‘Hiring has been tricky because we have not been able to do interviews in person’

Midcoast educational leaders detail how COVID-19 has affected staff hiring processes

Mon, 08/03/2020 - 3:30pm

    MIDCOAST — The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has not only interrupted the traditional education in Midcoast schools, but has also affected the hiring process of some area school districts needing to fill a variety of staff openings. 

    School districts across the nation have turned to virtual interviews as part of their modified hiring processes amid the pandemic. 

    In fact, Jolie Hardin, executive director of leadership development and employment services for her Georgia public school district, noted in an interview with Education Dive that virtual interviews could be the new norm for her district.

    Members of her district’s hiring committee normally would not receive more than quote-unquote textbook answers from candidates during formal in-person interviews. But in the one-on-one video interviews, candidates seemed more relaxed. 

    “I think we’re getting a better understanding of their personality,” Hardin told Education Dive. “They appreciate the opportunity to really talk versus the formality of that 30-minute quick interview. They are able to tell people what they are really about, and they know we’re going to relay that to the principals.”

    To gauge how the hiring process panned out for area school leaders amid the pandemic, the Penobscot Bay Pilot reached out to several area public school leaders to see how they and their district were hampered, if at all, by the pandemic. 

    “We had the lowest turnover in staff this year than anyone can remember, and my guess is that was somewhat related to COVID-19,” said Maria Libby, Superintendent of Five Town CSD (serving Camden Hills Regional High School) and SAD 28 (serving Camden-Rockport elementary and middle schools). “In terms of the hiring process, the pandemic has had very little impact. We have hired exceptional people this spring/summer!” 

    Not being able to conduct in-person interviews has been a significant adjustment school leaders have had to make, noted Islesboro Central School Head of School Chuck Hamm. 

    “Hiring has been tricky because we have not been able to do interviews in person,” he said. “Education is a people business. In some cases we have to interview [a candidate] more than once due to wanting to get to know the applicant a little better. Additionally, the background checking has to be relied on heavily due to not being able to read a person very well through our monitors. All in all, it's working alright because we've become accustomed to working this way for almost six months now.”

    Hiring within the RSU 3 school district, serving Brooks, Freedom, Jackson, Knox, Liberty, Monroe, Montville, Thorndike, Troy, Unity, and Waldo, was mostly handled before the school year came to a close.

    “[W]e were proactive and began our hiring process early in April, being able to fill most of our anticipated vacancies,” RSU 3 Superintendent Charles Brown wrote in an email. “The only changes to the hiring process has been that all interviews are being conducted remotely via Zoom.”

    The RSU 71 school district, serving Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Searsmont and Swanville, reported positive results from the hiring process, despite the pandemic. 

    “We have hired a GREAT crew of new teachers and staff ; we feel lucky and blessed,” said RSU 71 Superintendent Mary Alice McLean, in an email. 

    RSU 40, serving Friendship, Union, Warren, Washington and Waldoboro,  likewise reported no noteworthy impacts to the hiring process this summer. 

    “[O]ur hiring process, including the number of applicants, has been similar to previous years, so no noticeable changes with hiring so far,” said RSU 40 Superintendent Steve Nolan.