In a close vote Tuesday night, a motion was passed by the Hanover School Board that will see a change in the way teachers are hired for music and physical education. 

Before the motion was presented, Ron Falk asked the board chair why this topic was put before the trustees only a year after it had been discussed by the board. 

“I’m wondering why? Is there something that’s changed? Is there new information? What is changing that we’re doing this,” Falk questioned.  

Chair Brad Unger suggested that Trustee Shayne Barkman could answer those questions after introducing the motion. 

“I move that all music and gym teachers be hired the same way principals and vice principals are hired,” said S. Barkman. “My rationale for the motion is wanting this motion to have locally elected community representation in the hiring process of these teachers that are involved in the communities with sports and music concerts. Community relationships are so important, and this would be a healthy way to strengthen these community relationships with our schools, our parents, and with our students.  Most parents will know the music teacher and the gym teacher in their schools because they are on the front lines, making many of these community events possible.” 

The motion S. Barkman presented a year ago was for mandatory trustee presence, at least two trustees, at all interviews for teachers across the division. It was defeated, with only garnering three votes, from Barkman, Jeff Friesen, and Lynn Barkman. 

S. Barkman then put forth an amended motion that would allow trustees to be present, rather than require their presence. There was no seconder for that motion, so it never made it to a vote. 

With this new motion before the board, Barkman said it would be good to have trustees involved in these interviews, strengthening the hiring process for “these key community members.” 

Falk then questioned again why the board was revisiting this topic after it had already made a decision a year ago. 

“Our board already talked about this within the last year, and we determined that we were not going to be involved in teacher interviews,” said Falk, questioning why the board would now consider being involved in the interviews for these two groups of teachers. 

S. Barkman was given a chance to respond to that inquiry. 

“I just think that it’s very important to get those hires right, and I just think that trustees know the community and know the constituents and could definitely help out with the process,” he said. “And I think that it would be beneficial for the school division as a whole.” 

Jeff Friesen spoke in favour of the motion, saying there would be a lot less hiring for teachers in the music and physical education departments. 

“Each school teacher that does Phys. Ed. or music, that might only be once every 10 years, 15 years, per school,” Friesen said. “This isn’t a big department and I think it’s a great idea to have a little more ears on the interview process that are going to be in our communities and effecting all ages for a very long time.” 

Charmaine Toews voted against the motion last year and, again, spoke against the motion that was placed before the board this week. 

“As I said then, our board's focus should remain on governance, policy setting, strategic planning and budget setting,” Toews said on Tuesday evening. “The size of our school division means there are resignations, leaves of absences, transfers and hires each and every week. Asking the trustees to be involved in any hiring beyond administrative roles, such as superintendents and principals, means that we hamper the efforts of those that we have hired to do that work. The hiring of teachers and support staff is operational, and it does not make sense for us to commit time or energy to that endeavor when it is outside the role of the school board. We may lose out on good hires by slowing down this process. We hire great principals and leaders of the schools in our communities, and we trust that they also have the best interest of our students in mind when they hire these teachers. 

She continued, “I would also argue that music and gym teachers, while we value them for their contact with each child in the school, are no different than any other teacher. They should not be treated differently upon hiring. And ultimately, we have hired experts in their field to interview and choose qualified candidates and hire the best to teach in our schools.” 

Toews concluded by questioning why the board would change something that seems to be working quite well. 

Danielle Funk also spoke against the motion. 

“It feels like micromanagement, to me,” she said. “It's an overstep of the board to meddle in what's operational. We are saying to our admin. and our principals who hire staff that they're not doing a good job in doing so, and that we have better or more valuable opinions and a better ability to hire these people. It doesn't show trust in the people we've hired to do jobs and it also doesn't allow them to do their job without having to look over their shoulder because board members might choose to take over another job that they're supposed to do.” 

Funk also said the board should not separate any teachers. 

“A teacher is a teacher, and they can move into a position to teach music or gym, whether they were hired to do that or not. And it shouldn't be more difficult to be hired in any position by having more trustees in the room doing the hiring.” 

At this point, Lynn Barkman asked Funk for clarification on her comments. 

“Danielle, are you trying to say that in the past, we meddled with the admin, when we were part of the hiring?” 

Funk responded by saying the school board of the day operated within the process that was approved during that time. 

“And as a board, you guys decided that that was no longer the appropriate process for this division,” said Funk. “Going back, to say, ‘yeah, we should be back in that room and hiring,’ that is meddling in what operations should be doing, it is micromanaging what their job is, and sending a message that us as a board believe they’re not capable of doing those jobs.” 

L. Barkman responded, “I disagree.” 

Dallas Wiebe stated that he does not see it as a bad thing the way the board is involved in the hiring of principals and vice-principals. 

To this, Funk responded, “There’s a difference between us being involved in hiring the leaders of the school to us being involved with everybody who is going to be in the classroom, or a portion of who is going to be in the classroom.” 

Cheryl Froese suggested that this motion would bring forward changes that would promote community engagement. 

This was followed by discussion on whether this motion would make it mandatory for trustee involvement in these interviews or whether it would simply be an invitation to allow trustees the option of attending. 

Conversation turned to current procedure for hiring principals and vice principals, what that looks like and what this could mean if this motion was approved. 

After some discussion, S. Barkman said he would be willing to have the motion amended to state that music and Phys. Ed. teachers would be hired the same way that vice principals are hired. 

Toews urged trustees to carefully consider what this motion means for the hiring process. 

“That still means the board would be making the decision on the hiring, and the principals could give their opinion, but they would actually have no say,” she said. 

Chairperson Unger opened the floor for Superintendent Shelley Amos to offer her thoughts on the topic. 

“We've been through this before, and I've spoken on it before,” she said. “I feel the need to say that the trustees have not been involved in this since 2010 and you're going backwards if you consider this. I feel like I need to say that it is actually the assistant superintendents who do the hiring, it is not the principals. Principals actually don't have the authority to hire. The assistant superintendents have the authority to hire.” 

Amos noted that even though principals do not have hiring authority, they are involved in hiring teachers. 

“They definitely give their recommendation because they know their school the best, and they want the best for their school and the fit. So, people involved in the hiring process really need to understand what's needed. People who are involved have to have an educational mindset to know what pedagogy, what practices, what experience counts. It is the role of senior administration to do that. It is not the role of the board to do that.” 

Trustees voted on the motion, moved by Trustee Shayne Barkman and Seconded by Trustee Dallas Wiebe ‘that all music and gym teachers be hired the same way the vice principals are hired.’ 

The motion was carried 5-4 with votes in support from Shayne Barkman, Lynn Barkman, Cheryl Froese, Jeff Friesen, and Dallas Wiebe. Opposed were Ron Falk, Danielle Funk, Charmaine Toews, and Brad Unger.