Gerrita Postlewait might make a great superintendent for Charleston County Schools.
It could be that she is just the person we need to get along with a temperamental school board and juggle the intricacies of large and diverse district.
She may be the best applicant in the pool.
But we will never know, because the school board has voted to go ahead with a tainted search process, and Postlewait will never be judged objectively.
As it turns out, darn near every member of the Charleston County School Board either spoke or met with Postlewait privately weeks before she was an official candidate for the vacancy.
Well, except for board member Michael Miller.
And in the weeks and months before those meetings, local and state education leaders — even the people hired to conduct the search – were lobbying for Postlewait.
Miller says now the entire search process is tainted, that Postlewait was given an unfair advantage. He — along with local clergy, civil rights activists and school board member Chris Collins — thinks the district should begin its search anew.
They are absolutely right.
But the board decided to press on with the existing search Thursday night. And even though they didn’t release the names of the semifinalists, you can bet Postlewait is on it.
If she gets the job, it will not matter to some people whether she is eminently qualified or good at her job, it will simply look like the fix was in.
School board member Todd Garrett, one of at least seven board members who spoke with Postlewait, says he and his colleagues have done nothing wrong.
“It’s about doing our due diligence to try to learn more about a potential candidate that we were told from multiple sources would be a top-notch superintendent,” he told reporter Amanda Kerr earlier this week.
Garrett makes a good point. He is right – it’s far better to have school board members who are engaged and care about who runs the district than people who just show up for meetings.
To collect that whopping $25 they get paid.
The problem is, if one candidate gets such special attention, everyone has to get it or it’s not fair. And that’s not happening – there is no way nine people will get the same level of attention.
That’s what Miller means by “tainted.”
Yes, technically also is troublesome if someone coordinated board members speaking privately to one particular candidate, especially before she was actually a candidate. But that’s not the biggest point.
See, you don’t need to show proof that anything nefarious is going on, or that this is some good ol’ boy system conspiracy. No one says there was anything like that here.
It just looks bad — that is the point.
As Miller says, secret meetings go against the very idea of a fair process, of transparency.
There is also this: Just about everyone on the board has clammed up since these premature interviews came to light.
If there’s nothing wrong with this picture, what’s with the silence?
It was clear Thursday night that the board had little interest in following Miller’s suggestion to start the process over, or disqualify Postlewait as a candidate.
Perhaps she already has the votes, and will be named superintendent in the coming weeks.
If that happens, the board has not done her any favors. Former school board member Gregg Myers said Wednesday that these secret meetings have put the new superintendent — whoever it is — in an awkward position.
That’s true for any candidate, but especially Postlewait.
Some people in the community are going to feel like they had no say in the decision, that the board does not listen to them.
Other folks are going to say it’s racial, but no, it’s not. Well, other than the fact that the board has gone out of its way to make it clear Lisa Herring won’t be superintendent — as some in the black community have suggested.
A majority of the school board may have come away with their meetings with Postlewait convinced she is a great candidate, someone already familiar with this state, a person who would fit in well at 75 Calhoun.
They might be right. But they should have just let the process play out, instead of allowing this to look like some sort of education intelligentsia power play.
It’s not fair to Postlewait, it’s not fair to the community.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org