With new state legislation mandating all current and future school board members be subject to a criminal background check, the West Deptford school board unanimously passed a resolution Monday night allowing board members, who are prohibited from taking compensation for their position, to be reimbursed for the cost of that background check.
The criminal history lookups, which are the same any member of school staff, from custodians up through the administrators, have to go through when they're first hired, will cost board members $81.75 each, according to Superintendent Kevin Kitchenman.
“It is not a small expense,” Kitchenman said.
Kitchenman said board members would have to initially pay out of pocket for the check, since payment is required when making an appointment, but would get that money back from the school district after submitting a receipt.
With all nine current board members required to get a background check, that means a cost of about $735 to the district, plus up to $245 after an election, depending on how many new members are elected.
The background checks are a one-time affair, however, and incumbent board members who are re-elected would not be subject to another check.
The law specifies that new board members–whether elected or appointed–would have 30 days, either from the day of election or appointment, to get a background check done, though the district is still waiting on exact guidance on that provision.
“They haven't really laid that out, procedure-wise,” Kitchenman said.
Kitchenman and Christopher Strano, the school board's president, both called the checks a good, common-sense idea.
“In this day and age, it's probably important,” Kitchenman said.
The law, which was signed into effect on May 26, disqualifies board members for a host of crimes, ranging from criminal mischief and perjury up to terroristic threats, arson and murder.
While the checks are a one-time affair, Kitchenman said it wasn't clear whether school board members who leave the district and want to serve in their new town would be subject to a second background check. Teachers and administrators accept a job in a new district have to get checked again as part of the hiring process.