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Morgan Hill
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September 27, 2021

MHUSD considers policy on hiring relatives

The Morgan Hill Unified School District is following the rules
when it comes to its hiring practices, yet the Santa Clara County
Civil Grand Jury is recommending the district form a policy, which
it currently lacks, that would disclose familial relationships and
that direct supervision and evaluation would be forbidden among
those related or married to prevent any hint of nepotism or a
conflict of interest.
The Morgan Hill Unified School District is following the rules when it comes to its hiring practices, yet the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury is recommending the district form a policy, which it currently lacks, that would disclose familial relationships and that direct supervision and evaluation would be forbidden among those related or married to prevent any hint of nepotism or a conflict of interest.

All school districts in the county were reviewed in “Looking at Policies Our Schools Use to Find and Place Employees” from the June 24 report. At tonight’s school board meeting, trustees will discuss the possibility of penning a policy based on the grand jury’s recommendations.

Since the school district has no policy on hiring relatives – biologically or by marriage – the grand jury said a policy would “avoid the appearance of bias or favoritism in the recruitment and job assignment process.” MHUSD responded to the findings by the grand jury, which it is required to do. The civil grand jury is a panel of citizens who serve one-year terms to investigate local governments, agencies and school districts.

“The grand jury pointed out areas for opportunity for change. The administration looked at it as an opportunity to tighten up and clarify,” Board President Bart Fisher said.

Just a handful of spouses work at the same school site among the district’s 15 schools, said Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers President Theresa Sage. She said if someone was in a supervisory position over their relative or spouse the evaluation process is done by another employee to avoid any conflict, though relatives are never in direct supervision positions such as a principal and teacher.

According to the school district’s count, 17 husbands and wives are employed by MHUSD and 42 individuals who are related either biologically, married or in-laws. Most frequently they are parents and children or husbands and wives working as colleagues, Sage said.

The grand jury report recommended that the board implement a policy of identifying familial relationships and tracking such data, which the district is doing, Director of Human Resources Jay Totter said.

The proposed language for the new policy would require the district to inform the board trustees about relationships among employees; that the district not appoint people to a position for which his or her relatives is a manager or supervisor; and an employee must notify his or her supervisor within 30 days of any change to their circumstances that may violate the policy.

Relatives are defined as an individual’s spouse, domestic partner, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and family of an individual’s spouse or domestic partner.

The proposed policy can return for a second read and board approval at the next board meeting Oct. 26.

Fourteen of 32 districts in the county document relationships and have related policies. The 18 districts that do not, according to the grand jury report, cannot be certain that they are properly adhering to district policies that apply to the placement of related employees.

Twenty-two districts have policies that forbid the direct supervision of relatives or spouses by district employees, while 18 of these districts allow this policy to be overridden by the district superintendent.

The grand jury also asked districts if officials keep track of romances in the workplace or have affiliated policies. MHUSD responded that it does not and “if there is a concern about the relationship between a district employees and his or her supervisor, supervision is transferred to another manager if there is merit.”

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