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July 19, 2007
Diploma required, or not?
Gault says open policy is unfair to educated
GRAY, Georgia (STPNS) -- The question of a blanket policy requiring a high school education or its equivalent for all jobs on Jones County?s payroll was discussed at last week?s Board of Commissioners meeting, and the current policy was not changed.
Commissioner David Gault made a motion to require everyone hired by the county to at least have a GED, but the motion died for the lack of a second, which means it did not come to a vote.
The issue of the education requirement appeared to stem from the request of a department head to hire a person who was volunteering at the animal shelter. The volunteer applied for the job of cleaning the dog pens at the shelter but did not have a high school education.
The requirement was brought up by Gault as a change in personnel policy. He said he felt the county needed something in place to require a high school education and pointed out that former boards have paid for employees to get their GEDs.
?If we hire people that have had the opportunity and didn?t take the advantage to get a diploma that reflects back on us,? Gault said.
The commissioner said he feels it would help the county in its quest for occupants for the new industrial park because every employer wants an educated employee pool.
?I think we are shooting ourselves in the foot not to have a policy. We also have to look down the road. If we hire someone without a high school diploma, we could be opening ourselves up for a lawsuit,? he said.
County Attorney Frank Childs said he did not think it would be a liability issue for the county not to have a policy, but from a legal standpoint the county could adopt the requirement.
Gault told the board that one of the applicants for the county job had a diploma and some college while the other did not.
Commissioner Bert Liston asked about the nature of the job in question.
?It was cleaning out cages at the animal shelter. What kind of message are we sending students if they can go to work for the county without a GED? I think it is wrong for us to change policy midstream. I know we did pay for some at public works to get their GED so they could get a license,? Gault stated. ?I think it?s a slap in the face backward.?
Gault suggested future problems could occur if an employee without a diploma is moved to another department and becomes a supervisor over those more educated.
?I don?t think that?s fair,? he said.
County Administrator Mike Underwood asked to what county policy Gault was referring and the commissioner said it is not a written policy.
?But we have paid employees to go to school,? Gault said.
Commissioner Mell Merritt said he did not believe helping an employee obtain a GED meant the county could not hire someone without one.
Clerk of the Board Leila Brittain said all the county jobs that are advertised state the requirement of a diploma or equivalent.
Commissioner Larry Childs said he feels job experience should be considered when looking for an employee, and Liston said job requirements should fit the particular job in question.
?I think having a policy for a high school education would be fine 99 percent of the time, but a job of cleaning dog pens should not require a diploma,? Liston stated. ?I think there are exceptions.?
Gault said his point was that someone applied for the job that had some college, and he did not think it was fair someone without a GED was considered for the job.
?I raised cain about it,? he said.
Underwood said some jobs do not need a high school education and pointed out that there are people without a diploma that have a good work ethic and need an income to support their families.
Chairman Preston Hawkins agreed.
?Some of the best equipment operators I have seen do not have a high school diploma. If he can run a piece of equipment, I?m all for hiring him,? Hawkins commented.
Childs said he feels someone who was trained on the job should be given an equal opportunity, and Merritt agreed, stating he did not feel the county should hold an employee back if he can do the job.
Gault said he is just one commissioner, but he thinks it is unfair to the people in the education system to hire a person without a diploma.
?We are saying we will hire people who have not taken the initiative.?
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