Pardon The Reality: Sources of trouble

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.

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  • Brutus

    Perhaps while crafting his new gun control legislation, Gov. Cuomo might consider proposing a law that licenses columnists since their reckless comments can certainly hurt individuals and their families.

    The First Amendment protects the teachers in their statements, but the laws of libel and slander apply as well. That’s why the scurrilous comments from the teachers’ union were all made in qualifying language like “has been accused,” “it is alleged,” “it has been reported,” etc. The problem is that this does not make the character assassination any less hurtful to the individuals involved or their families.

    To make matters worse, this column states unequivocally that the “superintendent of schools had been “charged with sexual harassment,” thus raising the unions innuendo to journalistic fact. Yet, the claims being referred to alleges age and gender discrimination, a far cry from comments from a future Supreme Court justice about a Coke bottle, or even Brent Musburger.

    The columnist knows that the school board officials, speaking on background have been placed in the difficult position of trying to contend with the unions despicable behavior while at the same time adhering to procedures and not elevating each of the union’s baseless claims through public discourse.

    Llitigating in the press might sell newspapers, but it would not explain why our education costs are skyrocketing even as the school population declines dramatically, or why the union refuses to take any actions that might protect its younger members and the quality of education for our children.

  • fact checker

    The sexual harassment charges, Brutus, whether ultimately justified or not, are not about age and gender. They’re about sexual harassment plain and disgusting.
    And why is it, Brutus, that you went after a commenter for using an anonymous handle, but you yourself sometimes use your real name, and other times use Brutus.
    Get your act together and get honest.

    • one more truth guy

      That Dr. Kreutzer lives in the district doesn’t mean that he should be immune to examination and criticism.
      Teachers live in the district with their families, too.
      The superintendent should be judged by his actions, not by the fact that he lives within the district.
      The “let’s protect his family” dodge is a red herring unworthy of consideration.

  • acorn

    If we want to go down the family route. Think about Peterson and her young family. She and her young, Black American son have been deleteriously affected by Kreutzer’s false and discriminatory accusations, contrived abuses, a false report of Child Abuse, and confabulated reports made by Jess Godin and Connie Hayes. She has worked in the District for 15 years. She never had an issue until these people arrived on scene. How do you explain this?

    • Lewis Boro

      Why is the color of her child relevant?

      • Kevin Proskin

        It is important because the K-L district only employs 2 instructional staff that are African American/Black American and Peterson is one of them. And Kreutzer has harassed and caused immeasurable stress due to his negligence in investigating any personnel complaints. The lawsuit claims discrimination from several angles. Perhaps there has been covert racism too?

        • Lewis Boro

          Kevin you are the worst kind of bigot. You are saying a person’s skin color allows that person to do an inferior job without consequences. Your logic turns the intent of affirmative action on its ear. I thought Dr. King’s legacy was just the opposite.

  • fact checker

    RE BRUTUS’ STATEMENT: “The columnist knows that the school board officials, speaking on background have been placed in the difficult position of trying to contend with the unions despicable behavior while at the same time adhering to procedures and not elevating each of the union’s baseless claims through public discourse.”

    Sorry, but, “speaking on background” is not the way to keep things from elevating, assuming Brutus’ contentions about teachers have any basis in fact to begin with.

    Making contentious statements “on background” just makes things worse.

    If school board members feel they can’t say on the record what they should, that’s a sad commentary on how they are conducting themselves and the board’s business. Maybe if they start telling the public what they really think, they’ll get more public support.

    Making nasty statements anonymously is indefensible (which goes for the comments board, too).

    If school board members feel they can’t state for the record what they should, they should say nothing….or find a way to manage the board’s affairs so that they can start stating things for the record. “On background” is the cowardly approach, not an acceptable alternative to candor, let alone something to be celebrated, as Brutus would like us to believe.

  • brutus

    Love the sanctimonious pontificating. So while the school refutes fully attributed allegations through proper channels in court they should be debating slander and innuendo with anonymous bloggers in the paper?

    Is that Acorn like the discredited group affiliated with the CSEA municipal workers union, or the nut?

    • fact checker

      No one has suggested that the board “should be debating slander and innuendo with anonymous bloggers in the paper.”

      What Mr. Rothfeld’s column suggests is that the Ledger shouldn’t allow board members to get away with acting like anonymous bloggers, that when board members offer slander and innuendo through “background” quotes made to reporters, reporters should refuse to print them unless they’ll run with attribution.

      And why do you refer to Mr. Rothfeld as “the columnist,” Brutus? Afraid of a libel charge in your direction?

  • brutus

    Living in the district shows a commitment to this community lacking in the vast majority of the union who happily pay their own children’s teachers much less than we do, and it is unique over decades of KL superintendents. It also makes the union’s irresponsible charges more likely to affect his family.

    Let’s be clear, no one has leveled scurrilous charges against Ms. Peterson in the irresponsible manner that the union leadership has employed, OR FOR PERSONAL PECUNIARY GAIN, she brought the issue to the media herself through her lawsuit.

    • Kevin

      Actually, the BOE made the suit public when it was written in the BOE minutes. The media then was able to foil the suit.

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