Teacher Hiring Bill Becomes Contentious|Southern Education Desk
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A proposed education law in Louisiana concerning the ability of school boards to hire teachers and other educators is becoming a contentious issue.
The bill would remove school boards from the process.
School superintendents are responding favorably to the bill, but it is not sitting well with some school board members.
A number of Monroe City School Board meetings over the past year have featured discord about personnel decisions.
Monroe City School Board Member,
“It’s going to change considerably if they give all the power to the superintendent, yes. It’s going to change a lot. And I really, really think it’s going to be real hard on the district when you give that much power to one person.”
Louisiana’s Superintendent of Education, John White, who supports the bill says that the current hiring procedure is overly politicized.
“Hiring and firing of teachers, principals and other educators is a political process and not a process about student achievement. And this law empowers managers: superintendents and principals – to make decisions about personnel rather than politically elected school boards.”
Former member of the state board of education, Leslie Jacobs agrees. She says the new law would definitely confer more power on superintendents.
“The dynamic, if this legislation passes, is not just that board members wouldn’t meddle, but that the superintendent has more authority to deal with the principals and the administrators underneath him or her.”
But how much this will actually change things depends on the district. Bob Webber is the superintendent of Ouachita Parish schools. He says hiring has never been an issue with his board.
“I think that most board members realize now – I know that mine do in Ouachita Parish that personnel is the responsibility of the superintendent. And I’ve not had the kinds of problems that I’ve heard about in other districts. But that’s really as it should be – and as far as hiring teachers in Ouachita Parish, we’ve always relied on principals to hire at each school site. Now we may have to agree whether or not they have a teaching position, but it’s always been our practice to allow or principals to hire who they would like to hire at their school.”
Monroe City School Board member, Clarence Sharp says that, in his district, citizens have a legitimate role to play, are eager to participate in the selection of educators.
“First thing, each board member represents a district. And that district has voices. So when it comes down to those schools that’s within their district, and they’ve been there for a number of years, yeah, you’re going to have some problems when they don’t hire somebody that they feel is qualified for that position. Because, you don’t want to get off into ‘okay, I’m going to hire this person because they’re a friend of mine, or they’ve come from out of town and they need a job.’ That’s why you have to have a board member to oversee that the process is done right.”
Bob Webber sees the board’s role as less political than the way Sharp views the activities in his district.
“Basically, with just teachers and support personnel, the board just approves the agenda – the personnel agenda. On administrative positions, we actually have a vote, individually – and they do. They’ve never gone against my recommendation in ten years for an administration position. So, maybe it’s a problem in some districts, but not in Ouachita.”
As cut and dried as the issue is for Webber and for Sharp, other educators have mixed feelings.
Barry Jones is the principal at Berg Jones Elementary school in Monroe. He says the issue is anything but a simple one.
“In some instances I believe that school boards need to have some input into the decisions that are made by school systems. And in other instances, the principal or the superintendent needs to have that authority. There needs to be a checks and balance system that goes with this. So, I can see in some instances, where the superintendent should have the sole ability to hire, and other instances where the school board needs to be able to have some input."
With the state’s legislature beginning its 2012 session this week, Clarence Sharp, Bob Webber and Barry Jones, along with educators across the state will be watching closely to see how the new hiring bill will fare and on whose shoulders hiring decisions will fall going forward.
Air Date: Fri, 03/16/2012