Committee recommends tougher school hiring screening

ALBANY -- As part of a tougher stance on combating employees or applicants who have questionable backgrounds, Dougherty County School System employees would soon be paying a $53 fingerprinting fee about every two years.

The fee would cover the expense the school system is taking to conduct national criminal background checks on applicants and current employees. Most school systems do only a free state check, Human Resources Director Tracy S. Williams said.

The proposal was recommended by Williams and was approved 3-0 by the Board of Education's Personnel Committee in a Friday morning meeting. Board members Anita Williams-Brown, Michael Windom and Emily McAfee make up the Personnel Committee.

Williams-Brown questioned employees having to pay the $53 fee.

Current certified employees would be required to pay the fee every time their contract comes up for renewal and classified employees would be required every two years.

"Running the background check every two years will be costly to everyone," Brown-Williams said.

"I don't think the system should pay," McAfee said of the background fee.

Dougherty Executive Director of Operations and Business Services Robert Lloyd said the background check fee simply would be "a condition of (being able to) work (for the DCSS)."

McAfee found the fee justifiable.

"It seems to be everyone wants us to be impeccable," she said. "Nobody gets a free lunch, it's a cost of doing business. ... It's for the safety of the children."

Superintendent Sally Whatley added: "It's a minimal fee. It raises us to a new level of security."

Later in the meeting, Williams-Brown suggested doing random drug testing for teachers and coaches since the system currently only tests bus drivers and police officers.

"I know it could be expensive, but because they have access to children...," she said.

The Personnel Committee also recommended other changes to the language of the proposed personnel policy. These related to provisional hiring, criminal backgrounds, reporting all allegations of and

circumstances concerning crimes and criminal offenses, and drug-free workplace.

Williams also requested and approved unanimous recommendations to write up proposals for requiring employees seeking to retire to give 120-day notice and automating the lateral transfer process to another school when an opening occurs.

Williams also told the committee about how purging the school system's substitute list from 700 names would be more cost effective since DCSS is paying an administrative cost for the number of subs it maintains on its list, Williams said.

Late in the meeting, Windom also suggested he would like notification of job openings in the school system when they arise.

"Just add it to what we're already getting," he said. "We get notice of who's leaving and retiring."

Williams-Brown said knowing the exact areas of the opening would be beneficial as well.

"We can do that easily," Williams said.

All the recommendations made at the Personnel Committee meeting will be brought before the full school board at upcoming meetings.