Monroe County School District Executive Director of Human Resources Ramon Dawkins has now spent more than two weeks on the job, and is in the process of bringing what he feels are substantial changes to the department, and its hiring process. Dawkins on Tuesday took the time to answer a series of questions posed by The Citizen.
Question:Can you give me a bit of background on your career? Where were you educated, and with what degree? How did your career bring you to Key West?
Answer: My career began with Johnson & Johnson Corp. Hearing a call for men and executives to teach, I left my job, enrolled in school, and became certified in education to answer the call of the Federal No Child Left Behind Act. I wanted to be one of those people who didn't just talk about education rather jumped into the saddle and did something about it. I taught in a small suburban school setting and quickly moved to a district level position in Curriculum Development. One year later I arrived in Broward County. There I again taught grades 2 and 5. After three years, I was promoted to Assistant Principal at the time becoming one of Broward's youngest administrators. After four years, I was again promoted to Principal. This career track allowed me to grow to become a nationally recognized consultant in education. Traveling around the nation I facilitated learning communities that focused on teaching and learning under conditions of increasing standards of accountability. My solution rested in focusing on data and data analyses. Ultimately I would appear before a Congressional Reaction Panel to discuss potential improvements to the look and feel of the No Child Left Behind Act. My belief remains that our national assessments should focus on educational diagnoses and prescriptive teaching. As educators we have to keep children and learning first.
Q:How many people have you hired so far?
A: Approximately 45. Since being here I have administered the hiring of nearly 45 individuals in the area of instructional staff, support staff, and administrative personnel.
Q:Please describe the new hiring process you've initiated, and why it was designed as it was.
A: The new process is based on behavioral scenarios presented to potential candidates having applied for a particular position. The candidates are then ranked according to six criteria. During the process, candidates respond to items requiring them to describe actions and situations they have participated in relevant to the position for which they are applying. Overall, the process gives each applicant a level playing field on which they can share skills and talents they feel they possess that uniquely qualify them for the position. This information is then numerically ranked and interpreted using the Situation, Task, Action, Result or S. T. A. R. rubric.
Q:Is this new process that you've described one which you've used at other jobs? If so, what were the results?
A: This process is not one I have used before but it does rely on standard researched based practices and theories of statistical research. It uses a statistical tool called a Likert scale for the construction of analyses. Summarily Likert scales offer a statistical method of quantifying behavioral data.
Q:Has the ongoing collaborative bargaining process with the teacher's union affected in any way your hiring schedule or process?
A: They have not slowed the hiring process as the Superintendent has directed the department to place schools first. While the negotiations are moving at a pace slower than what may have been otherwise desired, they are moving at a steady pace. We are hopeful that a resolve will arrive in the near future.
Q:The previous HR director held the position for decades. The position has been described by people such as District 3 School Board member Ed Davidson as an important "gateway" position. In a small town such as Key West, do you foresee any special problems, such as the perception of nepotism, in any part of the hiring process?
A: This is in part why it is even more important to utilize a process that takes personal bias out of the equation. The professionals participating in the ranking component are given a strict set of guidelines that necessitate compliance in order for proper analyses. Debriefing sessions yield further input as to group norms relative to the information that was shared. At the end of the day, the interviewing committee can only provide a qualitative analysis of what was shared during the interview process. This is sent to the Superintendent as an informational brief. The decision as to who advances to the next level of consideration is not a part of this process.
Q:How much guidance have you been given so far from the superintendent?
A: I meet with the Superintendent regularly. I am the new man on the block and I am sensitive to processes for integrating into a new culture. The burden of accomplishment is on me to assimilate and accommodate the conditions of my new work environment. It does not mean I must change who I am as a leader rather I need to utilize my leadership prowess to build upon what is and link this new learning to where the Superintendent's strategic goals indicate we as a District intend to go.
Q:What are your priorities at the moment? Any big news about upcoming hires on the horizon?
A: My chief priority is to facilitate the development of strategic objective No. 3 -- Develop a High Performing Workforce of the Superintendent's Action Plan. This includes the recruitment, retention, and professional development of a high performing workforce. The target is one that meets the needs of our students, our community, and ultimately the world at large.
The next big hire is the Executive Director of Finance & Performance. Word has it the Superintendent will be making a decision within the next week. I am not a part of the process for determining who the successful candidate will be at this level of the process. After the Superintendent recommends, it's up to the School Board Members to make a final decision.
Q:I understand that Mr. Lefere has been leading the search for a new Director of Transportation. Are you involved in this job search? And if so, how?
A: Yes, I was involved in this process. The applicants were required to navigate the new interview process as a prerequisite requirement. All did so and were impressive. Their findings were provided to the Superintendent and a new leader was named in Randy Fabal.
Q:Anything else you'd care to add?
A: I believe the most critical issues facing the educational community today are limited resources, the increasing rigors of educational delivery models, identification of a viable teaching force, reaching the diverse learner, enrollment in advance placement courses, and too often dwindling graduation rates. With so much on our (the entire community's) plate we must rally if we are to truly intending to advance the cause of education. We have wonderful students in the Monroe County School District. Our teachers, Principals, and support staff are doing an excellent job with teaching and learning. I am proud to have been invited to be a part of this A+ team of professionals.