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St. Clair BOE discusses concerns over outside hires

Superintendent Mike Howard and board members Scott Suttle and Marie Manning

Pictured, from left, are St. Clair County Board of Education Superintendent Mike Howard, Chairman Scott Suttle and Vice-chairwoman Marie Manning. 

ODENVILLE — The St. Clair County Board of Education addressed concerns over hiring outsiders to fill internal openings within the school system during its regular meeting Tuesday.

Vice-chairwoman and board member Marie Manning first expressed concern over one of the hires for being made from outside of the school system over another candidate who, according to Manning, holds more experience and a deep family history within the community of St. Clair County. She also emphasized that it was not fair to the people within the school system looking to move up.

“This person knows the community, she knows the parents, she knows the grandparents and she knows the town,” Manning said.

Superintendent Mike Howard said that he stood by the principal’s recommendation and later added that the committee involved in the hiring process unanimously agreed to take on the chosen candidate. 

“I have to make that recommendation in good conscience because I trust (our principal),” Howard said.

The superintendent also pointed out the board usually does hire from within its own system. Howard said that over the past 2.5 years, the board has promoted 30 internal candidates for 38 leadership openings within the school system.

During the meeting, it was also mentioned that St. Clair County Schools have implemented multiple professional development programs in an attempt to promote internal candidates. Some of these include a mentorship program where new teachers pair with veteran teachers, a yearly training program for teacher leaders that desire to become administrators called the Teacher Leader Program and training for assistant principals seeking to become principals. 

“Our goal is to grow from within as much as we can without discouraging applicants outside our system,” Howard said.

Multiple board members chimed in during the meeting, including Mike Hobbs, who said that while there were many parts of the hiring process that the board was not a part of, he agreed that this had been an issue in the past, especially within his own district.

“In Springville, we have had a lot of personnel issues, and it comes back to the same thing, we keep bringing somebody in from the outside,” Hobbs said. “I’ve just seen with every board meeting that someone with 10 to 15 years of experience is overlooked.”

Board member Nicki VanPelt said she also understood the concerns on both sides. However, her main concern was making the professional development opportunities better advertised to school employees.

“We want our people to grow in our county,” VanPelt said. “We’re a hidden gem, if we grow within the county, it’s better for everybody. (But) if we don’t know before they apply that they’re wanting to grow in these spots, this is what happens.”

Chairman and board member Scott Suttle agreed that hiring within should be one of the board’s strategic values, however, it is something it has actively looked to improve on in prior years.

“I would defend that we are doing better, because if you look at the last three years, we have had a lot more promotions from within the system,” Suttle said. “So we’re definitely moving in the right direction.”

After a long discussion, the majority of the board voted to approve the superintendent’s recommendation for all of the new hires.

In other matters, the board:

— Approved special education contracts with the following:

— Mary-Margaret Newland;

— Over the Mountain Speech, Language and Learning Services, LLC, a speech/language therapy service provider;

— Jennifer Nowell;

— Rachel Seales;

— And SS Communication, LLC;

— Approved a contract with Impact Family Counseling Services;

— Approved request from the Springville Youth Association to use the Springville Middle School, Springville Elementary School and Pine Street gymnasiums for cheerleading for June and July;

— Approved a bid from School Specialty for the Pre-K program materials;

— And, approved three public works projects for a hallway floor replacement at Steele Junior High School ($21,308.72), Springville Elementary School ($24,589.97) and Ragland Elementary School ($13,471.81).

Assistant Editor Josie Howell: 205-884-3400