Blog: The Educated Reporter

Predicting the pain, cont’d.

I want to elaborate on how I think journalists can better cover district reform before it is a messy, teary, semi-done deal. When board members search for a superintendent, they tend toward blind optimism. Fine. But journalists need to be more circumspect. Travel budgets may preclude a trip to the supe’s previous districts. But reporters must at least get on the phone—to busybody parents, to board members, to the teachers union president. Read up on the battles in the clips. Ask board members, administrators, teachers: Why wouldn’t they happen here? Are we ready for that?

Wouldn’t you agree that kind of information is crucial? Too bad—your school board leaders don’t want you to have it. These days they are likely to agree to superintendent searches that are utterly opaque. Are you as a citizen okay with that? Are you okay with the public having only a couple of days to vet a couple of candidates? Or the “lone finalist”—a common term of late—revealed one day or literally one minute before the board’s final vote? Or how about what happened in Hampton, Va., this summer, when ZERO finalists were made public before approval? (Thanks to many EWA members for providing examples.)

The argument is that nobody good will apply if the fact of their application might be made public. Their current employers will know they are looking, and … spare me. Everybody hunts, and everybody knows everybody hunts. Code names, candidates showing their resumes and then taking them back so as to not leave a paper trail: Is educational leadership public service, or a Robert Ludlum novel?



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