Saturday, July 13, 2002

Secret search


Schools slam door closed on taxpayers

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        A nasty case of amnesia must have struck officials at Cincinnati Public Schools.

        Members of the Board of Education can't seem to remember the school system's middle name.

        It's Public.

        Please remind them. They keep forgetting.

        That's Public, as in belonging to, paid for, run by and, ultimately, serving the people.

        Sadly, members of the schools' seven-person board - particularly its president Rick Williams - made comments this week sounding as if they think the middle name is:

        Private.

        For us to know and you to find out.

        Butt out.

        Too bad. Must be that darned amnesia talking.

Say what?

        The board wants to keep candidates' names secret during the search for a successor to the much-praised superintendent Steven Adamowski.

        Reason: Privacy will attract the best candidates.

        That's lame.

        In 1998, the schools were superintendent hunting. Names of the top 10 candidates were revealed weeks before the board picked a winner.

        The world did not stop spinning. Cincinnati Public's crumbling schools did not collapse.

        When the candidates were unveiled, public interest groups voiced their opinions to the board. Those groups have that right. They represent the public. The board's job is to listen to -- guess who -- the public.

        After all was said and done, in public, the board picked Steven Adamowski.

        It is possible the best candidates might apply if their names remain confidential. But how will we, the people, ever know?

        If we are kept in the dark, we won't know exactly who applied, their race, gender, or specific qualifications.

        We won't know if the winner came from Cincinnati's good old boy network.

        We'll wonder how far the search extended. Did the board cast a wide net for major-league talent? Or, did it mirror recent hires at Cincinnati's City Hall and only go as far as the minor-league city of Dayton, Ohio?

Do the math

        Rick Williams has said keeping the search secret is the board's right.

        “Seven people,” he said. “That's where this decision is.”

        His math is off. The board's seven members are not the only people in this equation.

        Cincinnati Public serves nearly 42,000 students. Is this how the board wants to teach kids how democracy works?

        The fate of Cincinnati Public's election issues is in the hands of 211,490 eligible voters.

        They elect members of the board. They vote on raising taxes to pay for the schools.

        Taxes pay for salaries. That includes board members' stipend of $80 per meeting and Steven Adamowski's annual earnings of $182,282.

        Taxes also pay for repairing dilapidated classrooms and building new schools.

        Cincinnati Public stands poised to ask taxpayers to approve a $480 million bond issue for the biggest school construction project in the city's history.

        The school board should keep voters informed. Don't keep secrets. It doesn't make sense to shut out the same people who can shoot down your building plans at the ballot box.

        The board's secrecy stance amounts to another instance of educational arrogance. That's where -- take your pick -- the teacher, principal or board member, pats the student, parent or voter on the head and says in condescending tones:

        “I know what's best for you. Now run along.”

        That attitude helped Cincinnati's schools get into a pickle with poor test scores and poorly maintained schools.

        An arrogant board won't get the support it needs from the people until it remembers Cincinnati Public's middle name. And never forgets its meaning.

        Call Cliff Radel at 768-8379; or e-mail: cradel@enquirer.com.

       

       



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