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Board Approves Job Posting for Lowell Schools HR Director

March 4, 2019

LOWELL -- Over a year after Lowell Public School’s last permanent director of human resources asked to return to the classroom, the School Committee approved a job posting for the position, now called chief human resources officer, Monday night.

The job posting includes multiple references to increasing diversity in district staffing, including stating the hire will be expected to develop a district-wide plan toward this goal.

It also offers the prospect of a pay-bump compared to the compensation provided to previous employees in this position. The new job posting lists the salary range between $95,000 and $125,000.

“I think the range we’re offering would be comparable to other districts,” said Interim Assistant Superintendent of Finance Billie Jo Turner.

The former head of human resources Anne Sheehy was receiving $94,000 in 2017, when School Committee member Robert Hoey Jr. proposed promoting her to assistant superintendent with a pay hike to $130,000.

Hoey revived the call at the meeting Monday night, asking once again to make this position an assistant superintendent. The proposal was voted down 1-6.

“What we need is an human resource director with a backbone that gets paid for the job right, that comes straight to the superintendent,” Hoey said.

In a separate vote, the School Committee approved 6-1 a motion to have the new head of human resources report to the superintendent instead of the assistant superintendent of finance.

Hoey said in the standing arrangement, assistant superintendents of finance have oversized influence in hiring. School Committee member Gerry Nutter cast the only vote in opposition.

Before the vote, Acting Superintendent Jeannine Durkin recommended against the change. Many of the tasks handled by the head of human resources, like determining compensation, involve money, which is relevant to the assistant superintendent of finance, she said.

“All of it plays into the finance area,” she said.

Durkin noted the importance of posting the position as soon as possible. The four person department dwindled to only one person as of January, prompting other district administrators to train to provide some necessary services for the department.

“We need to make the decision this evening so we can post this position,” she said.

Last year, the School Committee requested an audit of the department, which was released in December. It found a need for a more diverse staff, increased transparency and a streamlined hiring process. Parents raised similar concerns, particularly regarding diversity, in the months preceding the audit.

A workforce report indicated a wide gap between the number of non-white students and non-white teachers. It showed while only about 30 percent of students in the district are white, 91 percent of teachers in the district are white.

Turner said the district is working to implement the recommendations of the audit and presented steps the district has taken at a School Committee meeting earlier this month.

In a memo to the School Committee, she wrote Leap Net, Inc. has been selected to begin work on the search for the next head of human resources.

Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @ElizDobbins