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Board of Education tweaks hiring policy

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - More than a month after the policy was approved -- and immediately took effect -- state education officials are still fiddling with the specifics of teacher hiring practices.

The state Board of Education met for a special session Wednesday to make revisions to the policy. Those revisions were essentially tweaks in the policy's language, but the implications were larger: Because of those tweaks, faculty members, through their faculty senates, will now be able to play a role in the hiring of new teachers throughout the remainder of this summer.

When board members approved a revamped version of the state's hiring policy last month -- a product of the massive education reform package approved by the Legislature this spring -- its professed goal was to give teachers this privilege, thereby giving them more input in hiring in their schools.

But in practice, the policy's language worked against that goal, at least in the short term, preventing faculty senates from meeting to establish the procedure they would use to involve teachers in the selection of new hires until their first meeting of the academic year -- after the bulk of schools' hiring is completed this summer.

By next summer, that problem would have remedied itself, but all the hires made since the policy took effect July 1 have been made without the faculty input that teachers were promised by legislators when they passed the education reform package.

"It just feels to me like every step of this process has turned into more bureaucracy and pushing teachers out of what they were given in this bill," said Christine Campbell, president of the West Virginia chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.

"We've been told, 'Oh, it's only a few months, what's the big deal?' But those teachers are still going to be in those classrooms. The intent of this bill was to give teachers input and to get the best person for that school in the job -- more local control."

After the issue was pointed out, the board rushed to revise the policy and schedule an emergency meeting to approve those revisions. They did by unanimous vote Wednesday.

The haste of that process echoed the controversy surrounding the policy's initial passage in June.

The board approved the policy June 14 after a last-minute rush to iron out details to address concerns of various constituent groups. The policy was still in the works immediately before the board met; during the meeting, education officials met again to address complaints from teachers unions.

The policy went into effect under emergency rule, taking effect July 1 with the rest of the new education reform law. It went out for public comment even as it was in effect. Board members will look at the comments received at next month's board meeting and consider making more changes to the policy.

"It's been pretty frustrating to go through this when the bill passed March 20, and here we are the middle of July and still no faculty senate input," Campbell said.

Teachers unions also take issue with portions of the policy that limit the amount of pay teachers can earn for their time spent on the hiring procedure and provisions they believe would limit employees' opportunities to file grievances.

Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.maunz@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.

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