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Tom Hoffman

Making hiring and firing decisions by consensus is a recipe for disaster, in my experience. Maybe you can pull it off for a while at a school like SLA where you probably have younger teachers with fewer local and family connections and where the likelihood of having to remove positions in the next three years is almost zero, but in the longer run, in an established school this can be a deadly poison. It is one of the reasons I will never teach again.

Melinda Miller

The final decision does lie with the administrator but I think the teacher and student perspective are good insights. I recently went through the interview process and did not go with my teachers #1 choice. There were things that I knew about this candidate that I could not share that I didn't feel comfortable with them in the position. In the end it is my responsibility to hire the best. Is there really a right or wrong way to do this?

Chris Lehmann

I think as long as it's a transparent process for folks on the inside, there isn't a wrong way to do it. For instance, in Melinda's case, saying, "Folks, I have information I cannot share about this candidate that is confidential, but that does matter," should be enough for most people to understand.

And Tom, I don't know what your experience was, but every school I've worked at, started or consulted with has had, if not consensus hiring, darned close to it. I'd argue that having some kind of democratic process is essential to building a democratic school.

Tom Hoffman

Believe me, there are wrong ways to do it. There is a big difference between consensus, voting, and advising a principal or administrative team who takes the views of the community into consideration. Perhaps Providence is inherently worse for this kind of thing since it is like a small town and urban environment at the same time. What was worst was the two years we had to eliminate positions. Try working that out by consensus. But almost as bad is when you've got, say, a teacher's wife, who has been subbing at the school for a few years, applying for the job when many people in the school don't think she should get it. That's a fun one to come to consensus on.

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