A source close to the K-L Board of Education has informed Pardon The Reality that the district will sell all four elementary schools and create a state-of-the-art system of movable dividers and sound baffles in the middle school and high school, while removing all non-load-bearing walls. It will thus create flexible one room school houses that will accommodate all grades.
Well, maybe the source was actually an anti-tax activist with a silly idea.
Okay, so I made the whole thing up.
The point is, how would you know how good my “source” was, anyway?
A recent Ledger news article reported on a BOE meeting at which teachers read charges and allegations directed at Superintendent of Schools Paul Kreutzer. The article included inflammatory anonymous quotes from “reliable sources” and “A source familiar with the school board’s thinking.”
Does the BOE think as a single entity?
In any case, we don’t know if those sources might include the BOE president, other BOE members, the BOE’s P.R. firm, a local political hack hawking an agenda, or the Governor of Wisconsin.
Interestingly enough, all the information/observations from these “sources” is critical of teachers and the teachers union.
Curious, isn’t it?
And in a recent column, my colleague J.D. Piro presented quotes from “one longtime observer of district politics” that dismissed the teachers’ BOE statement as nothing more than an obfuscatory “Tet Offensive that we were warned about last spring.”
Unfortunately, J.D. didn’t offer any context that might allow us to attach trust to the “observer” or legitimacy to the alleged warning, and we thus have no good way to assess the veracity of either.
Indeed, while I accept J.D.’s and Ledger reporters’ journalistic integrity without question, I must nevertheless ask:
Why would I take seriously any of the anonymous quotes presented from these “sources”?
What qualifications do they possess?
Why won’t they speak on the record?
Why would I think their statements are anything other than vendetta-related attacks?
BOE President Mark Lipton stated for the record that the BOE was already aware of the charges and allegations made by teachers at the BOE meeting.
But the BOE apparently didn’t feel citizens had a right to know that the superintendent of schools had been charged with sexual harassment, or that it’s alleged that he: risked enormous financial liability to the district by ordering employees to engage in illegal road clearing activities; refused to spend appropriated money on technology; has been repeatedly accused of treating employees abusively.
Yet the “sources” have nothing to say about the BOE’s apparent lack of transparency.
In the meantime, Mr. Lipton and “sources” are outraged that teachers would dare present information openly and on the record that’s apparently already known not only to the BOE, but to many–if not virtually all–administrators, administrative employees and teachers in the district.
Only we citizens have been kept in the dark.
Curious, isn’t it?
BTW: Mr. Lipton called the teachers’ exercise of the First Amendment “confrontational” and demanded that teachers adhere to “appropriate and respectful means of communications.”
Is leaking confrontational statements via anonymous sources “appropriate and respectful”?
Would Mr. Lipton have been happier if teachers had hidden behind “sources”?
Why, indeed, should we allow any quotes from “sources” for the BOE?
Matters of national security are sometimes better provided “on background.”
But this is about how our kids are getting educated and how our tax dollars are being spent, not negotiations with a foreign power (no matter how some “observers” characterize the teachers union).
It’s a slippery slope when journalists present anonymous statements without qualification.
Both the Associated Press and The New York Times now require reporters to state a specific reason why a source insists on speaking anonymously whenever unattributed quotes are presented.
So what’s the good reason to use an anonymous quote from “a source” for the BOE?
If a BOE matter requires confidentiality by statute, BOE members shouldn’t be making any statements on the matter, on the record or otherwise.
And while off-the-record conversations can be a good thing in helping journalists to gather facts and key perspectives, unattributed quotes are another matter entirely.
It seems to me that as a rule, BOE members, as well as senior district administrators and union executives, should be quoted on the record, or not at all. So should any “observer” worth noting. None should be allowed to hide as “a source” in matters involving our schools.
So I would ask Ledger reporters, editors and columnists to seriously consider a policy of for-attribution-only when reporting on all BOE, district administration and union matters.
Let’s force those who hold the future of our kids and community in their hands to keep it on the record.
A highly respected source told me it’s a great idea.