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Should school board members sit on district interview and hiring committees when the district is hiring employees other than the superintendent?

This is one of the times when nationally recognized "best practice" and the practical implementation in Oregon do not always agree. Some districts in Oregon do have board members (not a quorum) sit on interviewing committees for administrators. A few have them participate in committees for other positions as well.

The nationally recognized best practice is board members do not participate in the interviewing or recommendation process for hiring for any position other than the superintendent. The board sets policies for the hiring process, approves the positions, approves the budget including salaries and benefits and approves the labor contracts brought to the board. Professional educators use their judgement and those parameters to fill the positions in order to best meet the district’s goals. Those professional educators are then held accountable for the success of those decisions.

The role of the board is to set the policies outlining the hiring process and then make sure those policies are followed by asking the questions "Does this recommendation meet policy? Will this hire help us achieve our goals? How? Is this a budgeted position?" It is not the board’s job to judge the individuals fit for the position against other applicants. That is the professional administrator’s job.

The benefit of board members sitting on hiring committees include: board members understand the process, see the policies implemented and have more confidence in both the process and the final decision. However this practice also opens the door to negatives such as micro-managing. Board members may ‘black ball’ a decision they don’t like for what may be inappropriate reasons. If the new hire does not work out, the board cannot hold the administration responsible if the board or board member has significantly influenced the hiring decision. Local politics become much more a part of the decision when elected board members have a voice in individual hiring decisions.

If your district has been successful in having board members on the interview committee and it has been viewed positively by the administration, staff and community then I recommend you continue the practice. If however this practice becomes a power struggle over who is making the decision to hire, or if you have a board member or members who use inappropriate standards for their decisions ("I just don’t think a woman can be a..." or "That family has always caused trouble in this community, I don’t want an XYZ working here" or "Bob and I have been friends for a long time and he really needs this job"...etc.) then you need to have a frank discussion on your board about changing the practice.

I would not recommend you change your practice just because "OSBA says." There are examples of board members on hiring committees working well in Oregon communities for many years.....and examples of it blowing up on some of them as well. You should know the pros and cons and the fact it is not considered a ‘best practice’ for board members to be involved in specific hiring decisions. If you see trouble on the horizon know that there is another way to approach this situation. For more information on this question, Ask Betsy's Team.