The process of picking a new superintendent, or the prospect of having a popular one lured away, is always a big story. But secrecy adds sizzle and intrigue. It always does.
And the same will happen in Houston if the search for outgoing HISD Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra’s replacement is conducted in the dark ...
Leaks are a guarantee, though, to the press and to various constituencies, if you have even one member objecting to a closed process. In the case of HISD, board president Larry Marshall is one of those doing the objecting. His position was just strengthened recently when the Greater Houston Partnership backed openness.
So, we here in Houston have two options: Expose the process to sunshine and take the chance of getting fewer applicants. Or commence the charade of secrecy and wait for the sun to shine through the cracks.
Just to make sure we're all understanding here: If you're gonna run for president, the biggest and most important job in the nation (and maybe in the world), you have to do it out in the open.
If you're gonna run for governor -- which, heck, might be about the third or fourth most important job in the state (just kidding! Well, maybe not) -- you have to do it out in the open.
But if you want to be a school superintendent, under Texas law, well, that's supposed to be as closely guarded a secret as whatever's doing down at Gitmo.
Like Falkenberg says, leaks are a guarantee. Put it another way: Folks, people talk. That's what they do. They're people. If you think they're not gonna talk, get real.
And what example are we asking our school superintendents to set for our kids if we expect them to hide from the public that they're applying for a job elsewhere? Kids, it's OK for people not to admit they're looking for another job -- until someone finally forces them to admit it. 'Cause that's what honesty and accountability are all about: Keeping secrets that are embarrassing to you (until you finally are forced to admit otherwise, of course).
(Excuse me: Are we talking about schools here? Or are we talking about the NFL, or the NCAA, where football coaches are supposed to deny, deny, deny, deny that they're talking to another team, right up until the second they finally admit that they've been hired by that other team?)
The law on this area in Texas is crazy to begin with, and on top of that, it's openly abused by school officials. The law says that school officials are required to make public the names of only finalists for superintendents' posts -- and, routinely, Texas school systems decide on one "finalist" for the job whose name they make public. That's a crock, people. This insanity came up as a topic when the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas met last fall in Austin to discuss issues and loopholes in the state's public records law that they'd like to see the legislature fix -- and I hope someone fixes it soon.
But it doesn't have to be that way at all. In some other states, you are entitled to find out the name of everyone who applies to be superintendent of a school system -- that information isn't exempt from the state's public records law.
Anybody care to have their Texas school officials be THAT accountable?