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Outside review finds good and bad in Anchorage School District's HR department

  • Author: Tegan Hanlon
  • Updated: September 30, 2016
  • Published February 3, 2016

A recently released review from the Council of Great City Schools praised the Anchorage School District's human resources employees but found problems with the department's recruitment and communication efforts.

Todd Hess, the district's chief human resources officer, said Tuesday he appreciated another set of "professional eyes" taking a look at the department, which he described as well-run and "doing a great job."

The review, presented to the Anchorage School Board on Monday, had about a page of praises for the department, including that a raise for substitute teachers had led to more qualified staff. It found that support staff and instructional managers had a "high-level of confidence" in the department.

However, the review also included about four pages of problems it found in the human resources department, along with 18 recommendations. The issues range from a lack of workforce diversity to lack of a strategic business plan.

It said that the department recently hired management personnel with no previous HR experience and "no structured program in place to develop their HR expertise."

The review team also had a number of concerns about the department's teacher-recruitment efforts, including dissatisfaction from school principals about hiring.

"School principals believe their exclusion from recruitment activities and the initial vetting of teacher candidates has negatively impacted the quality of the hiring pool," the review said.

Hess said the department recently updated its hiring process to increase the involvement of principals in the early stages. He also said the district faces competition when it hires employees for entry-level jobs who can get similar pay elsewhere, and with less budget uncertainty.

"People are somewhat uncertain about wanting to work for us because they don't know what the future could bring," he said.

The Council of Great City Schools, an organization of the nation's largest urban public schools, has completed several other reviews of district operations.

Heidi Embley, school district spokeswoman, said in an email that the district had not yet been billed for the review but that in the past reviews have cost between $25,000 and $42,000.

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