Quaker Valley adopts formal policy on hiring of relatives

Wednesday, June 26, 2019 | 1:46 PM

A new policy in the Quaker Valley School District still permits the district to hire family members of the school board and administration.

However, under the policy, a board member or administrator cannot advocate for a family member’s hiring or promotion.

That’s how Quaker Valley has operated in the past, said Andrew Surloff, assistant superintendent. This just makes it official.

Board members June 17 unanimously approved the adoption of the policy that outlines rules for employment of family members.

“The policy is to maintain the current practice of being able to hire the best candidate,” he said. “The policy is there to make sure that what has always been a very transparent and ethical hiring process isn’t tampered with through inappropriate advocacy in the future, and the purpose is to be more transparent with the community about what the parameters are with respect to family members.”

Surloff said there were no incidents that prompted the policy.

“It was really more about taking existing practice and putting it in writing so that future boards and future administrators had sort of a road map of ‘This is what we involve ourselves in and this is what we don’t involve ourselves in,’” he said.

In reviewing policies of other districts as they worked on their policy, Quaker Valley leaders noted that across the region, policies on family members run the gamut, Surloff said.

“They are as loose as nothing to an all-out ban on all things family member,” Surloff said.

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association recommends in its policy guide districts should not employ a teacher who is related to a school board member, as defined by the Pennsylvania School Code, “unless such teacher receives the affirmative vote of a majority of all members of the board other than the member related to the applicant, who shall not vote,” spokesperson Annette Stevenson said.

Section 1111 of the Pennsylvania School Code outlines this requirement.

“This is the only provision in the law that directly relates to employment of family members,” Stevenson said. “There are school entities that have gone beyond the school code requirement and adopted policies addressing nepotism which more clearly delineate the standards for their school entity. Those policies are developed at the local level in consultation with their school solicitor.”

In Quaker Valley, leaders didn’t want to ban the hiring of family members, Surloff said.

“Sometimes they are the very best candidates. So the policy does not prohibit that. It prohibits influence and participation in the voting, approving and hiring,” Surloff said.

He noted a decline in teachers entering the field in Pennsylvania. “There are less people going into the profession. So to further limit quality candidates just based on that factor was something we wanted to not do and stopped short of,” Surloff said.

Sometimes finding a coach is hard and they might be a family member of someone else who works in the district, he said.

The crux of the policy is that, “Administrators and board members are prohibited from advocating for their family member’s hire,” Surloff said. “Advocating is trying to use their position for influence.”

If an administrator or a board member has a family member who is going through the hiring process, that administrator or board member is not allowed to partake in the process and the board member cannot vote on the hire.

The policy prohibits an employee from supervising their immediate family member.

“We do not want family members supervising other family members. That can create ethical problems,” Surloff said.

The onus falls on board members or administrators to disclose if they know a family member is being considered for hire.

Surloff said given Quaker Valley’s history and size, along with the decline in teachers in the state, he thinks this is the right policy for the district.

“It’s important that we are abiding by an ethical and transparent practice but not being overly prohibitive,” he said.