Middleboro schools consider adding human resources department

Jun 30, 2024

MIDDLEBORO —The Middleboro School Committee is exploring the creation of a human resources department for the district, in part due to questions about the number of staff resignations in recent years.

Committee members at the June 27 meeting unanimously agreed to have School Committee Chair Allin Frawley start compiling data and conducting outreach toward a potential addition of a human resources department, which the district does not currently have.

Frawley noted that Middleboro Gas and Electric and the town’s municipal government each employ a human resources department. But the schools, which is the largest town employer with 625 staff members, do not have one, he said.

Forty-six staff members, including 11 teachers, have resigned from the district this school year, according to numbers presented at the meeting.

Thirty-nine staff members, including 10 teachers, resigned the previous school year, according to Frawley. Fifty-seven resignations, including 15 teachers, were received in the 2021-2022 school year.

These numbers are actually lower than the average percentage of school employees that leave districts, Frawley said. More affluent districts tend to retain more staff, while fiscally challenged districts lose more, he said.

Still, Frawley acknowledged that presenting the numbers was “not a very good look for the district.’’

Committee member Marcy Fregault said that reaching out to employees for honest feedback is crucial to maintaining a quality school district. Exit interviews are not conducted currently, but could be done by a human resources department, committee members said.

Fregault had suggested at a previous meeting that staff input should be part of the evaluation process for Superintendent of Schools Carolyn Lyons. That cannot happen, committee member Frawley countered, because the evaluation process is set by the state.

But staff feedback is crucial, Fregault said. “Teachers and staff don’t feel supported and fear speaking out,’’ she said “There’s no way to make sure education for our children is excellent unless we can listen to all viewpoints, the good and the bad.’’

Having a professional human resources department would “take the personalities out of it’’ and provide objective information, Frawley said.

Committee member Christopher Benson questioned whether the municipal human resources department could also oversee the schools.

“A human resources department would help improve the school district quite a bit’’ but would add to the budget, Frawley noted. The committee would have to ask the Select Board and town residents for their support, he said.

“I’m not a big fan of an increase in budget and staff size,’’ Frawley said. But having trained, objective individuals to look at personnel issues within the schools “will only help,’’ he said “It takes a lot of the guesswork out of it, it takes a lot of the conjecture out of it.’’