Published 1:10 am Sunday, April 6, 2008
Hines, BOE operate in secret
Trading a known for an unknown has been a common practice of members serving on the Escambia County Board of Education.
Numerous times the board has voted to turn their heads and approve issues that sidelined hometown businesses and tossed homegrown educators and administrators under the bus. It’s now time to hold those “elected” officials responsible for their actions.
The entire system is built on the belief that citizens of Escambia County who pay taxes to support public schools have the right to determine how those schools are governed.
Those citizens were denied that right when, last Thursday, the BOE unanimously selected a principal for Escambia County High School at the recommendation of a secret selection committee.
The 13-member selection committee was an undemocratic entity whose members were chosen by the superintendent and the school board through an undisclosed process. The committee was responsible for interviewing candidates for the position of principal at ECHS. After the interviews, the committee recommended a candidate to the superintendent, who then forwarded their recommendation to the school board, which approved the committee’s decision unanimously. The public did not know the identity of the members of the committee until four days after they submitted their recommendation, at which that time their names were published on The Atmore Advance’s Web site. The list of committee members was provided to the Advance only after superintendent Billy Hines denied the Advance’s request for the information at Thursday’s BOE meeting.
That denial was a blatant violation of the Open Records Act. Since the committee gave the recommendation to the board, they ultimately chose the new principal at ECHS and taxpayers have a right to know their identity.
The process the committee used to determine its recommendation is still unknown. However, multiple sources familiar with the committee’s deliberations confirmed to the Advance that the committee was originally instructed to recommend two candidates to the superintendent and the school board, who would then choose one to become the principal of ECHS. Those sources stated that the committee was asked to check the names of the two candidates that they believed would be the best leader of the school. Those sources also stated that the votes were not weighed.
As of Tuesday afternoon, superintendent Billy Hines had not returned the Advance’s phone call seeking the process used to select committee members including the school board resolution stating that process and the process those members used to formulate their recommendation, as well as the ways that process was amended.
The Atmore Advance does not object to the school board hiring Harvey Means. That is the board’s prerogative. We wish Mr. Means well as he takes the reigns at ECHS this summer and hope the new principal will be committed enough to live in Atmore and be active in the things that are important to the community.
However, as members of this community and stakeholders in ECHS’s future, we do object to being denied both any input in this decision and any access to information about how this decision was made. As a member of the local press, we also object to being repeatedly denied access to information pertaining to Mr. Means’ selection, which our readers have a legal right to know.