Friday, April 29, 2011

Who Do You Trust?

It all began when shop-worn WSB reporter Richard Belcher was unable to recognize the REAL story. Belcher’s MO is to unquestioningly swallow whatever his DCSS “sources” feed him. That foolishness was amplified this time by Maureen Downey and the AJC – although Downey usually exhibits better sense and certainly has a better nose for news.

The REAL story is that someone – most likely a DeKalb County School System Board of Education member – for personal agenda reasons, knowingly broke BOE policy and state law by revealing confidential contract negotiations with the frontrunner candidate for school superintendent who had been approved by the majority of the BOE. This gutless jackboot that Belcher, Downey, WSB and the AJC insist on protecting under the face-saving guise of “source confidentiality” was not a whistleblower reporting illegal, harmful or questionable activities -- just a cowardly person with a personal agenda determined to prevail over a majority vote and a democratic process at any and all costs.

As a result, the question put to Maureen Downey – and subsequently handed off by her to Shawn McIntosh, the AJC’s public editor, was this:

How is protecting the confidentiality of a jackboot source with a personal agenda more sacrosanct than protecting the legally sanctioned confidentiality of personnel/contract negotiations (per §O.C.G.A 50-14-3 and DCSS BOE board policy)?”

Stay tuned for the AJC’s answer ...

Meanwhile, to bring you up to date, in case you have not been following this thread:

During the DCSS BOE’s negotiations with Dr. Lillie Cox, frontrunner for the DCSS superintendent job, WSB, owned by Cox Communications [no relation to Dr. Cox], broadcast “leaked” information about the confidential negotiations – information known only to someone who was involved with the negotiations. The AJC, also owned by Cox Communications, published the same story. Dr. Cox, the majority choice for superintendent, came face-to-face with the treachery, double-dealing and dishonesty of the DCSS BOE. Dr. Cox withdrew her candidacy.

When people objected to the publication of confidential information that led to Dr. Cox’s withdrawal, Maureen Downey of the AJC’s “Get Schooled” blog jumped into the fray with both feet and smugly said, “But here’s my position: If I know something important, you are going to know it, too. The newspaper is not paying me to collect information and then hide it from readers. If it is relevant, if it is newsworthy, if it involves tax dollars, then my job and the job of this newspaper is to report it.”(Maureen Downey, Sunday, April 24, 2011)

Two days later, in the face of continuing criticism, Downey said, “I can assure you that unnamed sources are not used lightly and have to be approved by top editors at the AJC.”(Maureen Downey, Tuesday, April 26, 2011)

So, now we know that top editors at the AJC know the source of the leak and have approved withholding the source’s name. It is likely that Downey knows the source’s name, also. Responding to Downey’s statement, “If it is relevant, if it is newsworthy, if it involves tax dollars, then my job and the job of this newspaper is to report it.” (Maureen Downey, Sunday, April 24, 2011), I wrote:

Knowing the name of the person who leaked confidential negotiations:

(1) is relevant (this person has virtually assured that no worthwhile or viable candidate for superintendent will have any interest in working for a back-stabbing BOE who thinks nothing of breaking BOE policies to satisfy a personal agenda.)

(2) is newsworthy (in a state and a county with abysmal education results, this person has consigned DeKalb's public school students to an inferior public education for the foreseeable future.

(3) involves tax dollars (this person has cost DCSS hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars; restitution must be made)

“The person who leaked this confidential information must be held accountable -- morally, fiscally and legally. This person must be fired for cause or told to resign, must reimburse DCSS for all taxpayer dollars spent during the superintendent candidate search, and must be prosecuted to the full extent allowed by law.

“Maureen, you and/or upper management at Cox/WSB/AJC “know something important.” You know the name of the person who leaked the DCSS superintendent negotiation information.
Report what you know or resign. Your credibility is shot if you don't follow your own statement [of beliefs].”

Following that, Downey offered to have a telephone conversation with me, but frankly, I prefer to have her comments in writing and I said so. Complete clarity and transparency. No misunderstandings!

The AJC Answer:

Here’s the answer I received in writing – not from Downey, but from Shawn McIntosh, public editor for the AJC:

You obviously feel that the AJC should not have entered a source arrangement in this case, and I respect your point of view. As further email exchange is unlikely to change the newspaper's position or yours, neither I nor Maureen have further response to your question.”

So, leaker/BOE member/whoever you are – the one who leaked legally sanctioned, confidential information – the one who single-handedly derailed the DCSS superintendent search – you have been given a “Get Out Of Jail Free” pass. You have successfully figured out how to override a majority vote to get your way and to benefit your personal agenda. Carry on! The AJC and WSB have your back.

