Editor's note: An earlier version of this story did not accurately report the group that will continue to meet to discuss the problem.
The Richmond County Board of Education is not happy with the way the school system hires its faculty and staff and is demanding a change.
On the second day of the board’s fall retreat, Chief Human Resources Officer Norman Hill came prepared to offer a presentation detailing hiring practices and to field questions and suggestions for improvement.
However, he and board attorney Leonard Fletcher Jr. decided it would be best to hear board members’ concerns first Saturday to allow Hill to tailor his presentation to address those concerns.
By the time they were finished, Hill had little opportunity to give his prepared speech.
Board member Patsy Scott said she often hears from applicants who are frustrated because they are qualified for positions but never receive feedback after submitting their applications. She wanted to know why applications seem to get lost.
Hill said now that the system is using an online application system, there is no such thing as a “lost” application. But the system receives more than 250 applications per week, he said, and the demands on the human resources department make it difficult to respond to each one.
“I’m not going to say that the process is perfect and flawless,” he said.
He noted that there were more than 600 applicants for the 22 jobs that were filled at the beginning of the year.
“Of these 600 people, 578 people were disappointed,” he said. “It’s a highly competitive process.”
Board member Helen Minchew said those who are rejected should get something more than just acknowledgement that their application was received.
Much of the board’s frustration with the system stems from a perception of “cronyism,” where people who aren’t necessarily qualified for a leadership position are promoted by their friends instead of more qualified candidates.
“They don’t have the experience,” board member Venus Cain said. “They have not put in their time in order to move to the next level. We’re missing out on some of our best and brightest because we’re not being really upright in our hiring practices.”
Board member Barbara Pulliam, who voiced her concerns via conference call, said she thinks applicants for a leadership position should have at least 10 years of educational experience to qualify.
Others agreed that experience is necessary but called a 10-year minimum excessive, saying it would exclude candidates who have clearly demonstrated leadership skills.
“I would hate to put a time limit and say they have to have 10 years of teaching experience,” board member Jimmy Atkins said. “If you’ve got somebody in the classroom for five years and they’ve proven themselves, and with what our scores look like right now and they could go into a leadership position and turn those scores around … I could support 5 years, but I can’t support 10 years.”
Cain suggested bringing back the pool system, in which candidates for leadership positions are drawn from a group of applicants deemed qualified. Candidates could be pulled from this pool to fill positions more quickly and efficiently than the current process.
Because of time restraints, the board agreed to that board President Alex Howard, Marion Barnes, Chief Human Resources Officer Norman Hill, Superintendent Frank Roberson and Roberson's cabinet will continue to discuss solutions to the problem and bring them to the board at a future meeting.