School board, borough to share HR director

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The borough will hire a human resources director to work for the municipal government and the Board of Education. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — A new human resources director will serve both the Board of Education and the municipal government.

Both boards have long discussed the idea of a joint human resources director as a way to save taxpayer dollars and improve efficiency, but the move was recently made possible with the retirement of the borough’s former human resources director, Jeanette Deschesnes.

Mayor Robert Mezzo said there has been a need for a human resources director at the Board of Education for a long time.

“Given the fact that there are always limited resources for education and lots of needs, that position has never been created,” Mezzo said.

The Board of Education approved a job description for the position, which was posted on Feb. 3, at its meeting Thursday night. Applicants have until Feb. 17 to submit their resumes.

The human resources director would be responsible for the maintenance of employment records, the recruitment and selection of personnel, employee and labor relations activities and assisting the superintendent of schools and mayor, according to a description on the borough of Naugatuck’s website.

There are few examples of municipalities in the state have a combined human resources director.

“As far as Connecticut local government, we’re going into relatively new waters,” Mezzo said.

However, Berlin, New Fairfield, and Waterford have similar arrangements, he said.

“It obviously would be a big job, but we think that it will not only save money through consolidation but save money at the Board of Education through compliance and focusing the hiring and disciplinary process under one office,” Mezzo said.

The Board of Education does not currently have a human resources director, but instead relies on several individuals to fulfill that role.

Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson said he does a lot of the work that the human resources director would take over. Aspects of the job currently are handled by about half-a-dozen different staff members, he said.

“We need to pull all those pieces together,” Tindall-Gibson said.

During the year, the school board hires about 1,000 people, Tindall-Gibson said. The school district employs twice as many workers as the municipal government, according to Mezzo.

“There’s an awful lot of work associated with employing people, and that’s why we need an HR director,” Tindall-Gibson said.

The arrangement will be similar to that of Borough Comptroller and Board of Education Business Manager Wayne McAllister. Since 2009, McAllister has served both functions. In addition to his regular salary from the borough, McAllister earns a $20,000 stipend from the school board.

Deschesnes made about $92,000, but Mezzo said the joint human resources director’s salary would depend on the applicants’ qualifications. The salary would have to be approved by the borough and school boards.

“My guess is a good HR director would probably save the district substantially more money than we pay them,” Tindall-Gibson said.

Tindall-Gibson said he anticipates further changes to the business office once the human resources director is in place, but he wasn’t sure what shape those changes would take.

The joint human resources director would be under the jurisdiction of the school district and work from the district offices. The municipal government would retain a human resources associate at Town Hall.

“We’re all in this together and some of the functions that we have performed separately for years may necessitate exploring a combination of effort. I think taxpayers expect us to be creative during these kinds of economic times and come up with solutions that not only reduce costs but improve efficiency of operation of government,” Mezzo said.

The Board of Education and municipal government’s labor attorney Nick Grello is advising the borough on creating the position.

“I think that the majority of us are in agreement here that we want to go to the one town approach,” school board member Glenn Connan said.

Connan felt combining the position would allow more funds to be directed towards educational resources.

School board member James Jordan asked how the position would work logistically and who the employee would report to. He was concerned that future school boards may not get along with the municipal government, which could cause conflict over the position.

Board of Education Chair David Heller agreed that the employment agreement should be done properly to ensure the new position is implemented smoothly.

The Board of Education will be responsible for hiring the human resources director and drawing up an employment agreement.

Depending on how long the application process takes, Tindall-Gibson said the new human resources director will be in place by the next fiscal year.

“I think it’s going to work out well for us,” Tindall-Gibson said.