"There has never been an attempt to exclude the public from their right to know about the hiring of a school superintendent. A perception of secrecy comes from a lack of understanding about the public’s right to know and the exclusive nature of the public school superintendency today.
The reality is much deeper than the simplicity of knowing names of applicants. State leaders understood this when an exception was created in Section 552.125 of the Government Code for school boards to select a superintendent. They understood that this position is unique; unlike any other public service responsibility and local boards of trustees need maximum flexibility in selecting the best person possible.
Accordingly, when a sitting successful superintendent is recruited or if he/she decides to seek employment elsewhere, a good situation can become negative very quickly – people often misunderstand his/her reasons for applying in another place and those perceptions can create unnecessary distractions that inevitably affect staff, students and the educational process.
Therefore, the legislature determined that elected school boards should have reasonable authority to locate the best person for their district while still being accountable to the public.
This law accomplishes objectives of open government, flexibility and confidentiality. It requires the board to release the name of all the “finalists” for the position and the board may not employ a superintendent for a minimum of 21 days after the release of the name(s).
During this 21-day period, neither party is under any obligation. The public and press can be an active party and conduct independent research and provide that input to the board before the candidate is formally employed. The board has time to hear all comments, react appropriately, carry out the required criminal history check and finalize any contract negotiations.
In states where schools release names of all applicants, boards have fewer choices. Those applicants typically track in single digits* or they may reach the teens. School boards in Texas have greater numbers that often reach thirties and forties, sometimes reaching into the sixties.
The process works well. There is no secrecy in selecting the superintendent, the press and the public have ample opportunity for input into the process during this 21-day period, thus ensuring that Texas school boards have a large pool of quality applicants."
© Jim Dunlap, 2015
* "Six educators apply for Bossier superintendent vacancy" -- Shreveport Times, March 25, 2019
TITLE 5. OPEN GOVERNMENT; ETHICS
SUBTITLE A. OPEN GOVERNMENT
CHAPTER 552. PUBLIC INFORMATION
Sec. 552.021. AVAILABILITY OF PUBLIC INFORMATION. Public information is available to the public at a minimum during the normal business hours of the governmental body.
Sec. 552.126. EXCEPTION: CONFIDENTIALITY OF NAME OF APPLICANT FOR SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT. The name of an applicant for the position of superintendent of a public school district is excepted from the requirements of Section 552.021, except that the board of trustees must give public notice of the name or names of the finalists being considered for the position at least 21 days before the date of the meeting at which a final action or vote is to be taken on the employment of the person.