An article in yesterday’s Courier-Journal highlights exactly why I am increasingly against a new law that allows school boards to evaluate their school superintendent in secret.
Says Debbie Wesslund, chair of the Jefferson County Board of Education:
“It doesn’t matter what we say or think individually, it matters what we say or think as a board.”
That is absolute nonsense.
This board, like every school board in Kentucky, is an elected body. Managing the superintendent, who is the CEO for the school district, is arguably a school board’s most important function.
Voters can’t make intelligent choices about who represents them on their local school board when that board conducts its most important work in secret, offering only a “consensus” summary to the public. A consensus document will provide no clue about what individual board members really think.
Not everyone agrees with Westslund’s ideas.
Hats off to Jefferson County Board of Education member Steve Imhoff, who abstained from voting on the superintendent’s performance, saying he believes the entire evaluation should have been public. He gets it.
So does Courier-Journal attorney Jon Fleischaker. The Courier’s article points out Fleischaker said last year that, “the public misses important information when portions of the evaluation are closed.”
He is absolutely right.
Unwittingly, Ms. Wesslund’s comment allows informed speculation into the real reason that school boards pushed the legislature hard last year for this public business transparency violation. Those board members certainly know it will be much harder for someone to run against them when they can hide what they are doing from the public that elects them.
Maybe, places like Jefferson County should vote their entire board out of office if their board takes advantage of the new secrecy bill to thwart the public’s right, and need, to know (the new bill does not require secrecy; it just allows it). If the board wants to collectively hide in secret, maybe they should be collectively discharged in public – except for men like Steve Imhoff who clearly understand what the elective process and doing the public’s business is really all about.