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Thursday, April 8, 2004

Just another backroom deal

The Oregonian's S. Renee Mitchell had a first-rate column yesterday about the supposed public process that culminated with the bang-bang hiring of the new Portland school superintendent the other day. According to Mitchell, the fix was in long ago, and the supposed candidates' forum was all just a show to make it look like there was public involvement. In fact, there was none. (Betsy had smelled a rat as early as last Sunday.)

This town really needs to take a hard look at itself. The people running it just refuse to allow the public in on anything important. We taxpayers are just too stupid, I guess, to be trusted with issues like whether the reservoirs should be covered, who the school superintendent should be, whether gay people should have the right to marry, what the police were really thinking when they decided to shoot somebody to death. Cue Jack Nicholson: "You can't handle the truth!"

It's all got to be done in secret, but with some lame effort undertaken to make it look like a democracy.

Too bad for the politicians that they're such inept liars. You tell 'em, Renee.

Comments (10)

Whoah there Nelly.

When it comes to selecting the schools superintendent wasn't the really big complaint about the process last time the fact that there was too much public involvement and that ended up scaring off all the qualified candidates. I distinctly remember newspaper commentary complaints.

I was just waiting for folks like Ms. Mitchell to jump back up and start whining about the opposite direction. I guess if you are on the Portland School Board, you really can't win no matter what you do.

while her article does raise a good point about the usefulness of the public process, it was obvious she was biased from the beginning because they candidate from Norfolk made her laugh. Frankly, what does the public know about hiring a school superintedant? Also, having lived in both Pennsylvania and Virginia, it should be noted that Norfolk has a horrible reputation for it's school district. Apparently making a reporter chuckle cures all ills.

There ought to be some kind of middle ground, though.

I agree that having the public presentations was a waste of time. But that's what school boards are for. Hiring adminstrators

I did some poking around on my student westlaw account to look at older Oregonian articles (sorry can't legally suply clicks to these and had to do it this way because oregonlive pretty much sucks)and found one from last year that trumpeted the Beaverton school district's search and hiring strategy as compared to PPS's last failed search. In fact, Beaverton was held up as the way to go because at least they had actually hired someone at that point.

Are people's memories that short??

BUT there was also an O editorial a month or so ago that urged the board to give the public some insight into where things now stood - including revealing finalists for a short period of time, just long enough for the public to offer some input/feedback.

But if that wasn't feasible, then - hey, tell me so. Don't schedule a 'forum' if the decision's been made. And tell us beforehand - not afterwards, or during - that it's your (board) decision to make.

My annoyance stems from the fact that this is the latest in a series of bungled or non-existant communications from the district and/or the board. And it gives people just one more reason to mistrust what they do hear.

I would have been happy if the board had said, "We have learned our lessons from the last superintendent search. This time, we will pick the superintendent without taking public comment about specific candidates. We believe we can get a better applicant pool if we promise anonymity to the unsuccessful candidates. When we have picked the candidate, we will, however, explain to the public our reasons and the level of our research into the candidate's background, so that at the next election the voters can evaluate how well we have done our jobs as board members."

Isaac: If you look at the news (the O) in the last few months and the releases by the district (on their website), I think you will find they did just what you asked. They have been upfront about the the process and their challenges. They ran criminal and credit background checks as well as interviewed people in the community the candidates came from.

As to public participation, the board held more than 70 community forums to identify the criteria to look for in a candidate.

I don't mean to seem like I am anti-public participation - but the school board's mission is to hire a superintendent. Two years ago they failed miserably when four candidates backed out because their names were made public. This time they succeeded in actually hiring someone, who appears to be well-qualified. If you want a greater level of participation in the hiring of the next superintendent - run for the board.

Auggie, I'm not in favor of unlimited public participation. I'm bothered by the report that the school board made the decision before the public forum, rather than after the public forum. I am pleased that the school board made a decision; I'm just slightly grumpy about their PR.

What he (Isaac) said. Only I'm more than just a little grumpy.

Why? I'm fairly smart, am involved in my local school, attend PTA meetings, read a lot (including the newspaper) and am very web-savvy (used to be my day job, actually.) And I'm not remembering hearing anything about these 70 community forums, to be honest.

Do I expect an engraved invitation? Nope. (And the PPS website gives me a massive headache, so I don't use it much - glad to see they want to fix that, according to the budget hearing I attended.) But a mailing home might have been nice...(instead of that glossy 90-page school catalog that arrived the first week of March when school transfer forms were due March 19th for elementary/middle schools and the high school deadline had passed, for example.)

And if I'm feeling that way, imagine how parents who aren't so plugged in feel? Especially when they already feel as if the district does a piss poor job of communicating with them on the crucial stuff (talk to any parent who has just gone through the school transfer process and you'll get an earful, I'm sure.)

They may have gotten a great candidate (and I hope so), but they messed up in the way they presented her, in my opinion.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Just another backroom deal:

» Hurrah* for the backroom! from Isaac Laquedem
The directors of the Portland Public Schools board unveiled two candidates for the superintendency on Monday and hired one of them on Tuesday. At least, PPS said it hired the winner on Tuesday, though the winner's old employer announced on [Read More]

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