During a recent review of the Polk County School Board’s personnel operations, a consulting firm hired by the board decided the school district needed to speed up misconduct investigations.
The consultants also told the school board last Tuesday that most of the investigations conducted by the personnel office into teacher infractions “favor the employee even though it may be detrimental to students or their fellow workers.” They also said most of the issues involved the use of technology and that the staff members involved needed additional training to make the internal investigations go more smoothly and quickly.
Superintendent of Schools Kathryn LeRoy said the district needs to take action to correct any problems with internal investigations.
She said the time investigations take “concerns me” and “that’s urgent and is a serious problem. I think, in our defense, the problem has been lack of staffing.”
Dr. Bill Vogel, who headed up the consulting team looking into the HR department, suggested the board use its in-house counsel Wes Bridges to help speed up the investigations.
Vogel’s recommendation was part of a lengthy report issued in February following a five-day in-depth look at the Human Resources Department following the retirement of long-time HR chief Denny Dunn.
LeRoy had asked Vogel and his Florida Association of District School Superintendents team to look at ways to overhaul the HR department before launching a search for Dunn’s replacement. District Finance Director Mike Perone is currently ramrodding the department until Dunn’s successor is hired.
LeRoy told the board she planned to work with the Superintendents Association in the search for a new HR leader “as soon as possible.” She added that Vogel and his team, Steve Bouzianis and John Reichart, both experienced in school district operations, would be asked to assist in the vetting of any potential candidates.
In 2012, the FADSS group did a similar report on the overall efficiency of the school district. This year, the report noted nine issues from that earlier report remained unaddressed.
“These were raised by quite a few people and should be looked at,” Vogel said.
Among the issues, Vogel added, were the perceptions that the district is understaffed and underpaid, communication between the district and the schools is poor, ineffective employees are not held accountable for poor performance and the active role of principals in decision-making is not clearly defined.
The employee investigations issue was added to the existing list of matters to be addressed, the report says.
Recommendations made at last week’s board session included a revamping of the HR organizational chart, some changes in educational requirements for some positions and a realignment of internal departments that rely on each others’ information to form better, more efficient teams. Specific staff members were not targeted in the report.