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Mehlville administrators reviewing hiring, nepotism policies

Mehlville School District administrators plan to submit a recommendation by February to the Board of Education regarding all hiring policies — including the district's nepotism policy.

Board President Cindy Christopher this summer asked administrators to review the district's hiring polices, particularly the nepotism policy, contending the current one is "extremely stringent.''

A.D. McClain, assistant superintendent for human resources, was scheduled to give board members a report on the district's evaluation of the nepotism and about 60 other district hiring policies during their meeting at 7 p.m. Monday — after the Call went to press — at Bernard Middle School, 1054 Forder Road.

McClain told the Call he will address the district's nepotism policy when he discusses staffing challenges during his report to the board.

He said there are positions in math, science, family consumer science, technology and other specific areas that have become hard to fill with the district's current nepotism policy. Classified and administrative positions have become hard to fill as well, he said, noting that none of these people in these positions can be related to an administrator.

"For most districts, the definition of administrator is board of education, superintendent's cabinet and then it stops. It might go in some districts to a building principal,'' McClain said. "Ours goes all the way down to an administrative assistant to the superintendent ... that's not usually done in other places, but we felt like, years ago, it was necessary to be very stringent in how we manage this because of the Board of Education and the administration wanting to bring things back into a more focused area."

The district's existing nepotism policy was adopted in 1993 based upon the recommendation of a citizens' committee comprised of professionals from personnel departments at some of the area's leading businesses. The nepotism policy, which was adopted by the school board with a unanimous vote, stipulates that the Board of Education cannot contract with nor employ any board member, immediate relative of a board member or immediate relative of an administrative official of the district.

Under the policy, an immediate relative is: husband or wife; father or father-in-law; mother or mother-in-law; brother or brother-in-law; sister or sister-in-law; son or son-in-law; daughter or daughter-in-law; niece or nephew; grandchild; and "anyone listed above of a step or half relationship.''

McClain said he would try to gain input from board members during his formal report Monday.

"When we come back with issues and we look at all our board issues later on (concerning hiring practices) ... I will remind the board where we are in relation to everybody else. I will ask them if they want to give me any other direction ... I will try to bring where we are to the table ... I will point out, verbally, how we differ from many other places in terms of how stringent we are,'' McClain said.

Other hiring policies administrators will review during the coming months include recruitment, interviewing, orientation and retention strategies. Job fairs and staff development for new hires, including the mentoring program for first- and second-year teachers, are some specific practices that will be reviewed.

McClain speculated it had been more than six years since the district has reviewed most of its hiring policies.

The district employs about 1,500 classified and teaching positions with 80 percent of the district's budget accounting for salaries and benefits.

"This is a significant report because people always question about having qualified teachers in the classroom, having competent and trained classified employees,'' Superintendent Tim Ricker told the Call. "... the work of mobilizing a workforce annually is a big job with a district of our size."

In a separate matter Monday night, to complete construction by the end of the district's winter break, board members were scheduled to consider an asbestos tile removal bid for Beasley Elementary School — one of the remaining Proposition P projects.

Proposition P is an $86.7 million district-wide improvement program. In November 2000, voters approved a 49-cent tax levy to fund the program, then estimated to cost nearly $68.4 million.

Ten abatement contractors responded during the bidding process for the removal of the asbestos-contaminated floor tile, according to district documents. The lowest bid, which administrators are recommending for approval, was from Midwest Asbestos at $10,773.

If board members approved the bid at the Nov. 17 meeting — after the Call went to press — workers would be able to begin additional construction immediately after the last day of school in June. The overall Proposition P budget for construction at Beasley Elementary is $1,001,877.

Administrators currently are determining final costs for other work categories involved with this project including the finalized cost for replacing the floor tile, which currently is estimated at $42,787.

"We are waiting to see how these estimates come out for Beasley's HVAC (air conditioning) and their lighting and all of those other kinds of things to see if they can not only go (abate asbestos) into the corridors, but into the classrooms," Ricker told the Call. "If we do real well on a Department of Natural Resources grant ... we may be able to go in and do the classrooms too."

Other Proposition P construction figures for Beasley will be presented to Oversight Committee members when they meet Tuesday, Nov. 25.

Board members also were scheduled to consider a bid for a Proposition P project Monday evening, a $275,000 bid by Corporate Interiors for furniture, fixtures and equipment at the new Oakville Elementary School that currently is under con-struction.

Under the revised Proposition P budget, the board had allotted $500,000 in district capital funds to cover furniture, fixtures and equipment costs at Oakville Elemen-tary.

Ricker said the vendor has an agreement with Cooperating School Districts. One of Mehlville's CSD membership benefits is to take advantage of the bidding process the organization conducts for all of the districts in its membership.

Corporate Interiors, he said, was selected through CSD's bidding process and board members would decide Monday whether to accept that bid or conduct the district's own bidding process for furniture, fixtures and equipment at Oakville Elementary.

"Those membership benefits do all the work for us to do all the bidding versus us paying our own personnel or having to have a construction manager or an architect go out and do that," Ricker said.

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