LORAIN — A public records expert said the Lorain Schools CEO is wrong when it comes to his unwillingness to release external candidates’ names for administrative positions.
Tim Smith, an attorney and former Kent State University journalism professor specializing in public records law, said the idea that CEO David Hardy isn’t releasing all of the names for the finalists in a principal search is not an exception to the state’s public records law.
“If he got applications for a position, he has to release them. And while it might be awkward, no job is forever and employers know that,” he said. “People look for a way to improve themselves, and employers understand that. If you didn’t want your name released, you shouldn’t have applied for the job.”
At a town hall meeting Thursday night, Hardy said of the 22 finalists, 11 were internal candidates and 11 were external. Since a community panel event April 7, 13 of the finalists have been offered positions. Eight of these are internal candidates and five are external.
Hardy said he plans to release the final slate of principals after all have accepted offer letters, which were sent out Thursday.
At the meeting, he said he wouldn’t be releasing anything before that because candidates are “going out on a limb” in applying for these new positions and with the narrative from media coverage offering “mixed reviews” of the district, the candidates were in a “risky” spot.
“I mean, if you read our headlines and read our papers and the mixture of communication, I probably wouldn’t tell my boss either,” he said. “I’d be very cautious. We respect that in a candidate because we want to protect their identity and make sure that as a person they’re cared for first.”
Hardy said he had concerns for the candidates if they ultimately weren’t selected as a principal.
“Then where do they go?” he said. “They’ve been outed by the paper. They’ve been outed by the Lorain community and they’ve been left hung to dry. I didn’t want that to happen to them so more importantly, we wanted to go through the interview process and then do a reference check from there.”
Six of the district’s current 15 principals were not selected as turnaround principal candidates, but Hardy said they could have applied for other administrative positions or, depending on the tenure they have, could go back to teaching in the classroom.
Smith also refuted Hardy’s claims that an average public records request is costing the school district anywhere between $1,000 and $2,000.
At the town hall Thursday night, Hardy produced a large stack of papers as a prop to demonstrate the lengthiness of some of the requests the district is receiving and said he has a “great lawyer, a very expensive one that has to go through each and every one of these pages.”
Smith said that’s typically not true.
“The short answer is that’s absurd,” he said. “The long answer is that’s really absurd. I can’t imagine why it would take that much money unless a lawyer is going through each piece of it.”
Smith said generally the main reason someone would have to go through every piece of a request would be if students’ educational records were involved “but it doesn’t take a lawyer to be able to tell what those are.”
“The solution is to quit having lawyers go through them that meticulously and just give the records out,” he said.
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