School & District Management

Court Dismisses Challenge To Superintendent Search

By Ann Bradley — February 26, 2003 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A federal judge has dismissed a newspaper’s lawsuit challenging the Cincinnati school board’s secretive search for a new superintendent last fall.

U.S. District Judge S. Arthur Spiegel ruled on Feb. 11 that TheCincinnati Enquirer‘s complaint that the search process violated its First Amendment right to freedom of the press was without merit. (“Cincinnati Search: Quick, Quiet, and Controversial,” Oct. 2, 2002, and “Paper Sues Cincinnati Schools Over Secretive Search,” Nov. 6, 2002.)

The school board refused to turn over candidates’ résumés, used fictitious names and numbers on documents to conceal their identities, and reimbursed candidates by cash rather than check for their travel expenses, the newspaper said in its lawsuit.

Members of the board of education argued that such steps were necessary to protect the identities of the people interested in the job. Alton Frailey, an administrator in a suburban Houston school district, was selected on Sept. 6 as superintendent.

Sally Warner, the board president in the 42,000-student district, said last week she was pleased with the judge’s decision, and with the search process itself in “a superintendents’ market.”

“We really felt like we would not be able to get the kind of candidate we wanted” with an open search, she said. “This [decision] supports that the path we took was the right one to take.”

During the search, board members argued that selecting a superintendent for the district was their responsibility and that the public should hold them accountable for the outcome, rather than the process.

In his decision, Judge Spiegel agreed with that rationale.

“If the citizens of Cincinnati are disgruntled with the choice of their elected school board members, they can vote to change those members, or further, work to change the manner of selection of the superintendent,” he wrote.

Jack Greiner, the Enquirer‘s lawyer, said the newspaper was considering whether to appeal the ruling.

A separate complaint filed by the paper with the Ohio Supreme Court, seeking to compel the district to turn over what the paper argues are public records related to the search, is still pending.

Documents at Issue

Working with a search firm, the school board conducted a hunt for a new leader that was as paper-free as possible. Candidates who flew to Cincinnati for interviews brought their résumés with them, handed them to board members during their meetings, and then took their documents home.

The newspaper argued that such a procedure violated not only Ohio’s open-records law, but also the paper’s First Amendment right to gather news and access government information. Judge Spiegel disagreed.

“In this case, if ordered to produce documents, the board would have to create documents,” he wrote. “The court finds no historical basis for ordering a government entity to create public documents where none exist.”

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management How Principals Can Resolve Heated Conflicts With Parents and Teachers
Three tips for school leaders to manage complicated and emotional disagreements.
4 min read
Illustration of a large hand holding a puzzle piece that shows a handshake and that connects two other pieces -- one with a man and the other with a woman.
iStock/Getty
School & District Management Where Is K-12 Enrollment Headed? Population Trends, by the Numbers
America's public schools will have fewer students in the coming years, but population changes vary widely by state.
1 min read
Illustration of people icon.
E+
School & District Management How to Have a Hard Conversations With Your Teachers: 3 Tips for Principals
Here are three small steps that can ease the pain of a difficult conversation between a principal and teacher.
3 min read
Photo of two women having discussion.
E+
School & District Management How Have School Leaders Responded to the Trump Shooting?
When a tragic national incident happens in the middle of the summer, do school officials feel compelled to respond?
4 min read
A crowd waits for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump to speak at a campaign event in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024.
A crowd waits for Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump to speak at the campaign event in Butler, Pa., on July 13, 2024, before a shooting took place.
Gene J. Puskar/AP