The Utah Public Education Human Resources Professionals Association has held monthly meetings for the last several years, and at the group's annual conference this spring, it finally became a formal association.
McConnell was recently named secretary of the group, which means he will become president in four years, according to the association's guidelines. As secretary, he will handle communication between the group and for the group.
"We meet every month in different districts throughout the state, and almost all 41 districts are represented in the association," he said. "Our particular interest is in being a resource for each other with regards to human resources in education across Utah."
Members must be human resource department managers or directors, and McConnell said they keep in touch through a private online system for HR professionals. Now that he is secretary, those interested in membership should contact him.
McConnell received a bachelor's degree in English and physical education at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, a Master's degree in exercise physiology and adapted physical education for children with disabilities from the University of Nevada Las Vegas and a doctorate in educational leadership and policy from the University of Utah.
He first began his career as a special education teacher in Davis County before being hired by the Park City School District to help open the Park City Learning Center 14 years ago. Four years later, he applied for a position in human resources and was selected.
While he enjoys his job, he said it does not come without difficulties. The hardest thing he said he has to do is notify employees of any problematic behavior and work with them to fix it. Minor issues are usually handled at the school-site level, but he handles major issues at the district level that could end up costing an employee their job.
Additionally, working with employees with health issues to navigate things like family medical leave and the "sick bank" or handling employee contract negotiations can also be challenging. These issues are tackled at the monthly meetings McConnell has attended for several years.
"We usually have presentations and group discussions, and we sometimes work with attorneys regarding laws and policies," McConnell said. "Most of those attorneys come to us from the Utah State Office of Education, and we also work with risk management professionals from the state."
Larger school districts usually have four or five employees in their human resources departments, McConnell said. Nevertheless, whether the districts are big or small, all human resources professionals face the same difficulties and work together through the association to plot a course through them.
Discussions at monthly meetings can include more minor responsibilities, like how much substitute teachers are being paid, what kind of employee evaluations are being used and how to handle employee issues with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"We stay in contact when we have questions about different aspects of the law, policies or current trends in education," he said. "We just address a lot of different issues that involved being a human resources director, because the number of things you are responsible for is substantial."