Washougal School District Superintendent Mary Templeton praised the district’s employment practices after a group of Washougal residents asked district leaders and Washougal School Board members to “refine and clarify their hiring policies, which they believe has led to “inappropriate hires” over the past several years.
Residents – Barb Seaman, Charlie Shaffer, Rob Seaman, Tabitha Shaffer, Amanda Klackner, Mark Nightingale, John Klackner, Alison Nightingale, Janet Alder, Jeff Johnson, Stewart Lyall, Nancy Zarambo, Amy Lyall and Angie Cherry – expressed their concerns in a public comment written at the board meeting on Tuesday, August 23.
“As you are aware, there have been many staff changes this year, with positions at various schools and in the district office being vacated due to the departure of staff from our district,” the letter said. “It’s an exciting time, and we’re happy for those who have taken the opportunity to advance their careers.
“However, we are concerned about how school administrators are hired in the Washougal District. The new hires made over the summer have significant long-term implications for the health of the district, but they were made quickly and seemingly without much oversight or discussion. Although the board technically approves at least some appointments made by the superintendent’s office, we are concerned about the process as a whole.
Templeton said that while board members are welcome to ask questions about any of the district’s policies and procedures, she is “optimistic, excited and confident” that the district has “high quality people on board.” all positions”.
“We are a high-responsibility district,” she told the Post-Record. “We created this culture. The best person for the job is the one selected, and that’s how we roll. I am very satisfied. In fact, I’m glad to know where we are now with our hiring processes.
“We have a very robust internal process that ensures that we identify, first, who we are as a school district, (a statement) which then attracts people to come to this organization. We attract people from the Portland metro area and Southwest Washington who are high quality leaders. They choose to come to the Washington School District because it’s special here. We are an educational destination, and these leaders who have just joined us, they have very high credibility, and they are ready to help us continue to rise (to become one of the) top performing districts in the State of Washington.
The district makes its hiring policies and procedures available to the public through its website, but “does not appear to provide the level of detail that employees, parents, community and council need to fully understand the criteria and the priorities that the superintendent takes into account when making the decision”. hiring decisions,” the letter reads.
The letter references Board Policy No. 5000, which states, “The Superintendent shall establish the skills, competencies, qualifications, education, experience, and past performance levels necessary for each position” and “Selection of staff is based on the candidate who is most qualified for the position, and is conducted in accordance with the district’s standard screening, interview, reference check process, and fairness requirements.
“While this policy signals an intent to find quality personnel, it does not describe the skills and qualifications needed for each position,” the letter states. “It mentions the district’s standard selection and interview process, but does not specify what those processes actually are. If there is a standard set of procedures for recruiting, interviewing and screening candidates, the public should know what it is.
“Over the years, many of us who have lived, worked and raised children in the Washougal District have noticed anomalies in the way senior level administrators are chosen for positions. -you were taken quickly, even apparently at the last minute.Some of them were apparently done at the sole discretion of the superintendents who were themselves serving in the last days of their employment in the district.
The district enters the 2022-23 school year with four new principals (Mark Castle at Washougal High School, Heather Kassell at Columbia River Gorge Elementary School, Jake Healea at Canyon Creek Middle School, and Brooke Henley at Cape Horn-Skye Elementary School) , a new vice principal/athletic director (Brian Wilde at Washougal High), and a new director of teaching and learning (Tracey McLachlan).
“In our current administrative roles, we have a combination of people who have been in our organization, proven themselves, trained in their next step and are in a position to lead, and people joining us from other districts. of the region who are also highly sought after educators, leading districts and schools,” Templeton said. “I feel very good (about this).”
The letter also points to Policy No. 5005, which states that “the board has the legal responsibility to employ all staff” and “the responsibility for administering the recruitment process rests with the superintendent/designate.”
“This policy appears in the section regarding compliance with federal immigration law, which addresses the requirement to follow the standard I-9 process certifying that employees are U.S. citizens,” the letter states. “Yet as a rule governing the hiring of staff in general, it is problematic, as it suggests that the hiring process is held tightly and fully controlled by the district superintendent.”
The district’s hiring practices have been inconsistent in recent years, according to the letter, despite its stated policy of choosing the best possible candidate for each position.
“The appointments appear to have been made outside of any standard recruiting process which involves the review of multiple candidates both inside and outside the district,” the letter said. “While rushed hiring processes can be successful in filling a position quickly, they can also result in directors who are not suitable for the position.”
Tenpleton said she took a “thoughtful, responsive and responsible” approach to hiring educators.
“When I think of a leader coming into a position, I think of all aspects of the demands of that particular job,” she said. “What skill set does this particular person have that will not only meet these expectations, but exceed them? So from that perspective, I would say my process was thoughtful.
However, locals say the district made “inappropriate hires” that had “real consequences.”
“When we have had school administrators who were unqualified or unprepared for their position, the effects on the system are negative and may be long-lasting,” the letter states. “When unsuitable candidates replace successful administrators, institutional knowledge is lost, long-term initiatives and system improvements lose momentum, staff confidence in (and cooperation with) their leaders diminishes, and the workload of remaining team members increases.In the long run, the students, and ultimately the entire Washougal community, pay the price.
At the Aug. 23 meeting, council member Chuck Carpenter alluded to some hires that were made before Templeton was named district superintendent in 2018.
“The staff is aware, and therefore the community is aware, that over the past four superintendents we had two superintendents who used to hire friends, and the district paid for that,” Carpenter said.
“Because of this, I think we are under intense scrutiny in our hiring processes. I know the administration is very proactive in this vein, and I think (board members) need to be too, making sure that at all times we’re going to hire the best person for every job in our district. school. ”
Carpenter said he asked Templeton about the district’s hiring practices and “was pleased with the response” he received.