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Loyalty a factor

Statements conflict on merit-based hirings

May 05, 2010 - According to Superintendent Al Roberts, selection of Clarkston's new deputy superintendent and human resources director was to be based on specific profiles developed for the district, not familiarity.

"I was very clear with the team that the selection would be one of merit, not loyalty," said Roberts in his recommendation memo provided though the Freedom of Information Act, April 23. "I believe the questions and approach that they took help true to this direction."

However, Roberts repeatedly cited keeping a "valued employee" as a benefit in his cover letter, memo, and "confidential notes."

"I have to cut a central office position. If I move her (Anita Banach) to this position, I will be able to maintain the services of a valued colleague," Roberts said. "The bottom line we will be able to retain a valued employee, lower the cost of operation and reshape the personnel functions to reflect an even leaner organization."

Clarkston Board of Education voted April 21 to promote Clarkston Junior High Principal Shawn Ryan to deputy superintendent, and Banach, communications director, to human resources director.

The district contracted with a consultant firm to assist in the job search. Consulting fee for the search is $18,500.

"Given the fact that I plan to retire in a few years, there was some concern about the need for a plan that would allow the district to prepare for an orderly transfer of power," Roberts said. "The board agreed that extending the typical search approach would be wise. HYA (Hazzard, Young, and Attea Inc.) is a firm that had a national presence and a connection with Michigan."

Roberts said he is not getting Shawn Ryan ready to replace him, and it is the school board's responsibility to select the district's superintendent.

"Certainly I would expect any individual who is in the deputy superintendent's role to be able to keep things moving forward in the event I am away form the district for any reason," Roberts said in an email, April 26.

"There is no time line in which we expect Shawn Ryan to be ready to assume greater responsibilities; but I have no doubt that he will someday be a superintendent of schools, here or somewhere else."

The consultants screened more than 700 applications, and interviewed 32 candidates, including Ryan and Banach, this past January.

Most of the interviews were conducted at the Detroit Metro Embassy Suites in Romulus to accomodate "a number of applicants traveling from other states," according to the consultants' report.

One candidate is noted as a resident of Mississippi. According to the contract, the district reimburses travel expences of interview candidates. The district did not reply to a request for complete FOIA information by providing travel expense information.

Keys for Roberts' decision to select Ryan include "someone who thinks differently from me, strength in diverse opinions and views" and "capacity to work with and mentor administrators," as well as flexibility, expertise, and vision.

Roberts' keys for selecting Banach include desire to embrace diversity, quick learner, collaborative leader, good listener, ability to maintain and build trust with employees and employee groups, high degree of integrity and ability to maintain confidentiality, good communicator, and non adversorial, but able to tackle the tough issues.

"Communication is strength and this is important to the HR role," Roberts said.

The superintendent listed Ryan's residency in Grand Blanc as a disadvantage when considering candidates. However, Banach's residency in Romeo was not mentioned as a disadvantage for human resources director.

Her inexperience in human resources was listed as a disadvantage.

"Although her experiences are a bit limited, Anita possesses the qualities that one looks for in a personnel director, and she is a quick study," Roberts said.

FOIA information did not include resumes. The district did not reply to a request to provide them.

Requests by The Clarkston News for information regarding the candidate search for deputy superintendent and HR director were first made April 2, refiled April 16 under the Freedom of Information Act, mailed on April 23, and received on April 27.

"Frankly, I am perplexed by questions surrounding these personnel recommendations, especially given the quality of these two individuals and the fiscal impact of my recommendations now that the school funding situation has worsened," Roberts said.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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