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FRANKLIN COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD

Franklin County School Board gridlocks on recruitment and retention position

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ROCKY MOUNT — The Franklin County School Board gridlocked on establishing a new position solely devoted to employee recruitment and retention this week, meaning the proposal died.

The position that Gregg Cuddy, director of human resources, presented Monday was for a 12-month recruitment and retention coordinator. At the December meeting, the position was presented as being an administrator instead of a coordinator. During that meeting, the board decided not to proceed with it as presented.

“Moving forward, we do still see value in this proposal,” Cuddy said on Monday when he presented the revised position.

In December, Cuddy outlined the thinking behind the decision to ask the board to approve the a position. He listed challenges that the division has with attracting and hiring all positions as being a motivating factor. “It’s a current challenge, and we know it’s going to continue to be a challenge,” he said.

He explained posting positions on the division’s job site is no longer getting the job done. In the past, he said, the number of candidates far outweighed the number of open positions. “The hiring season used to be January through June. Maybe in July you hire all of your positions, then life is grand until the following January,” he said. “The hiring season now is 12 months out of the year. It’s nonstop.”

He noted that Franklin County competes against other divisions for talent. Compensation plays a role in which divisions applicants ultimately decide to work for, he said.

The salary for a 10-month teaching position with a bachelor’s degree in Franklin County on step one of the salary scale is $38,300 for the 2021-22 school year. In Henry County, a teacher on a similar step for the 2020-21 school year was paid $41,902. In Roanoke County, the salary for a new teacher is $40,359 for the 2021-22 school year.

Monica Hatchett, the director of communications for Henry County Public Schools, said her division is experiencing the same staffing shortages as Franklin County. “In addition to offering compensation to current staff members who cover classes when we are not able to secure a substitute, we are offering hiring bonuses for bus drivers — an area of critical need for our division at this time,” she said. “As we look to the coming school year and the vacancies we anticipate needing to fill, we are working closely with our local governing body to ensure that we offer competitive salary and benefits in addition to a robust training and mentor support program for new teachers.”

Both iterations of the position were presented as being grant funded, using ESSER (Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief) III funds, for a total of three years. The end date would have been June 30, 2024.

On Monday, Bernice Cobbs, the division superintendent, said the administrative staff realized they had to do something different to meet recruitment and retention needs. “What we were trying to do was be proactive. We were trying to figure out what it is we can do. This is what we came up with. Good, bad or indifferent,” she said regarding the position. “We have to do something different than we’re doing right now or we aren’t going to have people in our classrooms. I’m very concerned about that on so many levels.”

The question of using outside talent acquisition professionals was brought up by multiple board members in December. Cuddy responded by noting someone on the outside would not be able to build long-term relationships with the heads of teacher preparation programs at colleges and would not have an in-depth familiarity of the inner workings of the division.

Julie Nix, the board chair and Blue Ridge District representative, asked Cuddy how the relationships with program heads would be maintained after the end date of the position. He said the responsibility would return to him, but that it would be easier to maintain the relationships at that point. “We certainly see value in this position to build that bridge per se and those relationships,” he said.

Arlet Greer, the Blackwater District representative, inquired about what makes it difficult for Cuddy to build relationships with colleges now. He listed his daily duties and a lack of extra time.

Carletta Whiting, the Snow Creek District representative, inquired about the division’s use of social media websites for recruiting. Cuddy said platforms such as Facebook and Indeed are being used, but that the efforts aren’t proving to be very successful.

Jeff Worley, the vice chair and Rocky Mount District representative, said to Cuddy, “I know you need help. I know how strapped central office is.” He then went on to explain that he doesn’t like the idea of using temporary funds for such a position. An increase to pay steps, he added, should be implemented before a recruitment and retention position is established.

The division contracted Evergreen Solutions LLC in October to conduct a classification and compensation study. It will include a job analysis of positions and a market salary survey of neighboring divisions. The company will provide the division with recommendations including a revised compensation plan by early March.

Greer later reasoned that because it would be funded by ESSER III, the division wouldn’t have much to lose by temporarily establishing the position.

The Boone District representative, Dawn McCray, said that she didn’t have enough information regarding the division’s operations and needs to support the establishment of the position.

Cuddy said the division has around nine vacant teaching and 20 paraprofessional positions. The division also has multiple substitute teacher and bus driver openings.

“The employment market is drastically different. I think we’ve got to take a more forward leaning, assertive and proactive approach to employment in general,” Jon Atchue, the Gills Creek District representative, said prior to motioning to approve the position on Monday.

The tied vote had Greer, Atchue, Nix and P.D. Hambrick, the Union Hall District representative, in favor of the position. McCray, Whiting, Worley and Kevin David, the member at large, voted against it.

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