Now that we’ve seen both of the candidates for the Jefferson County Public Schools superintendent post, and knowing that whoever is chosen will be getting a lot of media attention in the next year, I’m ready to cast my vote for Christine Johns-Haines.
No, it’s not because she’s better-looking. At her meeting with the public yesterday, and with a chance to speak from experience on the one main topic that is the absolute number one question on everybody’s mind here, Donna Hargens took a pass. She said she didn’t have an opinion, or refused to give one, on the effectiveness of changes in her Wake County district. That district changed to a neighborhood schools approach recently.
In Wake County, a district comparable in size to JCPS, they’ve been grappling with the whole diversity vs. student achievement argument we’ve been dealing with here since parents started complaining last fall when their kids had to spend an hour, each way, on a bus. The issue has become an issue in the Governor’s Race (David Williams promises to bring back neighborhood schools) and it was a contentious issue in the local Mayor’s Race.
Not commenting on the most important issue facing the district — it would be like Greg Fischer leaving it up to the Metro Council to fix the budget, and saying he’d be happy to go along with and implement whatever policies they come up with.
Rather than address what has happened in Wake County when it modified its student assignment plan, Hargens came up with some PR-ese that did NOT sit well with this audience. She said “My job is to implement the policies of the Board of Education.”
One parent made her opinion clear on WLKY-TV: “She avoided almost every question that we asked, she evaded them.”
Look, the job entails a lot of media interaction, and on-camera interviews, and Hargens failed the test.
It’s not like Johns-Haines did much better – she evaded the topic as well — but was more impressive in her public meetings and on-camera interviews. Maybe the Board doesn’t have media skills as high on the list of priorities as I do, but based on the meetings with the two candidates, there’s a clear winner.