Towns, schools look at sharing HR services

BAR HARBOR — The possibility of sharing human resources (HR) services is being looked at by Mount Desert Island Regional School System Superintendent Marc Gousse and the town managers of Bar Harbor and Mount Desert.

Currently, neither the school system nor the towns have a dedicated HR professional on staff.

Typically, HR matters involving the school system’s more than 300 employees are handled by Business Manager Nancy Thurlow and her staff.

“Day in and day out, they do a great job,” Gousse told the school system board last week. “But it’s not something that any of us are trained for; it’s not in our wheelhouse.

“We can often answer questions because of our experience … but if we don’t know the answer, we might need to pick up the phone and call legal counsel,” he continued. “That costs money.”

Gousse said he approached Bar Harbor Town Manager Cornell Knight and Mount Desert Town Manger Durlin Lunt about exploring the possibility of sharing HR expertise. They agreed to issue a request for proposals (RFP), which Gousse has drafted.

The RFP lists a number of specific services that the towns and school system might be interested in having an outside firm handle. Those include employee recruitment, hiring, orientation, termination and exit interviews; job descriptions; workers compensation matters; conflict management training and disciplinary procedures; team building and management training; and safety and wellness programs.

The RFP asks firms that submit proposals to include the estimated fee or billing rate for each service.

“It will really blow you away when you look at all the [human resources] things we’re required to do,” Gousse told the school board. “The way we’re presently structured, I don’t believe we’re serving the best interests of our organization or our employees.”

He emphasized that the RFP does not obligate the school system and towns to contract for HR services.

“It’s more of a study to look at what our needs are, what the services would look like and what the costs would be,” Gousse said.

The town of Bar Harbor has 72 full-time employees. Mount Desert has 42.

In Mount Desert, many HR functions are handled on a day-to-day basis by Town Clerk Claire Woolfolk.

Knight said Bar Harbor’s HR functions are generally handled by Tax Collector Sarah Gilbert.

“We’re just doing some exploring at this point,” Knight said of the possibility of sharing HR services. “We don’t know yet whether we would need to have an employee to do that or contract it out, and we don’t know whether we could afford it.”

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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