On Recruitment, Professional Development and Evaluation of Staff: Mr. Jorge Jasso’s Thoughts on Santa Rita Union School District’s Case
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Staff recruitment and staff development belong to the different sides of the same coin. A learning institution cannot just rest on the promises of aggressive recruitment programs alone, if the attendant idea to it implies that recruitment process stops at the entry of prospective qualified staff. To the contrary, continuing programs for staff development constitutes the entirety of any recruitment policy. The reasons for this, I believe, are quite self-evident. Recruitment efforts have to be complemented with equally important efforts to retain them into the strong pool of talented workforce. For one, a school does not recruit qualified professionals only to leave them reeling from institutional and systemic drawbacks, one too many. For this reason, recruitment and rewards systems go hand in hand. This comprehensive recruitment and retention programs, Joseph Fernandez maintains, is crucial to the felt need to attract “the best and the brightest for our schools” (cited in Witte, et. al., 1990, p. 232).
In ways more than one, I sat down with Mr. Jorge Jasso, the Director for Special Projects and Assistant to the Superintendent of Santa Rita Union School District, for an interview, already informed by a belief that recruitment process entails a successful interplay of different facets of school operation such as proper staffing, evaluation and fair assessment of credentials, the existence of development programs, on top of a truly ideal working condition. These tasks, of course, fall upon the shoulders of authorities assigned to the Human Resource Department. Through Mr. Jasso’s insights, I am therefore seeking to put all my learning on school administration in ponderous juxtaposition with the circumstances and practices of Santa Rita Union School District.
The Gist of the Interview and Its Corollary Analyses
I began the interview session with a couple of questions on my list. Atop such list is my concern to know more about the specific manners and practices which the district uses so as to review and revaluate certificated administrative and management positions at school site. For this reason, I took the liberty of asking Mr. Jasso whether or not the district office is able to compare current staffing structures, responsibilities and salary levels of Santa Rita Union School District with other school districts of similar size and demographics. Mr. Jasso – who, by the way, seemed quite hesitant to respond to all my questions, after he left the room on a number of different occasions – answered in the affirmative. He responded by claiming that the district, under normal circumstances, reviews job responsibilities listed on job description of other districts of relatively similar size and demographic constitution as Santa Rita Union School District. This is being done, Mr. Jasso furthered, to ensure that appropriateness in respect to pay scale and schedule are fully met. Says Mr. Jasso, “Yes, the district’s practice when considering a change to a job description or establishing new positions reviews other districts facts and figures. The district usually reviews job responsibilities listed on job descriptions of other districts of similar size and demographics in order to establish the appropriateness of pay schedule” (Jasso, Personal Communication, January 23, 2009).
If truth be said, I was not surprised to hear Mr. Jasso’s comments on the matter, being that, on account of my stint as one of the lead teachers for Kevin Clark Program, I have had the rare opportunity to personally witness such procedures being done and employed at Santa Rita Union School District. Besides, my further research into the matter reveals that generating information by way of healthy comparison with other school district is axiomatic in the effective running of the school system. It may help to lengthily cite Coombs’ (2002) description of the same practices being observed in the State of Texas:
To recruit and retain staff, Kingsville ISD participates in Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators (TASPA) annual salary surveys to determine the competitiveness of the districts pay with that offered by its peer districts. These surveys assist the district in evaluating the market and developing salary adjustments during the annual budget process. Kingsville ISD uses the TASPA surveys, published survey data and peer district data to maintain salary competitiveness. (Combs, 2002, n.p.).
The District Human Resource Department’s thorough revaluation of administrative and management positions, Mr. Jasso proceeded, gets to be facilitated by The California State Employees Association (CSEA). Mr. Jasso claimed that the district compares current structures and existing contracts with other districts by asking CSEA to locate available positions that do not necessarily meet the duties and responsibilities of generic positions. More importantly, Mr. Jasson contends that CSEA advices the district in matters that pertain to grading the salaries of persons with positions characteristically unusual to the duties and responsibilities of common staff and/or available positions.
Secondly, in respect to the hiring process per se, I furthered my inquiry by asking Mr. Jasso to explain the district’s practice of hiring professionals relative to the position to which they are deemed qualified. Mr. Jasso replied by enumerating the different process that come with the district’s hiring process – first, “the initial phases which entails determining “what essential positions must be acquired”; thereafter, a thorough evaluation of these available positions, notably in hopes of classifying them according to either new positions or replacements. Where positions are new, a notification of new item, alongside its description of duties, must be forwarded to the Board of Education for approval. Once approved, the district must advertise the position per contract requirements before proceeding to the interview phase. Where vacant positions are classified as replacements, these vacancies “are flown announcing the openings per contract requirements” (Jasso, Personal Communication, January 23, 2009).
