Here's a tale of two school boards (or maybe three, once we get a clearer idea about what's going on in Jefferson).
The board for Lebanon Community Schools last week selected Bo Yates as the district's new superintendent. It seems as if Yates, a Lebanon High School graduate who's served as an administrator in the district since 2004, likely was the front-runner from the start, and certainly deserves an opportunity to run the district.
Members of the Lebanon School Board committed to making the search for the new superintendent as transparent as possible, a wise decision considering the stormy separation between the board and the former superintendent, Rob Hess.
Board members followed through on that commitment, inviting three finalists to visit the community for interviews that included opportunities for members of the public to meet the candidates and ask questions of them.
That board vote in Lebanon occurred on Thursday. The next day, the board for the Greater Albany Public Schools announced its plans for public participation in the selection of its next superintendent.
Here's a summary of those plans: We're done! We have a finalist, Melissa Goff, currently the superintendent in Philomath. We'll vote later this month on whether she'll be the one — but for right now, we don't have any other finalists.
Before we move forward, we should emphasize that we think Goff is a smart choice for the Albany superintendent; she's done good work in Philomath and helped lead that district through an exceptionally difficult hazing scandal involving the football team.
With that said, the school board made exactly the wrong choice in this case when it elected to pursue a confidential search to find a replacement for Jim Golden, who was fired by the board for neglect of duty and insubordination. (Golden has since filed a lawsuit against the school district for breach of contract.)
Now, to be fair, it's not unusual for school boards to opt for confidential searches: Part of the reasoning traditionally has been that potential candidates might damage their relationships with their current employers if word got out that they had applied for another job. But surely it cannot come as a surprise to school boards that talented employees might have ambitions at some point to advance their careers.
Besides, the candidates for the Lebanon job knew that the names of finalists would become public — and that didn't stop some 30 candidates from applying.
And to be completely fair, the GAPS process did include a couple of steps at which public input about the new superintendent was solicited: An online poll, for example, asked stakeholders about what qualities they expected the successful applicant to possess. And the search apparently involved a 20-person committee of administrators, educators and community members who interviewed Goff. (We say "apparently," because the district has declined to identify the members of that committee.)
With all that said, however, it would have been valuable for the school board to be as transparent as possible in its search for the new superintendent, especially considering the stormy way in which Golden and GAPS parted ways. This was an opportunity to involve the community in a meaningful way to help shape expectations for its new school leader; it's an opportunity that the board has squandered.
As for the Jefferson School District, its board apparently has decided to hire Brad Capener as its superintendent — but has failed, as far as we can tell, to take a public vote about this, as the law requires it to do. A school board meeting that had been scheduled for Monday was canceled after a member questioned whether proper public notice had been given about that meeting — another requirement of the law. These sorts of miscalculations can happen once you decide that it's a lot easier to do your work without involving that pesky public. (mm)