Editorial: In Longview ISD secret process, board must get its job done

By Longview News-Journal
Originally published June 22, 2014

So let’s get this straight: Longview ISD School Board President Troy Simmons says the ongoing string of closed-door meetings about lone superintendent finalist Horace Williams is not because of difficulty agreeing on a contract or because the board is reconsidering whether Williams is appropriate for the job.

We wonder what trustees could be talking about — the color of carpet for Williams’ office? Which parking space he will get?

Actually, if the board is discussing something other than the contract or Williams’ employment, then it is probably meeting in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act. The law doesn’t allow the board to meet secretly just to chew the fat.

Indeed, every patron of Longview ISD should understand nothing in the law even requires these meetings to be conducted behind closed doors. The law simply allows it to be done. So board members’ protestations that nothing can be said about the process in public aren’t correct.

Anytime the board wants to make any part of the process public, all it has to do is make it so.

Don’t hold your breath.

This school board would rather we not get in “its” business. Members are able to work with much less muss and fuss when the public doesn’t know what is going on.

Unfortunately, the school district itself suffers under such secrecy. In fact, it has a propensity to get fouled up beyond all recognition.

Think about this: What if, in the course of the superintendent selection process, the board had released the names of three finalists, instead of one, without picking a front-runner?

In that case, after it was announced board members would soon have heard about the questions that have followed Williams in his career. Then they could gracefully back out and go in a different direction.

No more wasted days and wasted nights haggling over who-knows-what. Oh, it’s certainly not about contract or employment, so it must be about the thermostat settings in the central office, or maybe what kind of sodas will be stocked in the soft drink machines.

Here is the problem: The summer solstice now has come and gone. The school break will rapidly pass, and Longview has (at best) a part-time superintendent.

Yet we feel no sense of urgency from this board. Whether trustees feel it or not, the situation is urgent. If the process has to begin again, getting a superintendent in time for the start of the school year could be problematic.

We know the doors will open and classes will start as they always do, but the superintendent’s leadership is vital as the year begins — or at least it should be.

So because the executive sessions are not about contract or personnel choice, perhaps board members could ramp it up a bit and make that vital decision on whether Williams will be asked to join the Rotary Club or the Lions. Somehow we don’t think the Optimist Club is quite the right fit for the way this process has gone.