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July 1, 2015

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School District reconsidering hiring decision after official accused of favoritism

The Clark County School Board tabled a vote on a new hire contract Thursday after a union official accused the district's human resources chief of picking a friend for a job — and then offering her more money than usual.

The School District has been looking for a new director of school and department recruitment within its Human Resources Division after the former director took another job in the district.

Chief Human Resources Officer Staci Vesneske came to the district in summer 2011, after serving as the assistant superintendent of human resources for Spokane Public Schools in Washington.

Vesneske is now recommending the district hire Melissa Hallead, the executive director of human resources for Vancouver Public Schools in Washington, to be the new director of school and department recruitment in Clark County. Hallead, who has nearly 20 years experience in schools, has a master of education degree from Concordia University and a bachelor's of science degree in business education from Central Washington University.

Vesneske and Hallead served together on the board of Washington School Personnel Association, an organization advocating for school human resources professionals.

A tentative contract to hire Hallead was supposed to go before the School Board Thursday, but the item was pulled from the meeting agenda after an administrative union leader publicly questioned Vesneske's connection with Hallead and her salary offer.

Hallead was offered a first-year salary of about $97,000 for the Clark County position. That is Step G on the administrative salary schedule.

That's higher than what is allowed under the district's contract with the administrative union, said Stephen Augsburger, the executive director of the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-technical Employees.

The administrative contract stipulates that new hires from outside the district must start at Step C, which is four levels below Step G, Augsburger said.

A Step C salary would be about $80,000 for Hallead.

In a time of austerity measures, Hallead was unfairly placed ahead of loyal and longtime district employees, Augsburger argued.

"(Vesneske) is doing a special consideration for a friend," Augsburger said. "It's a slap in the face to every administrator when everyone else has to work laterally across the salary schedule."

Vesneske contends Hallead is a "friendly colleague" who has visited her in Las Vegas several times, but has never stayed at her residence.

And Vesneske is adamant she played an insignificant role in Hallead's hiring process.

When Hallead expressed interest in the position after seeing it posted on the district's website, Vesneske pointed her to a colleague in her department. That's it, she said.

Vesneske didn't review Hallead's file or sit in on the team interview with Hallead. Vesneske also said she didn't write a recommendation for Hallead, choosing another candidate instead.

"I'm not the one who placed her," Vesneske said. "It was a very transparent process."

Furthermore, Vesneske argued the administrative contract allows for Superintendent Dwight Jones to make exceptions, such as placing an administrative candidate at a higher salary than Step C.

Vesneske said an exception was made in Hallead's case because her base salary in Vancouver was $121,861, according to the Kitsap Sun. Even with the Step G salary, Hallead would effectively be taking about a $25,000 pay cut to come to Clark County.

"We didn't go out of our way to recruit (Hallead) because I didn't think she would be interested," Vesneske said. "She took a paycut – just like I did – because we believe in Jones' vision."

Regardless, Augsburger argued the administrative contract states: "In any event, Step F will be the highest placement" for both district and outside candidates. That means even if Hallead could be offered higher than a Step C salary, she must be capped at Step F – not at Step G, Augsburger said. That would mean she would make about $93,000 at most.

That's one interpretation, Vesneske said. The School District is reviewing the hiring process and the salary offer for Hallead and plans come back to the School Board with a recommendation after the review is complete, she said.

"I am very disappointed there are allegations that I influenced (the recommendation for Hallead)," Vesneske said. "Everybody's entitled to their opinion, but our goal is to do what's best to implement the superintendent's vision."

Augsburger remains skeptical however. It's not fair to the hundreds of loyal administrators who have been working for years in the district to have an outside candidate start above them, he said.

Before the current salary freeze, administrators had to remain on Step F for four years and have 18 years of experience in the district before moving up the salary ladder to Step G, Augsburger added, citing the contract.

Now, Hallead – who has no seniority in Clark County – could start at Step G if her contract is approved.

"It doesn't send a good message to those laboring on Step F and have 18 years in the district," Augsburger said. "Everyone needs to be treated fairly."

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  1. Oops, the woman must have a record of favoring "choice" (vouchers & charter schools) for the union to oppose her. While I detest favoritism and/or cronyism hiring practices in government, I am suspicious of governmental unions even more. Their agenda is not to protect the general public and taxpayers pocketbooks. Nope, their agenda is to tie the hands of managers so as to allow their members free rein in what they do or, better yet, don't do. And that isn't their main agenda, either. It's using members dues to help install corrupt politicians in office who then do their nasty bidding, even going so far as to okay "sweetheart" contracts that bankrupt municipalities. The union is up to no good here, I believe. Don't trust it as far as you can throw a school building.

  2. From the article:

    'Vesneske didn't review Hallead's file or sit in on the team interview with Hallead. Vesneske also said she didn't write a recommendation for Hallead, choosing another candidate instead.'

    Seems to me that Augsburger is going after the wrong party.

  3. @lvfacts101. Jerry, Jerry, you do realize that the union opposing this hire in the Administrators union, not CCEA. The executive director of CCEA is John Vellardita. The executive director of the Administrators union is Stephen Augsberger. Nowhere does the story mention CCEA or it's executive director.

  4. This happens a lot with in the District. Admins positions are given to friends even if the other canidate has more experiance and better qualified. Needs to be fixed!

  5. Why on earth does CCSD have a union representing executive level employees? Principals, vice-principals, deans, department heads and assistants/associates and all management and executive employees should be at-will. You think that CCEA [the teachers' bargaining agent] has it insidious tentacles in the District? Start looking at the Administrators' union!

  6. Extremely Qualified

    Willing to work for $21,000 less

    Union Bosses reject

    Why is the Union involved in the management chain

    I thought Union hated management

    This is a third what some Union Bosses make and half of what some firefighters make

  7. It just never stops with the crooks at CCSD.Jones,Vesneske and everyone else should be fired immediately. The fix in this deal is Vesneske saying she believed in Jones vision and the 'friendly colleague' bs. If these people used guns and did what they do on a daily basis to tax payers they would never get out of prison

  8. @truthserum. The only mandatory school laws in Nevada are the ones requiring attendence. So you would abolish those, and allow kids to never go to school? What sense does that make? How would you expect those students to support themselves, or do you want to support them on welfare?

    Oh, the solution is to force them to work or go to school if they are on welfare? What kind of job do you expect them to get with no skills? How do we attract new businesses to Nevada with an uneducated work force? If you force them to go to school, aren't you requiring them to get an education?

    I don't know any teachers that sit in offices, who are you talking about?

  9. Am I the only one who has noticed that "colleges" like Concordia and University of Phoenix (some of which are referred to as "diploma mills") are increasingly showing up on the resumes of many who have masters degrees and Ph.D. and Ed.D. degrees? Some of these places guarantee that you'll have an advanced degree in less than a year taking only on-line courses (and paying a lot of money). The link following this comment sheds a different kind of light on such "colleges -- universities".