Personnel File 2: The Case of Keith

This case study is offered as a discussion starter. The incident happened. The names are changed, but the facts are straight from the principal’s mouth. How did it end? I’m holding that, for now. How should it end? What reasons would you offer for that decision? Discuss this case with colleagues in leadership.

Keith worked in a small town with a small school. The applicants for the open second-grade teaching position had been few; the best of the group, though, were two women: one a “local yokel” and the other from half-way across the country. The interviews were done; so was the lengthy discussion about which one ought to be offered the contract. Now the board president turned to Keith, the principal: “OK, Keith, which one do you think we should hire?”

Weeks earlier, Keith had read through all the applications and decided that two graduating seniors at the Christian college and an experienced teacher from another state were the best three for this Christian school. He had interviewed all three personally and narrowed the candidates down to the two college seniors. One was a local resident who had taken time to raise her family before returning to college to become certified to teach. She had volunteered in the school as a mother some years earlier. The other was a 22-year-old single from a thousand miles away.

In his mind, Keith had a clear preference. The younger woman had ideas for educating children that seemed fresh, sensible, and exciting, while the local candidate he judged to be seeking the job more for income than for love of the children. He couldn’t easily distinguish between them in their walk of faith in the Lord. Both had been active participants in their churches, had served in the community, were reasonably articulate about how they would bring their faith to bear in the education of children, and certainly gave the impression that they would each accept the contract were it offered to her. Both had good academic credentials and good recommendations; their student-teaching reports confirmed the difference he had noticed about their teaching styles and interests.

Keith had presented the results of his search to the board prior to the board’s interviews but had not declared his preference. The board’s interviews of the two candidates had gone well. In Keith’s judgment, the local woman had clearly shown that her family needed the income and even offered, “I have given a lot to this school over the years; we have paid tuition for ten years. I know the school, the teachers, and the parents. I have prepared myself to teach and believe I can do the job.” The younger applicant illustrated how she would teach from a Christian perspective and even drew the board into responding to an idea she had for making math interesting.

After the candidates had left the room, the board discussed the interviews and tipped their hands on their choice. One board member said, “I’m a little worried about the younger teacher playing games with kids. Besides, we owe it to this person in our community because she has really worked in the school and everybody knows her.” Keith noticed that more than a couple board members nodded agreement. Then another board member said, “We have to forget age and who’s local; I think the younger woman is better qualified.” The board president was getting impatient: “Keith, what do you say?”

If you were Keith in this real event (only the name is changed), what do you think you should say? Talk to other administrators or board members who are part of the hiring process of teachers. What reasons would you or others give for which teacher should be chosen? Reply to this blog to expand the discussion among your colleagues who read the case. In my next blog, I will write what Keith did.

The Case of Abe: Here’s what happened when the principal met with Abe (see my previous blog “The Case of Abe”):

Abe came in with noticeable impatience, exuding a let’s-get-this-over-with attitude. The principal cited the practices that Abe did that helped students learn history. Then she noted his behavior about belittling remarks he made in the staff room about women teachers. He put his head down with a smirk, saying nothing. She asked him in what way he brought the Bible to bear on his teaching. He simply said, “I let kids know God is in charge of all of history.” The principal asked that, within two weeks, Abe submit in writing specific ways he was going to honor fellow faculty members and ways by which he was going to weave biblical principles into his history classes. He asked if it was a requirement; she told him it was not, and he did not submit anything.

– Dan Vander Ark

1 Comment

Filed under Governance

One Response to Personnel File 2: The Case of Keith

  1. Dave Vander Goot

    I would inform the board and the president that we need to hire the best teacher for the school. In this case I would lean toward the newer teacher. The one with the new ideas. We need to do what is best for the students and not to just reward someone who has been connected with the school for a number of years. No assumption of the older person being a good teacher.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *