What They're Thinking: Rod Dooley, Cedar Rapids school district interim executive director of talent management

Dooley will head human resources as the district works to find long-term replacements for Washington High's Plagman, Johnson

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Rod Dooley, 52, joined the Cedar Rapids Community School District Aug. 22 as its interim executive director of talent management.

He replaced Human Resources Executive Director Jill Cirivello, who retired in June weeks before a Washington High substitute teacher was arrested for a sexual relationship with a student.

In his new position, Dooley will be heavily involved in the hiring of long-term replacements for Washington High Principal Ralph Plagman and Athletic Director Mike Johnson, who both resigned this summer, as well as other staffing decisions.

Q: What experience do you bring to the role of executive director of talent management?

A: There are probably two areas for me that I think are important. One is, I do have an education background, I majored in math education and taught high school math, as well as became an assistant principal at a middle school.

After I left education, I went into the business world and began working in human resources. I’ve got over 25 years of experience in human resources. What makes this role perfect for me is it allows me to take that passion I have for education and that background in education as well as the skills I have in human resources and join those together.

Q: How is this talent management role different from a position as human resources executive director?

A: It is the same role, with probably a little different focus. The shift in focus is really thinking about the talent that we have on board, the talent we need to bring on board, and how we should continue to develop to grow and engage that talent.

I think a lot of the time, people think of human resources just as the policies and procedures, which are fine and necessary. But talent management begins to let us know that our focus is on talent and growing that talent — not just making sure all the policies and legal processes get done. It needs to get done, but we’re also making sure we are helping people grow and develop.

Q: You were working in the human resources department at Rockwell Collins. What made you want to move to a role with the Cedar Rapids school district?

A: I first, actually, transitioned from them into a full pastoring role. For the last 12 years, I was also the senior pastor at Oak Hill Jackson Community Church.

Probably the last few years I was at Rockwell, I was finding this pull to go full-time — with the pastoring being my full focus. I started doing that in January full-time. I love it, I’m still doing it, and I’m just adding this interim role with the district.

As a pastor, you get very tied to a community. So you understand what’s happening in the community, as well as how important it is that we support our kids as they are growing and learning and developing.

What made me want to do this is, again, this passion around education. And there was an opportunity here to come and see how I might be able to bring my expertise and experiences to bear as this district continues to grow and even broaden its focus in diversity inclusion.

Q: What kind of work do you plan to do to improve diversity within the district’s staff?

A: It’s really important as this country continues to get more and more diverse — Cedar Rapids is not exempt from that. We are seeing Cedar Rapids become more and more diverse.

As a result, then our schools are becoming more and more diverse. Which means that educators need to diversify the staff, and ensure that the staff we have continue to broaden their thinking around diversity — why it matters, and how to best support that.

I think we have to continue to look into those areas where we can recruit diverse talent, along with making sure we capitalize on the diversity we have in the community and in the region. Are there potential students going through the school system, those diverse students, who want a career in education? What can we do to support that, to fuel that?

Q: You’re joining the school district during a period of transition. District officials have said they plan to hire long-term replacements for Washington High Principal Ralph Plagman and Athletic Director Mike Johnson this school year. What will be your focus as the district looks for those people?

A: We’ve not really had a specific conversation yet about those two.

Coming in, I think it’s very important that we focus on the talent that we want and need in those roles, and make sure that we are going to find the best and the brightest — because it’s very critical. They’re ultimately the ones that are going to be educating our students.

I do think it’s important we take the time and energy to get that talent on board.

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