CHARLESTON, W.Va. - With the hiring season for the next school year well underway, county education officials soon will have to adapt their procedures to comply with new rules.
Those rules won't be in place for weeks, and personnel involved in hiring will have to be trained in their use.
Changes to the criteria and process for hiring teachers played a major role in negotiations surrounding Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's massive education reform measure. The legislation was passed during this year's regular session.
Heralded as the governor's top priority for the session, the new legislation calls for the state Department of Education to come up with new hiring rules in keeping with the code changes.
Tomblin and proponents of the bill argued that current hiring practices have given too much emphasis to seniority.
The sections of code that are being replaced laid out several criteria to be used in the hiring process, but critics said most of those factors boiled down to seniority.
Teacher unions disagreed.
The compromise legislation includes 11 factors that must be considered in the hiring process. Seniority is one of those factors, but a candidate's academic achievement, past performance evaluations and national certification are also on the list.
County school boards currently approve or reject hiring recommendations made by the superintendent, and that isn't changed in the new law.
But those local boards now will have to consider recommendations from the principal and faculty senate of the school where the teacher will be hired.
The principal and faculty senate don't have to make a recommendation, but if they do, the county board must give the recommendation twice the weight of the other factors.
The department scheduled meetings Tuesday evening with the leaders of the state's top teacher unions and other education groups to discuss new hiring rules.
Before their meeting, union officials complained that it was coming a little late in the game.
"The only concerns have been that teachers are getting out of schools right now, the law goes into effect July 1, and the state board isn't going to approve the rules until June," said Christine Campbell, president of the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.
The new legislation officially takes effect June 20, which will be 90 days after the Legislature approved the measure. It says the new hiring procedures can't be used until July 1.
Liza Cordiero, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education, said the state Board of Education in its June meeting plans to come up with policy on the role faculty senates will play in hiring.
That will be only days before the counties are expected to use the new law, said Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association.
"It has to be out to do the hiring after July 1, and there will be a tremendous scramble to get people trained," Lee said.
Although schools hire throughout the year, a great deal of the hiring takes place during the summer, said Delegate Josh Stowers, D-Lincoln.
Stowers is vice chairman of the House Education Committee and an assistant principal at Horace Mann Middle School in Charleston.