At this point, I have to make mention of the fact that I find Mr. Jasso’s comments quite consistent with the practices which I have come to know. Our contract stipulates that the district needs to get approval for all new positions before announcing such openings to the public. The existing collaboration between the district and the Board of Education is always observed. As Cresswell School District for its part contends, “the District maintains final control over each application by Board approval. The superintendent is to refer all completed requests and accompanying data to the school board for action” (2004, n.p.).
But in my desire to be furnished with a more detailed picture of the recruitment and selection processes employed in Santa Rita Union District School, I proceeded to ask whether the district considers productivity (e.g., appropriate use of technology) and quality (e.g. legal, ethical and validity issues) issues as significant factors that play a crucial roles in the aforesaid processes. To my question, Mr. Jasso indulged with a lengthy response. The district recruitment and selection processes, he elaborates, are constitutive of the following: first, “the District’s Human Resources Office usually receives a notice that an employee will be resigning, retiring or being terminated from one of the sites. This (then) prompts a discussion to determine if the position will be replaced. If the position will be replaced, the position is flown per contract”; second, “candidates would be invited to apply, and a screening committee determines which candidates meet the minimum requirements. Those that meet the minimum requirements are invited for an interview…(while) those that do not meet the minimum requirements are sent a letter of regret”; after which, “interviews are held for the position and final candidates are recommended to the Superintendent who has the final (say on the) selection. Once the Superintendent makes the final selection, the board then must ratify the decision.” Of the many issues that merit consideration, Mr. Jasso went on to state that “productivity factors are taken into account and are listed in the job description as requirements or desired qualities, insofar as these qualities are again taken into account in the paper screening” (Jasso, Personal Communication, January 23, 2009).
I have reasons to believe that the district’s Human Resource Office is a bit though on screening qualifications of prospective staff, perhaps in and out of respect to the standards of excellence articulated in the district’s vision. I have seen this personally in the admirable manner by which the Superintendent participates in the interview process of applicants, sitting as one of the interviewing panel. I can only surmise that not many schools can employ this level of participation; for reasons that the Superintendent is too busy, or that the district is too large. Indeed, one of the most viable ways to ensure that a school is able to hire only the most qualified applicants from a pool of aspirants is to get all decision-makers involved in the process of screening and deliberations thereof. Quite interestingly, I have learned that this is the same approach being applied to selection process of J. E. Terry School in Dallas. In its “Schoolwide Plan of 2007-2008”, the school demands: “The Central Office Curriculum Supervisor Federal Programs Coordinator screens incoming applicants and reviews transcripts to insure that all new hires are highly qualified. Upon meeting this requirement, an interviewing panel comprised of principals and supervisors interviews prospective employees. Principals can then make recommendations for positions that need to be filled at their school. Assignments are made by the central office to match the applicant to the best-suited position” (J. E. Terry School, 2007).
As for my third concern, I asked Mr. Jasso to elaborate more on the district’s professional development activities, and the factors relative to them that merited consideration. Mr. Jasso stated, in response, that professional activities are chiefly dependent upon the performance of students; measured, as it were, by the results of California Standard Tests (CSTs) and California English Language Development Tests (CELDT). He moreover cited that the staff members (who are) in charge of framing professional development activities include the Director for Special Projects, the committee on Educational Services and Student Services, not the least the Principals. Far more critical, Mr. Jasso maintained that the process of slating professional development initiatives “is usually done in a collaborative manner”, just as “the Superintendent is informed in order to assure that he is supportive of the efforts and aligns with the LEA plan” (Jasso, Personal Communication, January 23, 2009).
When I tried to analyze his comments, I was able to affirm that what lies at the heart of Santa Rita Union District School’s continuing professional development program is the desire to enable student achieve their highest potential. There can be no other goal; students always come first. The National Foundation for the Improvement of Education, attesting to the veracity of this thrust with its research participated in by 800 teachers, claimed that “the goal of professional development for teachers is increased student learning” (The NEA Foundation, n.d., n.p.). This is also the same premise adopted by Bratsch’s (1997) learning philosophy which phrases, “the reason teachers participate in staff development opportunities is to improve student learning” (n.p.). Still, it merits quoting that Papalewis and Fortune (2002) subscribe to a thought that affirms the sheer necessity of continuing professional program. The learned authors claim:
To bring about change, leaders within schools need to quantify effective ideas or strategies that increase people’s abilities to think freshly about the situations they find themselves in and to help implement informed policies and practices based on student learning. (Papalewis & Fortune, 2002, p. 11).
