Dear Editor: The secrecy that attended the Madison School District’s pick of a new superintendent was bad form and bad public policy.
Prior to making its selection, the district announced just two finalists, one of whom was found to have a closet full of skeletons that prompted his withdrawal. The remaining finalist, Jennifer Cheatham, got the job.
State law requires that at least the top five contenders for such a position be named, but does not specify when. The Madison School District decided to do so after it was too late to matter.
And then, to add insult to injury, the district’s lawyer, Dylan Pauly, dissed the disclosure law that the district complied with only belatedly.
“We believe that by releasing these names, pursuant to our legal obligation, we are negatively contributing to the chilling effect that is occurring across the state with respect to school boards’ abilities to recruit and hire highly qualified individuals as superintendents,” she wrote.
The naming of finalists for important positions is not uncommon. Applicants are told upfront that this may occur. In this case, this “chilling” requirement didn’t keep the district from getting seven applicants deemed worthy of an interview, including an applicant — Cheatham — so supremely qualified that it picked her from a final pool of one.
Let’s hope that, as superintendent, Cheatham will have more respect for the state’s traditions of open government than the people who hired her.
Bill Lueders, president
Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council