — especially for high profile positions such as principals and superintendents.
The board had only video conferenced with their previous hire and were awaiting a face-to-face interview at the end of April before her discrepancies were revealed.
According to Payne, questions added to reference checks such as “why did this person leave employment” would provide more opportunities for past employers to speak on why or why not one would be a good hire.
“Give people plenty of opportunities to tell as much as they can about a person,” Payne said.
Board Member John Clark asked Payne if other school boards hire a third party to find principals. Payne said firms are not hired often to do a whole search for principals but are generally used to find qualified applicants then the board would complete the hiring process.
Willis asked Payne if he considered his recommendations easy fixes.
“Some are,” Payne said. “Some require more thought. It is a decision you will have to make.”
Brown said he had taken pride in having transparency and the inclusion of multiple viewpoints during the hiring process.
However, the board plans to discuss changing philosophy.
“I think we will have to talk about philosophy,” Brown said. “When I came to the district they wanted a consistent hiring process everybody used.
“We will have to adjust as time and policy has changed.”
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.