The Niskayuna School District hopes to include the position of human resource director in its 2022-23 budgets after an audit revealed the department was in dire need of someone to oversee operations.
Capital Region BOCES, which helped conduct the audit, recommended the board find someone with experience to lead the department and also hire one or two more employees.
“The intention is to include a human resource director in the 2022-23 budget,” said Matt Leon, the school district spokesperson. “Although it is too early in the budget process to say for certain, that is the plan because we recognize that leadership and the capacity of the department is a critical need.”
The audit, which the Gazette received via a Freedom of Information request, found that there is no one person in the district that appears “to understand the day-to-day functions of the HR office in their entirety.”
The district has been working with Kathleen Culligan, a personnel program administrator at Capital Region BOCES, to conduct the audit. Culligan has also been assisting the district with some of its human resources work.
“This work was done through the Capital Region BOCES Human Resources and Personnel Service,” said Adrienne Leon, the spokesperson for Capital Region BOCES. “Capital Region BOCES has a number of services that support school district operations and business functions, and this is one of them. Through these services, BOCES regularly provides recommendations to assist districts in their work.”
The human resources department oversees items such as recruitment, conflict management, labor relations, disciplinary procedures, payroll functions, certification and benefits.
During a Jan. 12 school board meeting, Culligan addressed some of the findings of the audit. Culligan said some of the duties typically handled by a human resources department have fallen through the cracks. One of those duties revolves around ensuring teachers and administrators are licensed or certified.
She said there are six teaching assistants without certification and six more will expire at the end of this month.
Leon said the department is helping those whose certification has expired or is set to expire make any necessary updates.
On top of that, the school’s software regarding licensing and certification is not updated.
“The licensing report from our software shows that 98% of the licenses have expired,” she said.
Culligan indicated they may not have actually expired, but that the software hasn’t been updated to properly reflect who is licensed and certified.
“Updating the licensing software is one of the priorities outlined by the audit that will be addressed,” Leon said.
BOCES recommended that there be one set person in charge of tracking and monitoring all certifications and licenses and that a review be done to ensure who is still certified or licensed.
“Teachers are properly certified and that is validated each year through state reporting,” Leon said.
Culligan said there is also no one in the human resources department at this moment who can answer questions on collective bargaining agreements.
Under recommendations for benefits, BOCES said the district should create a document of frequently asked questions that is accessible by employees and those who have retired from the district.
No one in the department has been involved in the interview process.
“There’s been no oversight,” Culligan said. “Are we in compliance? Are we keeping check of the references? Are we making sure that we’re not going to have any liability issues that we could get charges of discrimination?”
Culligan said state and federal filing requirements have been farmed out to other departments in the district. Leon said those duties have been given to departments like the Office of Instruction and Technology and have been filed on time.
“Over the long term, the idea is to bring those responsibilities back to a properly staffed HR department,” Leon said.
The director of technology is responsible for state data, according to the audit.
“However, it is unclear who in the district is responsible for ensuring that the data reported is accurate,” the audit states. “A deeper look into the state data reporting requirements needs to be conducted.”
The reason that some of the duties have been divided up to other people in the district is that the two employees staffing the human resources department are continuously trying to recruit and retain employees.
“You have a turnover rate that is very surprising, so they’re constantly spinning their wheels trying to get these positions filled. They don’t have time to do this other work,” she said.
The audit indicated the district lacks a formalized process for recruiting and recommends one be developed and consistently applied.
Leon said the hope is to staff the department with the new positions of a director and secretary as well as maintain the positions of human resources coordinator and an assistant.