Tuesday, September 13, 2005

NASBE withdraws from Commissioner of Education hunt

I promise not to get all obsessed over the internal politics of the process like I did in July. I'll just not that the Education commissioner hunt hits a snag:
An organization that was hired by the State Board of Education to help it hire a new education commissioner [The National Association of State Boards of Education] has dropped out of the process after conservative board members criticized its performance.

The development, revealed Monday, produced sharp words between conservative and moderate members on the often-divided board.

“I’m not pleased with this procedure,” moderate board member Janet Waugh, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kan., said. “This is the poorest boardsmanship I have ever seen.”

But Board Chairman Steve Abrams, a conservative Republican from Arkansas City, defended the process. “I don’t think it’s a mess,” he said.

Last week, NASBE’s deputy director, Mike Hill, met with the board and was told by conservatives that they didn’t like the way he had applied various weights to applicants based on certain skills.

Bill Wagnon, a Democrat from Topeka whose district includes Lawrence, said when the board changed NASBE’s objective process, “it undermined the quality of the search process.”

But conservative board member Ken Willard, a Republican from Hutchinson, said NASBE dropped the ball. “They didn’t serve us well,” he said.

He said he and other board members wanted to see the applications of all those who applied, while NASBE apparently had screened out some.
It sure sounds like a mess. You'll recall from last time that the Board (and the Kansas Republican Assembly, a major donor to the conservatives) was trying to hire a person in the same religious authoritarian mold that the conservative majority represents. One of them defected (probably Ken Willard), which meant that no candidate had a majority.

Now, the NASBE (who one has to presume knows something about state school boards) was asked to conduct a search. The board seems to have changed the rules on NASBE, and NASBE didn't have to take it.

The "boardsmanship" issue is the same thing that's bugged many observers of this Board, that they change the rules when it doesn't look like the result they favor is coming up.

In encouraging news, the Board decided not to change sex ed from opt-out to opt-in. The kids whose parents would opt out are probably the ones who need sex ed the most. Props to sometime TfK nemesis Kathy Martin for breaking ranks on this one.

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