Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Does it matter? You betcha!

The discovery of unexplained baggage by Kenosha's newly appointed school superintendent is disturbing for many reasons.

First, it demonstrates that there were serious gaps in the vetting process by the Kenosha Unified School Board and its superintendent headhunter, Ray and Associates of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

If the various controversies involving Michele Hancock as the diversity director and human resources chief of the Rochester, N.Y. city school district were discovered with a simple Google search, it's simply appropriate to wonder why board members weren't able to do the same?  And, if they didn't, why didn't the district's consulting firm? 

It's not rocket science to figure out that the ball was dropped.  And it gets worse.

Three board members traveled to Rochester to check out Hancock.  Did they only hear good things about Hancock, such as her oustanding performance as an elementary school teacher and principal?

If they did, then they didn't learn that things went south when Hancock went to the central office, first as diversity director and then as human resources chief, a position for which she had no prior experience. Did they know that Rochester district taxpayers shelled out $36,000 to help Hancock get her doctorate, only to have her go job hunting elsewhere?

Was it a lack of diligence or is it possible -- just possible -- that maybe some folks in Rochester intentionally may have concealed important information?  Or maybe both?

That's why it would have been critical for board members and their consulting firm to have done a simple Google search and followed by contacting the right folks in Rochester.

That research should have prompted other questions, such as why would the Rochester district take a successful principal away from the job she did so well and move her into another in which her performance was controversial?  Why with no personnel management experience (except as a building principal) was she shortly after arriving at the central office put in charge of human resources?  Why, if the Rochester district is managed so well, does it have a high school graduation rate of 46%, down from 52% the year before?

Second, the failure to get these issues out in the open and, hopefully, resolved before hiring Hancock is no favor to her.

Incoming chief executives typically have a "honeymoon period" but Hancock's may be short-lived, if she gets one at all. 

For example, her controversial advocacy of using Black English Vernacular (Ebonics) in her stint as diversity chief might have been explained better had it been placed on the table sooner rather than later.  "Hindsight being 20-20" I suspect many of us have done things earlier in our careers that upon reflection we wish we might have done differently.  If, for example, Hancock were to offer that explanation now, wouldn't folks be skeptical?

Our school district has its own set of issues.  Relocating, becoming acclimated to this community and getting down to solving the district's problems are enough to keep anyone busy.  If Hancock truly is the best choice for Kenosha's new school superintendent, she deserves to come into this community on a wave of optimism, not under a cloud of controversy.

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