5 Strategies to develop a Transparent and Humanistic Human Resources Department Strategy #3

Posted By: Sandy Wiley Skinner

It’s been about 6 and a half months since my last blog. A large reason for this is to do the work
as an HR professional. As you will learn or know, each school year brings its own level of
wonder, concern, and stress. As we in year two (2) of COVID or maybe COVID, we are
beginning to feel some residual effects of the impact of this virus. Some of us are still
processing as if COVID is an ever present threat to our overall health. While others are
functioning as if this virus no longer or never existed. Either way, as an HR professional, you
are having to determine policies, procedures, and practices in schools that supports the overall
well-being of everyone. When the world can seem to be overly divided on one topic that
impacts everyone, this can be a challenge. This leads me to the third strategy of being clear
about what experts and professionals have identified a law, policy, or recommendations.

Strategy #3: Remember your decision making/recommendations are based on facts

This is a very difficult stance to take in a public school environment. As stated before, teachers
and educators are used to exercising professional judgement. With that fact, they are definitely
aware that an exception can be made. They are used to expecting and providing exceptions to
the rule. This truism allows them to relate to others; be humane when a system or structure
doesn’t allow for that. This is one of the primary reasons why teachers are so effective to
children. They are able to provide an ebb and flow system that generates compassion and
understanding. This system allows teachers to develop and maintain relationships with
students and families over time and becomes a part of their DNA. This is what they do and
therefore, this in some ways is what they expect from the district.

As a Human Resources professional, your department is solely based upon fact. You have to
remember that your department is primarily based the law and policies. One ill-advised mistake
and the district is liable for damages and hits the news headlines for the wrong reasons.
Decisions in public schools become a matter of case law that creates precedence throughout
the country. With this reality, it is important to have an overall understanding of creating a tried
and true system of relying on practice, policy and the law. What does this look like?

When you are challenged with a decision, ask around first. See if there are any situations that
are similar to this; call your predecessor, if applicable. Talk with your colleagues,
superintendents, trusted administrators, etc. Has this occurred before? If so, what happened?
What were the circumstances? You would need to know if this has happened before. Who are
the players and does this situation align with any of those? You want to know how the district
has responded before, as this is a matter of precedence and practice. It will assist you in
knowing how to begin with this matter and what potential decisions you can/should make. If
there is a precedence of making a certain decision that is not found in policy or law, then
consider if you would want to continue that pattern or is it time to break the mold. Either way,
you have to be clear on what people are expecting to happen. This expectation, if a different
decision is made, can create a hardship for you that monopolizes upon your time and efforts. In
short, understand the precedence and determine how you would move from there.

If this precedence is not aligned with policy or the law, then you should consider when to make
this change and it cannot remain in place. Remember that practice/precedence is just that.
Typically, this would not hold up in a court of law or public opinion in your favor. It could show
up in a court of law or public opinion that is not in your favor. Consistency is key and/or having an identified law, policy, or iron-clad justification that determines why this practice/precedence
has changed.

Most of your decisions should begin with policy and/or the law. You will find policies in your
district, get to know them; understand what they are saying. Please know the policies that are
specific to your department. Rely upon them to assist you in your decision making and
identifying practices. Should you know there is a policy or law that your department is not
following, notify your superintendent immediately. Begin the steps to discuss how to modify the
practices you have in place and to communicate this change to everyone. Now there might be
instances where policy doesn’t match practice and your practices may be the most practical
solution for your district. As long as the policy does not contradict a state or federal law, then
policies can be changed. This again is a discussion with your superintendent and policy
committee. If your district does not have a policy committee, then you might consider adding
that. The policy committee will preview, discuss, and makes edits to policies of the district.
Laws are changing annually, so you have to ensure that your policies and practices are in
alignment with the law.

Again, rely upon your policies and the law. They will provide you with the support needed in
decision making. This will also keep your office in line with making consistent decisions that are
based upon facts. Do not make decisions, as an HR professional, based upon the judgement of
people and/or conversations. This creates inconsistency in your messaging, which can
compromise the integrity of your office. What most people do not recognize is that when the HR
department is not working from a place of integrity, then it could crippled the district. People will
not want to work for a place that applies policies inconsistently or based upon favoritism. Be
concise, direct, honest, consistent, personable, and grounded in policy/law. This is our

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