H-BC board tackles teacher hiring process in work session

Three new elementary school teachers were hired in the Hills-Beaver Creek School District following action at Monday night’s School Board meeting.

H-BC graduates Kale Wiertzema and Halden Van Wyhe were hired as full-time elementary classroom teachers for the 2014-15 school year, and Whitney Stoffel is a full-time K-12 special education teacher for 2014-15.

The action comes after School Board members tabled a hiring decision at the May 27 meeting that drew dozens of concerned individuals.

They agreed to discuss the matter at a June 3 work session that addressed concern over the district’s hiring process.

Some board members wondered why the hiring committee interviewed only four candidates for two open positions when there were 19 applications for the jobs.

The district’s official hiring process calls for four candidates (if possible) to be interviewed for each open position.

In the work session, board member Lois Leuthold said she trusted the expertise of the hiring committee.

“It’s not up to us to micromanage,” she said. “That’s not our job as board members.”

On the Hiring Committee are Superintendent Todd Holthaus, former Dean of Students (now teacher) Don Bosshart, new elementary principal Jason Phelps and teachers Angie and Jason Blosmo, Jill Stiefvater, Shelly Fischer and Rex Metzger.

Board member Amie Fick agreed that board members shouldn’t micromanage, but said she asked to review the other 15 applications after more than 40 people showed up at the May 27 meeting.

“After that happened, I wanted to make sure I was doing due diligence,” Fick said. “Especially when there’s a huge concern dividing our community.”

Board member Karin Moser agreed that it’s good to ask questions.

She pointed out that she’s not questioning the candidates the Hiring Committee recommended, and she said she’s not even questioning the hiring process.

“I agree we have a good process in place, but I don’t see where we followed the process this time,” Moser said. “It comes down to the number of candidates for each position.”

Board member Jim Kueter said he, too, wishes more of the candidates could have been interviewed, especially in light of the quality of their portfolios.

“We’re not saying you wouldn’t have ended up with the same two candidates,” Kueter said.

With the June 3 meeting being a work session, no action was taken, but board member Harley Fransman asked if the board should consider a change to the hiring process.

For example, it currently suggests interviewing four or five candidates, depending on the pool and interest.

Fransman said the words “per position” could be added for clarification, but he cautioned not all positions attract that many candidates.

Superintendent Holthaus reminded the board that hiring decisions are a big responsibility and require a great deal of time and effort by people who volunteer their time.

“When I was first hired, the principal and I sat down and interviewed and that was that,” he said.

“When you have to release a young professional, guess who has to do it. There’s a vested interest … I don’t think there needs to be any action. I get the message. I guess my integrity is on the line.”

Since the May 27 board meeting, a third full-time position opened up, so all three positions were addressed at the June 9 meeting.

In other personnel business Monday, the board approved Jill Stiefvater as an extended school year special education teacher for this summer.

The board also agreed to hire student help in the custodial department at $8.25 per hour. A full-time person will be hired in that department this fall.

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