Last but not least, I asked Mr. Jasso’s thoughts on the procedures that are involved in the district’s evaluation of certificated and classified personnel. Among others, I must say that I took keen interest in learning if certain qualitative and/or quantitative information, and summative and/or formative accounts are deemed relevant to the entire evaluation process. Mr. Jasso replied by saying that it is axiomatic for the entire staff to be informed of the evaluation process as well as the areas in which they would be evaluated. Equally important, the staff is likewise informed of the evaluation tools right at the commencement of their programs. In addition, Mr. Jasso proceeded to suggest that the evaluation process usually takes after several observations, which are in themselves requisite to form an opinion about a staff’s summative performance. But since evaluation is as crucial as its impact on the staff, I took the liberty of asking Mr. Jasso if there are existing intervention programs to assist new and tentative teachers who, arguably, may struggle in coping with the exacting demands engendered by performance reviews. Mr. Jasso proceeded to enumerate some of the programs being done: the Beginning Teacher Support, to help new teachers cope with the district’s established programs; as well as the ELD Leads, Literary Coaches and Peer Assistance and Review or PAR programs, to help teachers improve their mentorship and classroom handling skills (Jasso, Personal Communication, January 23, 2009).
With this information, I am reminded of the fact that the district truly employs peer-mentoring programs to assist teachers who are in need. In fact, our district takes a huge pride in integrating the assistance which our external community members can offer to our enduring efforts to educate the children. We understand that in order to be successful in our practices, we need their assistance. As indeed, without these intervention programs, I believe that many teachers would be unable to teach in a manner being successful, if not all together competent. Evaluation and intervention must therefore be promoted simultaneously. And as far as Santa Rita Union School District is concerned, concrete steps have been, and are continually being undertaken to ensure that staff recruitment and retention, as well as evaluation and adequate support are met by the standards of the district’s vision. A quote from Rebore can surely capture in essence the contention which I am trying to drive home:
The reasons that justify the establishment and implementation of an evaluation process for all school district employees include the following: to foster self-development, to identify a variety of tasks which am employee performance, to determine if an employee should be retained and what his salary increase should be, and to help in the proper placement or promotion of an employee” (Rebore, 2007, p.217).
Briefly, I wish to conclude that staff recruitment and retention programs entail a lengthy and painstaking process. My interview with Mr. Jorge Jasso, on top of my personal experiences as an educatro, has surely affirmed that proper management of school staff is an endeavor of no little importance. Specifically, my interview with Mr. Jasso was able to provide me with pertinent facts which, in turn, allowed me to substantiate my pre-informed notions of school management. Overall, my discussions zeroed in on the aspects of adequate staffing, recruitment and hiring processes, continuing professional development, and – last but not least – evaluation and intervention programs. All these aspects, I likewise conclude, are already present in the institutional practices of Santa Rita Union School District. While improvements have to be done here and there, I must say that my interview with Mr. Jorge Jasso has led me to believe that the school district fares well in meeting the demands of the aforesaid components.
Bratsch, K. (1997). Professional Development. Retrieved January 24, 2009, from <http://www.scimathmn.org/docs/sci_frame5.pdf>
Creswell School District. (2004). “Creswell School District #40 Board Agenda Fact Sheet.” Retrieved January 24, 2009, from <http://www.creswell.k12.or.us/do/current%20sept%2004/factsheet.htm>
Combs, S. (2002). “TSPR Hitchcock Independent School District-Chapter 3.” Retrieved January 24, 2009, from <http://www.window.state.tx.us/tspr/hitchcock/ch03b.htm>
Fernandez, J. “Dade County Public Schools’ Blueprint for Restructured Schools”. John Witte, William Clune & Robert LaFollette. (1990). Choice and Control in American Education: The Practice of Choice, Decentralization and School Restructuring. New Yokr: Routledge.
Jasso, J. Personal Communication. January 24, 2009.
J. E. Terry School. (2007). “J. E. Terry School Schoolwide Plan 2005-2006.” Retrieved January 24, 2009, from <jeterry.dallask12.org/Schoolwide Plan 06 - 07.doc>
The NEA Foundation. “Teachers Take Charge of Their Learning: Transforming Professional Development for Student Success”. Retrieved January 24, 2009, from <http://www.neafoundation.org/publications/charge/preface.htm>
Rebore, R. W. (2007). Human Resources Administration in Education: A Management Approach. 8th Edition. Needham Heights, Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon.
Papalewis, R. & Fortune, R. (2002). Leadership on Purpose. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.
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