Friday, June 08, 2012

Ky. paper does first online-first editorial to focus on secretive school board's meeting with job candidate

When a local school board decided to identify, interview and vote on a superindentent candidate all in the same day, an the candidate left some questions unanswered, the Kentucky New Era of Hopkinsville, Ky., posted an online as "breaking news" an editorial saying the decision should wait because candidate Marvin Welch "was unable to articulate what this district could expect from him in terms of leadership and philosophy" and answer other questions raised at community events -- including the graduation rate in the district where he is now assistant superintendent.

"The board should give itself more time on this decision," the editorial concluded. "Christian County Public Schools deserve a top-notch educator to lead the district, its employees and students. It is simply not clear yet if Welch is that person." The editorial was posted two hours before Welch's scheduled, private interview. The board first heard from school principals, then briefly met with Welch and adjourned without action or comment. UPDATE, June 9: The board is still interested in Welch but will interview another candidate and is “probably going to slow down a little bit,” the newspaper reports.

Jennifer P. Brown, the paper's editorial-page editor and former editor, said in an email that she took the unusual step of a "live" editorial because there was "very little time to give the school board any feedback on this candidate, and . . . the newspaper has a very small opportunity to report on this candidate and offer much coverage. So, four New Era employees attended an afternoon community meeting where the candidate gave a brief formal speech and then answered questions." She started writing the editorial during the meeting. Earlier, she had written editorials critical of the board's secretive approach, one of which got a headline-size blurb on Page One.

Reporter Benjamin Joubert's story reported that Welch "couldn’t remember the student minority population of Madison [County] schools when asked. One of the most marked differences between the districts is the percentage of minority population. Madison reported a 90 percent white student population in 2010; five percent were African-American. That same year, Christian County had a 59 percent white student population and 35 percent were African-American." The district's students have low test scores.

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