The controversy over the hiring of Sarah Parsons as Director of Personnel of Hancock County Schools has escalated. An administrative law judge recently ruled that Superintendent Dawn Petrovich showed favoritism in selecting Parsons, a close friend, for the position and that the position be put out to bid. The Board of Education voted at its last meeting to appeal that ruling.
As a result of those actions, the Hancock County Education Association has voted to approve a “vote of no confidence” in the leadership of the Hancock County Board of Education and Superintendent Dawn Petrovich. The vote was taken Friday, March 25 and a release issued by HCEA said that the vote was overwhelming citing that 93.4 % of personnel voted they no longer had confidence in Petrovich and that 92% of those voting expressed their lack of confidence in the Board of Education members.
The vote was taken in all Hancock County Schools with the exception of Weir Middle School. According to the release, “Weir Middle School faculty and staff were not permitted to participate because the principal and a secretary refused to allow employees to exercise their right to freedom of expression.”
The HCEA maintains Superintendent Petrovich and four members of the Board of Education are unfit to hold their positions because they are “inadequate leaders, are failing to perform obligations and are making decisions that are detrimental to Hancock County Schools.”
“Recently, Board members Kaser, Gillette, Hinerman, Shaw and Superintendent Petrovich were found to have engaged in unfair hiring practices when they recommended and hired Sarah Parsons for the Director of Personnel,” stated the release. An administrative law judge ruled that they failed to perform the duty and ruled the position must be rebid. The Board voted to appeal that decision to the Kanawha Circuit Court.
“The overwhelming support for a Vote of No Confidence in Superintendent Petrovich and the Board of Education sends a powerful message to the Hancock (County) community and the entire state that the employees of Hancock County do not support the practices, policies or illegal decisions being made by Dawn Petrovich and the Board of Education,” said Melanie Donofe, co-president of the HCEA. “While we hope that the Superintendent and the Board resign from their positions, we also know that their numerous failures make it hard for them to admit to admit to their mistakes. It is time for an immediate change in our district leadership Petrovich and Board members Kaser, Gillette, Hinerman and Shaw have demonstrated by their actions and their decisions they are unfit for their positions, therefore let it now be resolved that a majority of Hancock employees have decided that they have no confidence in the leadership of Superintendent Dawn Petrovich and Board members Kaser, Gillette, Hinerman and Shaw.”
“A final decision on accountability for Superintendent Petrovich and the Hancock County Board of Education should be determined by the state school board because the current leadership has failed to adhere to policy, law, and to exercise responsible financial obligations to the taxpayers of Hancock County.”
The HCEA cited the following key issues as leading to the decision to undertake the vote:
**Interview committees for administrative jobs consist of four or more people to conduct the interview. For the Director of Personnel, only two people were involved in the interview process, Petrovich and Finance Director Joe Campinelli. As this was a position with personnel and curriculum duties, Campinelli should not have been included as it did not pertain to finance. Petrovich and Campinelli have close personal ties to Parsons.
**Petrovich failed to award points on the matrix as required by the WV State Code, nor did she rank candidates based on objective qualifications. She decided Parsons had the best interview, but she did not make notes on the matrix for the interview category. If the position was vacated or declined, the Board would need to vote on the second-place candidate, but that was not possible because Petrovich failed to comply with policy.
**When a school board member asked for the notes on the interview or to see the matrix, Petrovich refused. Petrovich hindered the Board in their duty. One Board member voted “no” because she did not have the evidence she needed for legal justification of hiring.
**The Board did not have the evidence they needed to hire Parsons, but they voted to hire her anyway. The Board was not diligent in its duties to understand state law. Board member Larry Shaw testified that the Board relied on what Petrovich told them to make their hiring decisions, not objective information. Without justification the board should have never undertaken a vote. Ignorance of the law is not a defense.
**The administrative law judge determined Petrovich overstepped her role when she decided the weight of the selection factors. This was the Board’s responsibility.
**Parsons falsified information pertaining to her education on her resume. For most employers not telling the truth on an application would be automatic grounds for dismissal, but not in Hancock County Schools.
**Petrovich awarded Parsons seniority for her substitute teaching. This failed to comply with law and policy.
**The superintendent has not been completing annual evaluations on principals as is required by law, State Board policy and Hancock County policy. Evaluations must be used for promotion and hiring decisions.
**Another applicant having a Ph.D. and three master’s degrees, one of which is in Human Resources, and with more experience than Parsons applied for the job and was denied. The applicant with the Ph.D filed a grievance that proceeded to a level three hearing.
**During Petrovich’s testimony she admitted Parson’s false resume information was concerning, but still maintains she is trustworthy and would hire her again.
**Petrovich admitted to a close relationship with Parsons as the two vacation together, dine out and exchange gifts. They also have a weekly Starbuck’s date on Tuesdays. Parsons is Petrovich’s emergency contact on her personal medical information.
**Petrovich failed in her legal duties and the Board failed in their legal duties.
**Upon obtaining a ruling from the administrative law judge, four members of the Board of Education voted to appeal the decision which will cost taxpayers more than the $20,505 already spent to defend themselves in this case. Petrovich and the Board have a fiduciary responsibility to be prudent with taxpayer money.
**The decision rendered by the administrative law judge merely required the Board to repost the position and ensure a fair hiring process. Four members of the Board voted to appeal having to repost the position and conduct a fair hiring process. They appealed fairness.