AP NEWS

Silsbee ISD should reveal all superintendent finalists

March 21, 2019

Gregg Weiss is not the “lone finalist” for superintendent of schools in Silsbee, as Wednesday’s news release states. There were at least three “finalists,” and the school board is violating the spirit of state law by not naming them.

The press release states that six applicants were selected for preliminary interviews and three were invited in for a second. By any reasonable definition of the word, the three candidates called for second interviews were finalists. You could make a case that the six chosen for preliminary interviews were finalists, but certainly the second group of three.

State law requires school boards to name all finalists for superintendent at least 21 days before one of them is hired. Silsbee trustees are following a common way to skirt the clear intent of this law. They choose someone to be their superintendent (in this case Weiss) and identify that person — but wait 21 days to formally hire him or her. That way, they have to name only a “lone finalist.”

The actual finalists are hidden from taxpayers, who should be respected and kept informed at every stage of this process. With this kind of deception, they don’t know if the best candidate was hired, or whether the board used some other criteria to select the most important employee in the school district.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A few local districts have named the true finalists for superintendent, even though most use the same dodge employed by Silsbee. Other taxing entities have been open when hiring their top administrator, too.

The Port Arthur City Council not only named the four finalists for city manager, it interviewed all of them in open council session. The Lamar campuses have done the same when their president jobs came open — holding public receptions for the actual finalists.

That is the way public boards are supposed to handle these important decisions. Not only should they follow the letter and spirit of the law, they should be open to going beyond any minimal requirements.

As with so much of government, if public boards have nothing to hide, they don’t try to hide anything. They are transparent and accountable, not just because they have to, but because they want to.

We hope Weiss serves well. But Silsbee taxpayers will never know if someone else could have done a better job, or whether someone else had better qualifications. If the actual finalists for this job had been revealed, those questions would have answers.