CLINTON — The Board of Education voted unanimously on Monday to create a subcommittee devoted to looking at personnel issues in the district.
Board Chair Erica Gelven proposed the idea for the subcommittee in response to the concerns raised over the last two weeks regarding complaints by former teachers in the Clinton school district of a toxic work environment.
Gelven said that while the board was not responsible for the day-to-day management of personnel, she said there is still a role that the board can play.
The subcommittee would study and make recommendations to the Board of Education in areas such as selection and hiring, onboarding, staff evaluation and supervision processes, as well as policies and legal requirements related to personnel and human resource procedures.
The subcommittee would also review district staffing levels, which Gelven said was very important to the budget process.
Board member Peter Nye said he was fully in support of the idea, and said the subcommittee might be a way to follow through on some ideas suggested by the community.
“I think this is an incredibly responsive first step to a lot of the things that have been brought to the board over the last two weeks,” said Nye.
Board member Jason Adler said he was also in support of the idea, but said he also wanted to be sure that the board was not overstepping its bounds.
“I think there is a misconception in the public in terms of how hands-on the board is or should be, in my mind, on personnel matters,” he said.
Adler said that the Board of Education in Clinton had streamlined the hiring process so that Superintendent Maryann O’Donnell did not have to consult with the board when hiring “a known quantity.” Adler said that, in his district, a more drawn-out hiring process had resulted in them losing out on applicants.
“I just want to make sure that we do mind the boundaries that are there for very specific reasons,” he said.
At the meeting, local residents also brought ideas forward to the board. Two community members, Tom O’Rourke and Carol Walter, said they supported the idea of a third-party audit of the school district. O’Rourke, who proposed the idea, suggested surveying students, counselors, administrators, parents, teachers, former teachers who had worked in the district over the last five years and parents who chose not to send their children to the district schools.
O’Rourke said such an audit would look at the “climate” in the school, and consider issues of bullying, whether teachers felt supported, the need for inclusion training, whether the district cooperates with parents, and whether it recognizes the needs of all students.
“In doing so, I think it could provide the b[with] the much needed data points it currently does not have,” he said.