System for hiring new staff

Intensified procedures for vetting new teachers requires many extensive background checks


Kabe Teague

GBHS administration throughly checks the background of staff applicants before they are hired.

Kabe Teague, online editor

  Former Woodcreek High School teacher Douglas Mason is still officially on unpaid leave as a result of student accusations of sexual harassment.

  His status has led to questions about background checks and the safety on the Granite Bay High campus.

  However, the process for hiring new staff members at GBHS is nothing but extensive and thorough.

  “They apply through what we have called Edjoin, which is this program that uploads all their documents from not only the district but also fingerprinting,” assistant principal Brian McNulty said. “They also have to go through something called the H6, which is driver’s license information, and they need to declare any and all legal criminal problems that they may have had in their past.”

  The initial background check is an official process that indicates whether there are any noticeable red flags about the applicants before they are looked at as qualified candidates.        

 “It’s kind of a lot like a governmental background check,” McNulty said, in which “the background checks need to pass with flying colors within the district.”

  In fact, the person applying must answer at the bottom of the application whether they have been non-reelected (meaning they were essentially fired from a job), and below that they must declare whether they have been convicted of a crime.

   “I look for a ‘no’ and a ‘no,’ and if I see a ‘yes,’ then I’m like ‘pfft’ and I close their application,” GBHS principal Jennifer Leighton said. “I figure that we have so many people that want to work here, why would I want to hire someone with a criminal past?”  

  At this point in the process, the administration picks out the applications worthy of an interview.

  “We hold an interview panels, we vote and we offer our best choices –  and then honestly, the principal makes the decision,” McNulty said. “Then if we say ‘OK, this is the person we want,’ it moves to the district office which goes to (the Human Resources) department, and they do all the background checks formally,” McNulty said.

  Then the applicant must fill out paperwork at the district office.

  Once the district office reviews their application,“the Department of Justice and FBI will run a background check on them,” said John Becker, the the Roseville Joint Union High School District’s executive director of personnel services. “More often than not, the reports come back clean but I’ve seen it come back where somebody had a DUI back in 2007. I’ve seen it where somebody had three DUIs and I couldn’t hire that person.”

  Although applicants might pass the initial screening, reference calls can sometimes bring attention to some other red flags.   

Sometimes we just don’t have a choice”

— Jennifer Leighton

  “There’ve been some red flags that I’ve come across – like if you call a principal about another candidate at another site … if their response is, ‘You know, you should probably call the human resources department,’” Becker said, “that’s usually a red flag for ‘I don’t want to get in trouble for telling you all the bad things about this person but you may want to call human resources if you’re still interested.’”

  In Leighton’s case, her experience helps speed up the process.

  “I call the references they want me to call, but because I’ve been in the district for so long, I normally know somebody that knows somebody that worked with them where they’re working now,” Leighton said. “I kind of go in sideways calling people they’re not expecting me to call, and if those come across really well, then I offer them the job.”

  Leighton also said she looks at their profiles on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

  “I see more what their voice is, what their attitude is, what kind of things they’re saying about students and other people because that kind of lends itself to letting me know more about their character,” Leighton said.

  Despite these efforts of screening to ensure more than qualified applicants get the job, there are cases in which site administrators do not have much a say.

  In the case of Mason, for example, the Woodcreek health teacher was involuntarily transferred to Oakmont at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year after a suspension with pay at the end of the previous school year  – and site administrators didn’t have much opportunity to object because “labor laws all apply to that so that the confidentiality of what they are doing with their employee is kept on the hush hush,” McNulty said.

 Deciding how to deal with an incident like the one at Woodcreek is a rare occasion, but there is a well- thought-out process to separate the employee from the alleged victims.

   “There are so many layers of investigation that that have to go on, both sides getting legal advice and at that point, in my opinion, we just want to get him away from the individuals that were initially impacted while they are trying to process everything,” Becker said.

  At the end of the day, the district has the last word.

 “Sometimes we just don’t have a choice,” Leighton said. “If the superintendent says, ‘You’re taking this teacher,’ you can fight back as much as you want but she’s my boss.

  “Of course, I would express my concerns and do everything I can to protect our students.”