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Kari Lucin, Forum News Service, Published April 27 2013

In split vote, Jamestown school board declines to hire son of principal as business teacher

JAMESTOWN, N.D. - The School Board here voted 5-3 against hiring Jeff Nold as a business teacher Thursday after a contentious discussion that raised concerns about possible nepotism.

Jeff Nold is the son of Bill Nold, principal of Jamestown High School — where the position of business teacher now remains vacant.

“It’s a contentious hire,” said Diane Hanson, a member of the School Board.

Hanson, who also serves as a substitute teacher at Jamestown High School — where Bill Nold is her supervisor — tried to recuse herself from the vote, but was told she couldn’t by JPS Superintendent Bob Toso.

She voted to hire Jeff Nold.

So did board members Gail Martin and Greg Allen.

“I think there’s definitely some room for questions here,” Allen said. “I guess when I look at this, I say, ‘what’s the primary purpose?’ We want to put the best teacher in front of our students, to give them the best education that we can.”

Complicating the issue is the school district’s need for coaching staff.

Jeff Nold was one of four or five applicants for the job, Toso said, adding that only “one or two” of those applicants had coaching in their resumes.

Coaching wasn’t included in the job listing when it was advertised, but with only two past exceptions, coaching isn’t ever included in teachers’ job listings, Toso said.

“We did not (want to) hire Jeff Nold as a coach, we hired him because he has a good background in business,” Toso said. “He was in the business field before he started teaching.”

Roy Musland, president of the school board, said he was sure Jeff Nold is indeed qualified for teaching and coaching, but said he was concerned that during previous hiring processes, people had said the school had a “good ole’ boy” system.

Musland said he believed middle school or elementary school administrators should have done hiring, adding that there should have been more than four people, too.

The hiring committee that selected Jeff Nold was composed of John Conway, assistant principal at the high school, Jim Roaldson, activities director for the school district, Michelle Reed, the chairman of the business department and Tracy Becker, a teacher at the James Valley Career & Technology Center.

According to Toso, Becker does not report to Bill Nold, and both Conway and Roaldson report to Toso.

Toso emphasized that the hiring process that ended in Jeff Nold’s selection was the same hiring process used for every other teacher.

Roger Haut was the first School Board member to bring up his concerns with the hiring process, questioning a parent and child working together in the same high school.

“I think it’s a conflict of interest having your father as your supervisor,” agreed Tanya Ostlie, who voted against hiring Jeff Nold — as did Musland, Haut, Shelly Jystad and Terry Anderson.

Martin suggested tabling the issue, and said she did not feel she was qualified to decide which teacher to hire.

“… to sit here and second-guess our process really bothers me, and I’m sorry, Roger (Haut), but I think you have an issue with Bill (Nold) that you came onto the board with,” Martin said.

Ostlie expressed frustration.

“This is not about the person at all. It’s about the process,” Ostlie said, emphasizing that no one on the board had an issue with Jeff Nold himself. “It is not about the person.”