The Saugerties school board is forming an ad-hoc human resources committee for the purpose of reviewing district hiring practices with deputy superintendent Lawrence Mautone. The committee will include board president Robert Thomann, vice-president James Mooney, and trustees Damion Ferraro and Katie Emerson-Hoss. It will work with Mautone to ensure there’s consistency in hiring practices and that the district does everything it can to attract the best candidates for open positions.
The formation of the committee was discussed during a meeting of the school board on September 13. “We recognized as a district that we have a need just to go through a look at all of our practices in regard to human resources from the recruiting process all the way through the hiring process,” said Mautone. “We’ve been looking at that for probably a year or so. With the new administrative restructuring, it allowed me to focus on that area, and I think the board shares that interest in going through and looking at that process as well.”
The administrative restructuring included the hiring of a new assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction, assessments and data, Olanike Audu, who was initially hired by the district in February 2013 as a full-time teaching assistant. It also led to the formation of a human resources department, which Mautone will head, which will seek to streamline the hiring process in the district. Part of that process, Mautone said, would be improving recruiting efforts.
“I think we need to do a better job of recruitment, especially on those hard to find areas,” Mautone said. He identified technology, family and consumer science, and English as a new language as areas where the district generally receives fewer applicants than for other open positions.
“We really want to do a better job of expanding our searches and our recruitment to get the best teachers we can into the district, and there’s not a lot of applicants,” explained Mautone. “I don’t know how popular those programs are in colleges, but it seems like there are very few applicants whenever we have to hire for those positions. We’re fortunate that the people we have found, though, are very good teachers in those positions. And in terms of recruitment, my focus is to recruit the best candidates we can for every position.”
How best to resolve those issues will be one of the functions of the committee, Thomann said. “If we don’t get candidates, are there things we can do to recruit? We want to find out why people aren’t applying for positions. There might be some surveys we’ll take a look at.”
Mautone said the district had already begun expanding its recruiting parameters over the last year as it became clear that it often received an abundance of applications for some positions and a dearth for others.
“Depending upon the position, we would definitely post it on our website,” he said. The standard practice has traditionally included listing open positions in daily newspapers in Kingston, Poughkeepsie and sometimes Albany. The district also recently joined OLAS, an online application system for educators operated by Putnam and Northern Westchester BOCES.
“We did that over the summer because we had a hard time getting a lot of applicants for certain positions,” said Mautone. “I think it just depends upon the position. Some it’s just that there are fewer people holding the certifications than for others. We had an elementary position where we had over 85 applicants, but most districts in the county are dealing with the same things in the same areas.”
Thomann expects the committee to follow Mautone’s lead as they discuss their goals at their first meeting next month. He anticipates a collaborative relationship.
“We want to hear from Mr. Mautone what he needs in his new position to accomplish that,” Thomann said. “And we want to review our board policies to see if they need to be updated to see if they conform to district hiring practices. That’s something that hasn’t been worked on in a while. We want to make sure that there are policies and procedures in place that ensure equitable hiring practices in the district. It’s something that just needs to be taken a look at.”
Mautone said he was looking forward to working with the committee. “I think it’s great whenever we can sit and do things in conjunction with each other,” he said. “I hope to bring other people, maybe not as part of that committee but to get other people in the district involved too from all the different constituent groups to talk about the process as well.”
He thinks the district will be looking at the whole process from hiring all the way through interview question, to make sure there’s consistency ‘and that the hiring for different positions is handled similarly across the district.’ Which they are already now, he added.
What the committee isn’t likely to tackle, at least not at first, is the subject of gender imbalance, raised by trustee Krista Barringer in July. Barringer had noted that there were only three women among the 37 coaching appointments for the 2016-17 school year (varsity cheerleading, and modified and junior varsity volleyball). Two coaching positions were still vacant following the annual reorganizational meeting, one for a girls’ team and the other for a boys’ team.