EDITORíS DESK: Privacy vs. public right to know
There may be nothing so frustrating to a neighborhood as a personnel decision by an elected government board. Ruled by lawyers, such boards invariably have
marching orders to keep mum anytime they have to take action against an employee. The idea is that this protects the employee's privacy, by keeping out of public
view all the potentially nasty comments and/or findings that led the board to reach its decision.
The problem is when the person (such as Midland Elementary Principal Barbara Bishop) is in a high-profile position that directly affects a large number of citizens. During her six years at Midland, bringing District 11's first elementary-school International Baccalaureate (IB) program out of its infancy, Bishop became close (for better or worse, depending on your point of view) to hundreds of parents, students and neighbors. Adding to the intrigue, two years ago her husband Terry got named the district superintendent. So when the board decided to remove her from that position, it seems like it should have been a no-brainer to fill people in on the facts. Instead, things went the other way. Almost comically, the board didn't even consult with the superintendent, let alone the rest of us.
I think Welling Clark of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) makes a good point: It was a neighborhood-spurred task force that led to Midland becoming a "magnet" IB school, so why did the neighborhood get left out of this key change in the school's management?... especially when the district nearly botched it by (incredibly) not looking at first for an IB-trained replacement.
I understand privacy, but doggone it, in the end a principal at any school serves the public, not the lawyers.