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TIMES EDITORIAL: City schools should seek public input in director’s search

Posted on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 11:23 am


n what we hope can be chalked up to simple idea exploration that will be corrected before a mistake is made, some members of the Manchester City School Board at least discussed the idea of hiring a director of schools without seeking public input — something that could be a major misstep.

With longtime director of schools Dr. Prater Powell announcing this would be his last year, the board is charged with the task of finding a replacement, which could be tough considering the city school system has run a pretty good ship for a while. This next step shouldn’t be taken lightly, and it certainly shouldn’t be a step into the shadows.

Should the Manchester City School Board seek public input in hiring a new director of schools?

  • Yes (80%, 61 Votes)
  • No (20%, 15 Votes)

Total Voters: 76

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While in the process of hiring a director of schools the board is not legally obligated to welcome public input, hold community meetings, or conduct an open search, it certainly has the moral responsibility to, doesn’t it?
Doesn’t a community that not only builds the buildings with its tax dollars, but trusts that its children will receive the best possible education have the right to know who has applied, how the board will develop the interview questions, and how the candidates will answer those questions? Without that knowledge, how would a voter hold his or her elected school board member accountable?

The fear of inviting political propaganda is certainly understandable, but it is part of the process.

The board has the responsibility, as elected officials, of being as transparent and upfront as possible, especially in the political climate of government mistrust that hovers over the nation today.

Talking in code isn’t appropriate, either. With The Manchester Times present at the Tuesday work session, the board refused to say the name of a candidate that it is considering for the position – the one who is so qualified the board doesn’t need to conduct a search, one member so eloquently stated. The board released that name Monday.
Another frightening detail is some members of the board appear to be in one big hurry – tossing out the idea that this new director should start as early as the spring term with Powell still in office through June 30, or even buying out Powell’s contract. Both of those options mandate the expense of paying two directors for nearly seven months.

That idea prompted one member to state the system not only has money to do that, but the money to “afford about anything we want.”

Maybe a quick check into the school’s funding should be next on the agenda of the swiftly moving board of mayor and aldermen.

This person some members of the board are interested in might be perfect for the job. But others deserve a chance and the public deserves a voice.