School & District Management

Paper Sues Cincinnati Schools Over Secretive Search

By Ann Bradley — November 06, 2002 2 min read
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The Cincinnati Enquirer has sued the city’s school board and its new superintendent over the secretive process by which the superintendent was chosen for the job.

The newspaper filed a federal lawsuit on Oct. 24, alleging that its First Amendment rights were violated when the school board, Superintendent Alton Frailey, the board’s search firm, and four unnamed finalists for the post conspired to withhold information about the search. (“Cincinnati Search: Quick, Quiet, and Controversial,” Oct. 2, 2002.)

In a separate action, the newspaper filed a complaint before the Ohio Supreme Court, seeking to compel the district to turn over what it says are public records related to the search.

District officials, including former Superintendent Steven Adamowski, have said they believed that conducting a private search would yield a better pool of candidates than one that made finalists’ names public. Mr. Frailey was chosen Sept. 6 and is scheduled to start work this month.

After the paper’s editors refused to go along with a request to keep the finalists’ names private, the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati says, the school board and PROACT Search Inc. of Milwaukee took steps to avoid having to turn over résumés and related information to the newspaper.

Those steps, it says, included addressing memos to the finalists with fictitious names; instructing them to check into a local hotel under assumed names; reimbursing them in cash to avoid checks in their names; and using numbers rather than names on the board’s interview notes.

The newspaper contends that such actions violated the First Amendment and Ohio’s Public Records Act, which covers résumés of candidates for public positions.

“The new superintendent and the unnamed finalists were named as co-conspirators because we feel that without their participation in this plan, that wouldn’t have happened,” said Jack Greiner, the newspaper’s lawyer.

Scott Roman, the general counsel for the 42,000-student district, said last week that the district had received the lawsuits and was reviewing them.

Nancy R. Noeske, the president of PROACT, declined to comment.

In the complaint to the Ohio Supreme Court, which names the school board and PROACT, the newspaper asks that the court compel the board to produce all of the records the paper asked for in a July 12 request to the district. “The board and its agent have improperly transferred and/or disposed of certain of the records to avoid producing them,” the complaint says.

A version of this article appeared in the November 06, 2002 edition of Education Week as Paper Sues Cincinnati Schools Over Secretive Search

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