Crawford Lewis probably wishes he had been savvy enough and/or smart enough to simply tell the AJC or Richard Belcher at WSB about his “activities” – and perhaps leak some inflammatory tidbits (true or not) about his enemies. He might still be sitting in his $5,000 chair and using his private shower in the Palace. Oh, well – live and learn.


Stnuocca said...

You are right.

The AJC/WSB is also right.

Balancing the two right is the price we all pay to have free press. Without these iron-clad confidentiality arrangements, the press would grind to a stand-still.

President Nixon would have 2 full terms; President Reagan would have sold missiles to Iran and funded the Contras in Nicaragua; and Monica Lewinski might have become Senator Lewinski.

fedupindcss said...

But, could we look at this another way: a board member approaches Belcher with information that is obviously (to a seasoned reporter covering the education beat like Belcher) confidential. Indeed, for this board member to talk out of turn is illegal. So would a better story have been that Belcher says sorry, no anonymity, and in fact my story is going to be about how said board member was breaking the law and trying to scuttle the superintendent search. That would have been an excellent story, with real value to the community, and likely would have had an immediate positive impact. Clearly Belcher made an editorial choice of his own in this case, and he chose incorrectly.

themommy said...
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jm said...

Its very possible that no one but Belcher knows the source. Its not that you tell your editors WHO it is - you keep that you yourself. You tell your bosses how they know the information, verify that it is a credible source, and that the source needs to remain anonymous. So Belcher would say - a source close to the Board, or on the Board tells me this info, and the source knows the info because they are privy to the details and they need to remain anonymous because they could go to jail. The AJC does not work for the government, it doesn't care if the government official violates the law - that's not the standard (just as the NYT and others helped Wikileaks vet and release classified info). The standard is, should the public have the right to know the information. I think in this case, yes, but not until the deal was done. We can argue with the board members/vote them out, because they gave away the farm, but the AJC shouldn't have released nfo that was going to torpedo the deal. That's making news - not just reporting on it.

themommy said...

The same day the AJC ran the information from DeKalb, the paper also ran leaked information from the Cobb superintendent search, which identified both the fact that the Cobb school board only was going to present one candidate and who that candidate was.

There has been very little outrage to this leak in large part, I suspect, because the citizens of Cobb were glad to know this information.

The candidate has now allegedly withdrawn, citing salary differences, but I hear that many in the public weren't thrilled with him anyway and questioned whether he would be a good fit.

The guilt lies at the feet of the leaker.

Open+Transparent said...

The outrage against Mo Downey is misguided.

It is BOE Chair Tom Bowen who has no control or this board, no leadership qualities, "no stones" as they say.

themommy said...

And not just Bowen. There are lots of ways that the board members who didn't leak the information could express their frustration. But they don't. Only Womack really has.

Until they begin to hold each other accountable, not just when SACs is looking, will this board amount to anything.

Fred said...

O&T, I think your outrage at Bowen is somewhat misguided. He was elected by the voters in his district just as the other Board members were. As chair, he has NO authority or control over what they do or say. These are grown men and women we are talking about. Even if he called for a vote to out the leaker, a majority of Board members would have to agree.

SW said...

Call it misery loving company, sour grapes, whatever...

I am annoyed about what I see as double standards in reporting about the school systems.

Yes, I know that we have a lot of issues in DCSS along with a lot of drama. But it seems that every little negative thing that comes out about Dekalb gets reported in the AJC or WSB and little or nothing about other systems.

As an example, last weekend we were reading about how Dekalb and Cobb had both chosen superintendent finalists and what a big deal it was that the selections went against the norm. Then Dekalb had the leaks and eventually no candidates; all of which was reported in the media and discussed in the blogs.

In the blog discussions, one of the things that I saw was that the lament that Cobb (and Fulton) had its act together and had hired a superintendent while Dekalb was inept and basically back to square one.

Now, it seems that Cobb's finalist has also withdrawn his name. After all the hype that was made about the finalists in the AJC articles, wouldn't it have been fair to also say that the publicized finalist was out of the running as well, rather than allusions to it in various blogs?

It just seems that Dekalb is always compared to systems like Cobb or Gwinnett as if they have no problems at all. Again, I know that Dekalb has many issues and a lot of the publicity is self-inflicted. But I also think that the media should apply the same standards across the board.

Joseph Hunt said...

Imagine Tyson calling out the Board like Sanderson did in Cobb. Of course, if he's leaving, I guess he had little to lose.


Even more fantastical, imagine her publicly calling out the Board on the leak.

Would they fire her? Heck no. She's the favorite. She's the one who will just settle into the position after we collectively forget how she got to be de facto superintendent in the first place. At least, in this fantasy world, that's what the Board hopes will happen.

Then again, it'll never happen, even if she does settle into the permanent job. She'd never call the Board out.

Joseph Hunt said...

