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Phil In The Blank

Phil in the Blank A column by Phil Custodio

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August 04, 2010 - With the new school year approaching, Clarkston's search for a new superintendent is heating up.

For an example of how not to do it, how about Oak Park Elementary District 97, outside Chicago? They recently wrapped up their superintendent search, ending up with Clarkston Schools' ex, Al Roberts.

According to local news reports, they hosted public meetings to gather input from residents in April, but when it came down to interviewing candidates in mid June, the flow of information ceased. The local press knew the school board narrowed candidates down to five on June 7, then three on June 10, and finally one, Roberts, on June 18.

But they were denied names at every step, where specifically candidates were from, anything they might have used to do any sort of independent check on them.

"He's a he, white, from out of state and already a superintendent," reported the Wednesday Journal, June 18. On June 22, he was still being called "D97's mystery superintendent."

The Journal quoted their school board president, June 8, "people will not put their name in to just express interest if that's going to be made public because it may undermine them at their current district. We don't want to discourage a perfectly good candidate with an existing contract from applying."

Aside from the complete lack of respect for the public's right to know their public schools' business, Roberts submitted his retirement to Clarkston School Board on May 24.

He had no existing contract, and nothing left to undermine in his current district. Why couldn't they release at least his name?

How about not doing it that way here in Clarkston's search? Doing it their way – the "Chicago way"? – denied local press the chance to do their job and check into candidates themselves.

Those who want to come to Clarkston to take over school administration should be willing and eager to engage the entire community, not just the school board, in their application.

They shouldn't have to be treated like such delicate, little flowers.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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