Registration for the 2023 HR Academy is closing soon on September 5.
As our team prepares for the event on September 26-27 in Sacramento, we sat down with the program’s two primary instructors and picked their brains on why this new training is important for all charter leaders, and especially for those who oversee staff – whether one person or a team.
Jennifer McQuarrie is an attorney with deep expertise in employment law and charter school law who instructs in all of CSDC’s programs and offers critically attended legal, HR, and open meeting act sessions at the annual CSDC Conference.
Brigid Perakis is a seasoned charter school HR practitioner who has advised many California charter leaders in navigating complex HR-related situations. Together, these instructors speak to legal parameters–the science–and what they look like in practice–the art–of human resource-related concerns.
Before we begin, can you tell us about your path into the California charter sector and what drew you into charter HR?
Brigid Perakis (BP): I had worked in HR for many years in various sectors. When my children were in middle school, I stopped working full-time and was looking for a part-time job that would work with my children's schedule. I ended up getting a job as a special education instructional aide. I found I really enjoyed working in a school environment and with the middle school children. As my children got older, I needed to go back to a position that would earn more income for our family. Therefore, I looked for another HR position which I found with a non-profit social services organization. This was a part-time position. I was always aware of the Rocklin Academy schools, as I had friends/neighbors who worked there. The stars were aligned when I was considering moving to a full-time position and Rocklin Academy was looking for an HR professional. Friends reached out, I interviewed, and the rest is history. I spent a wonderful 10 years with the organization and became one of the biggest advocates for the wonderful education provided by the schools and the benefits of public charter schools.
Jennifer McQuarrie (JM): I began my legal career as an associate on a team of high stakes litigators in a large law firm, which included working on human resources-related litigation. Needing a change of pace, I found myself as the general counsel for a charter school management organization. In that role, I regularly encountered human resources issues. Since I opened my own law firm, human resources issues have always been a part of my daily counseling with clients.
What is the most common question you receive related to charter employee issues?
BP: One of the most common questions I received was why traditional schools handle employee situations one way and charters cannot do the same. For example, traditional schools pay their classified employees (non-exempt) only once per month, why can't we? I would have to explain that traditional school district classified employees are covered by a CBA (collective bargaining agreement) which can supersede California Labor Code and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations. Employees who come from traditional schools and who are not knowledgeable about HR laws and regulations often continue with the way things have always been done. That is where I feel an HR professional can be of guidance in the charter realm - ensuring compliance with employment laws as related to a non-union entity.
JM: I most commonly encounter questions relating to termination of employment and how to legally do so. Questions often relate to at-will employment and poor performance, along with considerations relating to protected categories.
What is a best practice that you find extraordinarily useful to manage overwhelm as a charter leader?
BP: I found that developing a network of other charter leaders helped immensely with managing to not become overwhelmed. Other leaders within my organization, as well as others outside the organization. I love to talk through a problem or issue with others as a sounding board and to make sure I'm seeing all perspectives. Having that network of people who are also in the unique environment of public charters has been the best way to manage situations.
JM: Hiring competent staff to assist with managing all of the day to day human resources tasks is important. Delegating responsibilities to those with key skills can provide an overwhelmed school leader with the confidence that the job is getting done well. Maintaining effective and regular communication with that staff is also important.
What CSDC resource do you think every charter leader should be familiar with?
BP: I think every charter leader should be sure to attend the annual CSDC Conference. When I first started in the charter world, I found this was a wonderful way for me to familiarize myself with the world of charter schools. The program is wonderful and it is a great way to network and meet other charter leaders who can become part of your network. It will provide resources for charter leaders to use moving forward.
Registration Closes September 5!
Consider what you know–and don’t know–about charter HR law and best practices, and what areas might be blind spots for your organization.
As schools navigate new regulations, there are new problems to absorb. Be sure to send someone from your team to HR Academy on September 26-27 in Sacramento. This annual training is not to be missed. Registration closes on September 5.