That URL is:

Anonymous said...

I maintain that it was either Walker or SCW who leaked via Jeff Dickerson. Both have a lot of friends and family to protect who possibly would have been put at risk if Ms Cox took the job. Bowen voted no in exchange for some future favor from one or both of them

Anonymous said...

SCW voted for Ms. Cox.

dekalb2 said...

Yes, the AJC and TV news have had it out for Dekalb County Schools for a long time. I think they have not had a good relationship with the media. Maybe Dekalb County Schools treat their teachers the same way that they treat the media...just guessing.

Gayle said...

I don't think the media has it out for DeKalb. If DeKalb's student achievement wasn't at the bottom of the barrel, I don't think they would be in the news so often. And it doesn't help to have your top two administrators under felony indictments.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

What? You principal didn't come to your Spring Carnival? Did you know that there was a Job Fair today? Maybe that is were she was.

Unknown said...

I am not at your school but the API at my school was telling people about the job fair. It was over at 12:00. How long did your carnaval last?

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

the carnival was from 10-4. We had the choice of working one shift or two shifts. Most teachers worked both shifts. Many, many hours had already been invested into the carnival by the staff before the carnival ever began. the only thing our principal contributed was allowing us to wear jeans all week. Surely she just didn't find out about job fair. She had tohave known thejob fair was the same day when SHE sat the date.

dekalb2 said...
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teacher said...

DCSS doesn't pick the best and brightest for it's administrative positions. If they did, too many in power would be outed and would be out of work.

I believe that is why the superintendent hiring was sabotaged. Those with power look at DCSS as an employment agency and not a public school that educates children. The purpose of DCSS has been lost and the powers that be show this loss time and time again.

Unknown said...

What a sad comentary on our District. When are we as teachers going to stand up together and walk in the streets and express our feelings and displeasure with how Dekalb is running the show. That is why the other candidates withdrew their names. Who would want to work at a district so corrupt. It is time we march in the streets. Then maybe they would listen. As the other blogs have indicated we at Dreden are ready to flood the streets in protest of what they have done to us in hiring an inexperienced, cold as fish, a person who is not dependable and not very smart to lead our school. Rise up teachers. The time is now.

Cerebration said...

Ok - I've cleaned up what I could tell was causing a problem. Please remember the rules - please don't call out people by name and please don't speak for anyone else. You are free to post your opinions, but don't tear down regular people in the process. (The school board and top administrators can be referred to by name.)

Also - anytime anyone has a problem, feel free to send an email to the blog and we'll take care of it as best we can as soon as possible.

Unknown said...

thanks Songbird for wishing us well. Yes, we do it. She didn't come to the carnival and support our efforts and she didn't come to school today. If any of us did this we would be called into the office.

Unknown said...

Who do I trust?! No one. How can Dekalb build a strong district when it's reputation is so marred. The distrust starts at the top and trinkles down through the ranks. Tyson said she was not interested in running for superintendent. Now, all of a sudden, she wants to run. Who can trust what she says? The school board didn't want either of the candidates for superintendent to get it so they leaked it to the press. So both withdraw and say they don't want to work for a dishonest county. Dishonesty twickles down to area superintendent. Bradshaw could not be trusted to hire the right position for Dresden Elementary. The majority of the faculty expressed to Bradshaw whom they wanted. But we were ignored and he placed someone in whom he owed a favor. As faculty of Dreaden, a population of 850 students, we should have trusted him to place the right person for the job at our school. Race should not have entered into the decision. Of all the ones who applied was she the best for our school. WE would disagree. How can you trust people who hav e their own private agenda and not the best interest of students.How can you trust a principal who does not show up for important events at school. She has missed Parent-Teacher Conference, grade level meetings, our boy's CFTA soccer game, was at school but didn't attend High Yield Strategies meetings where teachers presented misses our annual Spring Carnival. It vertrickles down to the faculty. Our own faculty don't trust each other. It doesn't make it easier when she says that she has never been at a school with so much distrust and backbiting.
Thank goodnes our teachers are such quality teachers that we don't let it trickle down.When the principal promises student
ice cream after CRCT and doesn't give it because she left early, and wasn't here on Monday. But the teachers will cover for her. Students know they can trust their teachers. Too bad we can't say the same for those over us.

Unknown said...

I agree with teacher (May 1) the board is trying to sabotoge our district. They sabotage people and schools by the personnel they place in schools. When they hired an API from a school of 350 to be principal of a school 850 and possible 925 next year, one with no ESOL experience or Title One experience then they sat her up for failure. Dresden is doomed to fail. Great advice from Fireball (May1) it is time for us to rise up and say enough. We need to unite together for the sake of our students and parents (who can't speak for themselves)We deserve the very best!!! Who is with me?