Florida Keys News
Saturday, June 22, 2013
C. McPherson on HR short list
Schools superintendent Porter puts employment contract on agenda

Longtime School District employee Christina McPherson is on a very short list of candidates for the position of executive director of Human Resources, according to a document obtained by The Citizen.

The number of competitors for the job? One: Ramon Dawkins, a site-based administrator with Miami-Dade Public Schools.

Monroe County Schools Superintendent Mark Porter has placed approval of an employment contract on the agenda for the next School Board meeting, at 5 p.m. Tuesday in Key West. But at press time Friday, Porter denied that District Director of Accountability and Assessment McPherson, a former assistant principal at Key West High School, had already been selected for the HR job.

"There has been no decision made at this time," said Porter, who declined to name the members of the interview panel. "The final interview [with Dawkins] won't take place until tomorrow (Saturday) morning."

Porter said 22 people have applied for the position, which came open after the resignation of former Director Cheryl Allen in April. The position has been filled on a temporary basis by former Key West High School Principal John Welsh, whose contract runs through July 31.

Six "highly qualified" applicants were selected for first-round screening interviews. McPherson is the only candidate currently working for the district.

District 3 School Board member Ed Davidson, a fiscal hawk, on Friday criticized the candidate interview panel, which he described as being stacked with district insiders.

"I like Christina, and she's doing a great job where she is," Davidson said. "However, this process is flawed. During the current HR interviews, as well as the interviews four months ago, it is lamentable that most of the search committee members were friends, associates and subordinates of the primary candidates -- and none were HR qualified experts. Because of the highly technical nature of human resources procedures and paperwork, the district should have invited HR directors from local agencies to add their expertise to the search committee interviews, and we should have done a far more extensive search for candidates -- including the upwards of 100 people who recently applied for the city and community college HR positions."

District 4 member John Dick echoed Davidson's concerns.

"That's the way things have been done here for years," he said. "You're getting interviewed by people you're going to be in charge of. I think they try to keep it as a closed session.

"If she gets the job, there's always going, to be, fairly or unfairly, whispers about why she got the job, and that's not right," Dick went on. "I don't see a lot of change here. The superintendent seems to be extremely happy with the status quo. Does he want to bring in people from the outside? It doesn't look like it."

Davidson pointed to a document circulated following Allen's departure that sets out the district's requirements for the position.

"It says, and I quote, 'Requires a minimum of a bachelors degree in HR administration/management. Masters in HR administration/management is preferred.'"

Neither Welsh nor McPherson returned calls from The Citizen requesting confirmation of her credentials, but Porter denied that the interview panel was stacked in McPherson's favor.

"We're continuing the past practices of Monroe County schools, and there was someone with HR expertise on the panel, as well as others who would have been familiar with internal candidates. We had identified members of the screening committee even before we selected the candidates. Besides, the panel doesn't make the selection. They hand over the scores, and leave the decision to me."

Porter maintained that the action item to fill the position was put on the agenda as a "placeholder." He said he hoped he would be able to recommend a candidate to the board at Tuesday's meeting.


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