Saturday, May 12, 2007

Hey Guys, I need some advice

OK. I just finished my State required online Ethics Course for Public Officials, with a certificate of completion suitable for framing, but this one situation wasn't addressed. I need some feedback from some normal folks. Normal, and intelligent folks, that is. I've got enough of the idiot types already, thank you very much.

(Oy. Did I post about the Kindergarten parents coming to the Board Meeting to protest about lengthening the day by 40 minutes? "But the learning doesn't end when I pick my child up from school. We walk home, we prepare lunch together..." I almost launched myself over the dais at one of them who gave me a snapshot of her daughter, standing on the beach in her adorable yellow boots so that I "Could hold in my heart the Image of Sarah and remember who this decision is REALLY about." Right. Did you know that 70% of the nation's households have ALL adults in the home holding down full time jobs? Maybe this is about THOSE kids. Maybe this is about the kid who leaves K feeling like a failure because 3 hours a day is not enough time to teach them all the CA standards for Reading, Math, Science, and Social Studies. Our teachers have said that essentially they cannot teach Science appropriately because there's no time left in the day.) < /long tangent >

So we escorted our Superintendent, She Who Used to Cry In Meetings and Fudged Our Numbers, to the door in August under a settlement agreement. Then we brought in an Interim Superintendent who was a principal in the district. But we need to hire a Permanent Superintendent, so we're in a process of working with consultants, reviewing applications, setting up interviews, etc. Our Interim has put in an application for the Permanent position as well.

There are a lot of concerns about confidentiality, because your best candidates will already be hired in a district -- you don't want to bandy about names in case their home district gets wind of it and offers them a package you can't compete with. So everything is supposed to go through our consultant; our district asks questions of him, and the applicants ask questions of him.

Last Thursday the Board and the professional screeners went through over twenty applications and pulled out four people we want to interview. (Our interim was one of the four.) One got into the group who looks good on paper, but whom I did not particularly like. She used a lot of jargon and at one point said she "was a warrior for children." Ummm. Yeah. Not so much. I already worked with a Drama Queen and it didn't go so well, e.g., She Who Cried In Meetings. But that's OK, the screeners chose her and so did three other Board Members. Let's interview her and see what she's like.

So, this Thursday, I'm in the District Office participating in Negotiations. Due to the way the doors to the meeting room are arranged, I have to walk through the Secretary to the Superintendent's office every time we have to enter or exit the room. Over four trips (We caucused a lot. Over whether an aunt and a first-cousin are immediate family in the bereavement clause. I say no, they say yes. So what's extended family? Hmmm?) in and out of her office I realize that the secretary is trying to convince someone not to meet with the Superintendent. That's odd.

So I ask the Secretary, "What's up?"

"I just got a call from one of the Interviewing Candidates, and she wants to talk to the Superintendent to learn more about the district. But I was told that all questions had to go through the consultant. On the other hand, he's said that she can visit the district if she likes. What do you think?"

"Uhh. I'd call the consultant if I were you."

"Can I have her meet with other district staff to answer questions? I mean, what's the point of allowing her to visit if she can't ask questions?"

Just then the consultant called the Secretary back to say that no candidate could meet with another candidate, and that certainly no candidate could interview the Superintendent during the final screening process. She could visit if she liked to gain her own impressions, but to talk to this district would eventually tip off her own district that she was looking for work and he had advised against that. As I listened to the Secretary's side of the conversation some more, it became clear that this candidate knew that the present Interim was a viable candidate.

OK, here's the question:

Do I use this information (sharing this story with the Board first) to make a determination on this candidate? It was not part of the screening process, and I reached some conclusions by listening in on one half of a conversation. (Here's the thing -- there's only one female other than the Interim in the final four. It has to be Warrior Woman.) I'm getting the impression that she's a pushy person who is going against recommendations to get a leg up in the competition, and I'm done working with those people. I want people who are going to work together to reach a shared conclusion whenever possible.

Ethically, if I have already pre-judged a situation, and I'm sitting in a quasi-judicial capacity (a disciplinary hearing for example), then I'm supposed to recuse myself from all deliberations and discussions. So there's an argument for walking out of the room every time her name is mentioned. Except that I'm NOT siting in a quasi-judicial capacity, I'm sitting in a deliberatory capacity. I'm pretty sure that if someone called me up and told me bad or good things about a particular candidate before the deliberations, then I'd be obligated to share those with the Board too as they made their decisions.

I think I'm going to go ahead and tell the Board about this (although it just occurred to me that the consultant may do so as well), and use this episode as some sort of "tell" on her personality. It just feels kind of iffy. Because I initiated the conversation with the Secretary? Because I heard her talking to the consultant? Because she asked me what to do?

Opinions anyone?


CindyS said...

I think it's alright to bring it up. Maybe you can walk it past the consultant first - ask if this person's actions can be told to the rest of the board. Also, how did the woman know that the interim was up for the job also - you had 20 and narrowed to 4 so how could she know that the interim was in.

Yeah, I might run it by the consultant - asking someone a question does not mean you know what is about to happen. You asked an innocent question and received information about a candidate that does not reflect well on that person. I think. I got confused as to whether she knew she wasn't supposed to approach the superintendent. If she knew this then she broke procedure and it can be argued she can't follow simple guide lines.

Let us know what happens.


Suisan said...

All the selected candidates were told that the Interim Superintendent was also a finalist. They are not aware of how many finalists there are.

I'm stil fence-sitting on this. Maybe I"ll have figured it out by Wednesday.

Doug said...

This is the kind of thing I would blab about and not even give it a second thought. But then, I can't think like a lawyer.

Seems to me, though, your primary responsibility is to see that the best person gets into the job. Period. (Yes, I realize this is an ends justifies the means argument, but I don't find your "means" all that unethical.)

Suisan said...

Thanks for the input, Doug.

Lyvvie said...

I don't like sneaky people. She sounds sneaky. Does this job require a certain amount of sneakiness? She's not even that good at being sneaky if she got caught being sneaky. So she's an inept sneaky sneak.

I would keep the incident in mind, but she may bring some other talents to the table you've not seen or expected yet. I say sit and see it out.

But then, I want to see how this ends up.

Megan Frampton said...

You probably already decided on this one, sorry to take so long--but I'd tell the consultant, and say you don't want to bias the remaining board members as to the candidate, so you leave it up to the consultant as to what should be done.

Sounds like she'll out herself as a Drama Queen over the course of the interview process anyway. No discretion.

Suisan said...

I didn't end up saying anything, although I was prepared too.

We interviewed the four finalists, and she was ranked fairly high (2 out of 4) by three of the five Board members. I ranked her last, and I think she was ranked third by someone else. But when her name came up to go to the final interviews, I said, "I can't work with her. She never uses the word 'talk'. It's always 'we'll dialogue about it.' I see her in a room with our staff pulling that jargon out and watching the staff launch themselves over the table at her."

The rest of the board laughed and agreed that although she could probably get things done, that she would also leave bodies in her wake. So she never made it to the final interviews.

So I never brought it up and it's moot.

But this afternoon, after the whole process is done, I'm going to ask the consultant about what to do next time. (I couldn't get him on the phone before the interviews yesterday afternoon.)

Our final interviews are today. I'll be glad when this is done.