Wahluke School Board learns about district hiring practices

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MATTAWA — Liz Leitz, director of human resources for the Wahluke School District, discussed the districting hiring practices with the school board at a regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 22.

Leitz told the board that when someone is hired, it is based on a need for a new position in the district.

“It starts with a conversation among the people in the district who feel the need,” Leitz said.

Once a need is identified, the financial department is consulted to see if the funds are available to pay for the position. Once the funds have been approved, a job description is developed and the position is posted. Candidates are then reviewed by the supervisor. Occasionally, Leitz will look at the applications and weed out unqualified candidates. Candidates are then interviewed. Once an applicant is selected, they are given a conditional offer of employment until the board officially hires them at a meeting.

“Sometimes there are positions that come up,” Leitz said. “We think about it. Sometimes we might have someone in mind.”

When asked for an example, Leitz said that no one came to mind at the time. She did make an analogy about what she meant. If Michael Jordan were to move to town, he might be wanted to coach basketball.

The conversation moved to retention of personnel.

“This district is known for having a high turnover rate,” Leitz said. “There has been a decline in the turnover rate in both certified and para-professionals. People transferred to a new position is not considered turnover.”

Leitz pointed out that while Wahluke is a small district, they hire “over 60 people a year.” Some years, they hire 80. She said that while there is a positive on getting new people and ideas into the district, they like to have long-term employees.

“It takes years for people to feel comfortable and contribute on an ongoing basis,” Leitz said.

When wages go up, that has an impact on longevity.

School board chair Lorraine Jenne asked if the district participates in job fairs.

“You bet that we do that,” Leitz said. “We use job fairs as marketing tools. We hire very few people.”

Leitz also said that she believes that the district has more success via word of mouth. If potential applicants hear positive talk about the district, they are likely to get more applicants. If there is bad talk circulating, they don’t get as many.

“Everybody talks,” Leitz said. “I go to personnel meetings. We talk. Anytime you have an opportunity, highlight the success of the district.”

Leitz noted that 78 percent of Wahluke employees are from Washington.

When asked what is being done to understand why staff leave, Leitz replied that she would like to focus on teaching supervisors to recognize disgruntled employees and help them develop the ability to have conversations where the employee feels safe.

Rachal Pinkerton may be reached via email at rpinkerton@suntribunenews.com.

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