McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • County schools sure of teacher checks

  • The Kansas Board of Education is discussing how to get prosecutors to do a better job of reporting felony convictions after it revoked six teachers’ licenses.
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  • The Kansas Board of Education is discussing how to get prosecutors to do a better job of reporting felony convictions after it revoked six teachers’ licenses.
    The board also is changing some of its policies in attempts to find out if potential teachers have been convicted of felonies or other crimes that would bar them from teaching.
    Some of these changes include requiring teachers to submit fingerprints for checks against a state criminal database when they renew their licenses. This policy would apply to those who have not previously submitted fingerprints to get their licenses.
    McPherson County school officials report their schools have not had problems with teachers being convicted of disqualifying crimes.
    Chris Ruder, associate superintendent for McPherson School District, and Bill Seidl, superintendent for Canton-Galva School district, said they do independent background checks on teachers in addition to the state board’s checks. Both said they have not had problems with convicted felons in their schools and parents should not worry about their children’s safety.
    “We would not hire a person who has a felony on their record,” Ruder said.
    The Kansas Board of Education does background checks on potential teachers before issuing teaching licenses. However, individuals occasionally slip through the system.
    Kansas state law requires prosecutors to report convicted felons to the board to help avoid this problem. However, only 14 of 105 counties in the state have done so during the past two years.
    David Page, McPherson County attorney, said McPherson County is one of the 14 that send reports.
    “My office sends a form to the Kansas Department of Education on every felony conviction that occurs within McPherson County. We have done this for every felony conviction beginning from the time I took office in January 2009,” Page said. “Since taking office, I have made it a priority to comply with all such requirements and to fully cooperate with all such state agencies or boards.”
    Page said some counties may not comply because their staff works part-time, so they don’t know about the requirement or don’t have the resources to comply.
    “Thanks to the citizens of McPherson County, my staff and I are full-time professionals who work tirelessly on behalf of the people of this county,” Page said.
    Seidl said he trusts the state board when it issues teaching licenses.
    “I think they’ve done a good job for the most part,” Seidl said. “Some people slip through the cracks, but I don’t think it’s a huge problem.”
    Both Canton-Galva and McPherson school districts perform independent background checks during their hiring process. Seidl said he will contact previous employers and references, and Ruder said McPherson School District uses two independent screening agencies.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We feel confident with our checks we have a good knowledge of our employees,” Ruder said. “We take our student’s safety in utmost concern.”
    Contact Josh Arnett by email at jarnett@mcphersonsentinel.com and follow him on Twitter @ArnettSentinel.
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