Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Commenting on Kentucky School News and Commentary

A change in policy
Comments to be accepted from registered users

This blog began on September 6, 2003 as The Principal, a simple repository of selected information for my school leadership students to access at a distance. I was transitioning from public school administration to academia. I had an itch to write. Over the next year I audited two UK journalism classes, taught by Buck Ryan and Mike Ferrell. Mike taught me to write better. Buck taught me that I’d never make it as a news editor, and both would say that what I’m doing in this piece is called “burying the lead.” 

By February, 2007, The Principal had morphed into something else called Kentucky School News and Commentary. I still thought of it as a repository; useful to me as a teacher for retrieving educational leadership research. And as a newly-minted citizen journalist/on track for associate professor, I also wanted to “capture” statements made by public officials, to match against their eventual deeds for the purpose of studying education leadership and policy in the state.

KSN&C aggregates news, and offers occasional commentary. On rare occasions, my work load allows me to engage in actual reporting. Those stories have tended to be related to school law (Petrilli v Silberman; Young v Williams; Adams v Beshear [anti-common core]) My perspective is pro public school, from one who has 25 years of successful public school administration experience under his “above-average” belt. And not once was I ever a superman.

In the beginning, I never bothered to set limits on commenting. There were so few; mostly questions. Blogs were still fairly new and it was the Wild West for online citizen journalism. I liked the idea of giving voice to the powerless, but I was also bothered by the distinct possibility that what I was really doing was providing a space for the timid to avoid personal responsibility. From time to time I reminded myself that America was not founded, nor made great, by anonymous cowards. Their greatness came from standing up to authority, signing their names, and speaking their piece.

Then in April 2007, the Kentucky Board of Education was set to offer the Kentucky Education Commissioner’s job to suburban Chicago superintendent Barbara Erwin. Following up on a Mark Hebert story at WHAS, which claimed the hiring was being done in secret, I decided to research and publish pages of background information on the three finalists, and in so doing, found that something was amiss in Erwin’s resume. Working cooperatively with Richard Innes of the Bluegrass Institute, we ultimately confirmed nine resume errors and the rest, as they say, is history.

Yeah, I know. I’ve been hard on them since (mostly for pseudoscientific hyperbole in one form or another) but at the time, we didn’t allow the revelation of emerging differences to divide us. We did the work. And we had agreed to a common set of facts that convinced us that Erwin wasn’t all she claimed. 

All of the news outlets picked up and added to the story. Under mounting pressure, the Kentucky Board of Education decided to show a united front - some holding their noses. But the Chair and the Selection Committee held sway. Erwin was offered the position, and she accepted, but resigned just before she was to take office.

The Board’s infatuation with Erwin caused them to miss their best candidate, Mitchell Chester, who went on to become a well-respected Education Commissioner in Massachusetts.
Readership at KSN&C started to expand and I suddenly had a “real blog” on my hands. So I went with it, but I allowed anonymous postings to continue.

Anonymous comments are not without value. We’ve had lots of great ones from what I suspect is a fairly knowledgeable group of readers. But sometimes a reader’s passions may trigger a harsh response that devolves into flaming, or may even approach defamation. That’s not OK with me anymore. Not anonymously at least. Do that under your own name.

Starting with this post, I am raising the comment setting within Blogger. Let’s see what that does. I hope it helps KSN&C nurture better conversations, where more working professionals feel comfortable sharing their own ideas on improving the schools, in a respectful manner...along with everybody else. 

We will continue to keep 99% of the comments we receive, and we will continue to spike these:
  • Promotional comments: Spammed internet trash makes up the great majority of comments we spike. If a comment is solely promotional in nature, we will remove it from the site.
  • Harassing comments: While conversation and the sharing of different ideas is encouraged, and appreciated, all comments need to be respectful of others. Argue ideas. Be as witty as you like. But please play nicely with one another.
  • Anonymous comments: No longer accepted. We only accept comments from people who identify themselves.
We reserve the right to remove any comments from the site; please leave comments that are respectful and useful.

Richard Day


Anonymous said...

Good move IMHO. If one cares enough about a topic to express his or her opinions publicly, they should be willing to go to the trouble of registering. Nothing says they have to make their true identity public. But it adds a level of responsibility. Keep up the excellent work, Richard. Your efforts are appreciated.

Bringyoursaddlehome said...

Probably a good idea. Decrease the smearing but also candor.