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County schools begin hiring process review

September 29, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Washington County Public Schools officials have begun a formal review of the hiring process for a substitute bus assistant who said she was fired this week, a schools spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Schools spokeswoman Carol Mowen would not say what part of the hiring process was under review, but did say procedures were followed regarding a criminal background check and the manner in which notification of the job opening was handled.

Dana Burcker, 25, was hired by the school system Sept. 14, Mowen said. Burcker's employment ended Sept. 24.

Burcker has a criminal record dating to at least 2002 that includes felony and misdemeanor charges. Charges of theft and writing bad checks were dismissed in court, documents state.

The only conviction was for a misdemeanor, according to court records. She was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit robbery in August 2002, according to court records.

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In that case, Burcker was charged with armed robbery, robbery, misdemeanor theft and conspiracy to commit robbery in connection with a March 2002 robbery at a Hagerstown convenience store, according to court documents. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery and was sentenced to two years in prison, with all but one month suspended, documents state. All other charges were dismissed, according to court records.

She conspired with two men to rob a store clerk of about $130, but she was not at the store at the time of the robbery, documents state.

Mowen would not say why Burcker no longer was employed with the school system.

"When we were aware that there was a potential concern, staff began a more formal review," Mowen said. "In general, there may be other reasons other than criminal background to prompt a review of a hiring process for a specific person."

Burcker's sister, Jeannie Thompson, works in the school system's transportation department as a transportation specialist. Burcker, who was interviewed by telephone Wednesday, said her sister was not involved in her hiring.

Mowen would not discuss whether Thompson and Burcker are sisters and would not say whether Thompson supervised Burcker. Instead, Mowen provided an organizational chart of the transportation department that indicates Thompson would not have supervised Burcker.

Transportation Director Chris Carter said he is not involved in the hiring process. He said the human resources department handles all applicants. Carter said he would not be aware if one of his employees had a criminal record because that information is handled by human resources.

He said Monday morning that Burcker was employed with the school system. On Tuesday, Mowen said that as of the end of the business day Monday, Burcker no longer was an employee.

The job

Burcker said Wednesday that she was not sure why she was fired from her job as a substitute bus assistant. She said she received a phone call from a school official Monday saying her services were not needed for the week because the student she assisted would not be riding the bus.

Burcker said officials called her again the following day, this time to say she no longer was employed by the school system. On Monday or Tuesday, the position Burcker filled as a substitute was posted as a permanent position on the school system's Web site.

Burcker said she never applied for the substitute position, which was not posted as a job opening. She said she received a phone call from school officials offering her the job. She said she did not know who called her.

Mowen said there is no requirement to post substitute bus assistant positions.

"For temporary sub positions, in cases where we are seeking to fill something quickly, individuals here within the school system are going to seek qualified individuals they might know," Mowen said. "That most likely does not happen often."

Burcker said she had worked for more than two years as an employee of a bus contractor. She would not describe that job but said it involved being on a school bus transporting Washington County Public Schools students. She would not name the contractor for whom she worked.

Burcker said Wednesday that, before she was fired, she planned to apply for the transportation position she was filling as a substitute when it was posted as a more permanent job.

Burcker said she was told the position would be posted and that she could apply for it. She was under the impression that she would continue to substitute until either she or another candidate were hired, she said.

"But after the message I got (Tuesday) night, I'm not sure I'm eligible," she said. "I was told my services were no longer needed ..."

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