Popularity contest 

But you don't and he won't. The question is whether the School Board can convince the public that its pick best meets the stated objectives - a sound financial manager with a record of improving student achievement who's likely to stick for a while. For its last two openings, the Board did its own candidate search. The first time, it got Ken James. The Board thought he would stay awhile. Wrong. The search for his replacement produced a pool of candidates so uninspiring that the Board called Holmes, retired since 1997, to serve in the interim. Now 64, he's had a quiet year, helped by an infusion of money that allowed a robust pay raise for teachers, who'd like to see him stay. So would an active neighborhood group thankful to Holmes for keeping Mitchell School open. He's admired, too, by people who worked with him during his successful tenure as principal of Central High, where he worked tirelessly. To his supporters, it was a slap in the face when Holmes wasn't simply offered the full-time job. It was an even sharper rebuke when he wasn't among the five candidates chosen for interviews. Supporters want to know, particularly, if Holmes was on the consultant's list of 11 that the board pared down to five. The board made its public relations problem worse by refusing to reveal the six people dropped in the final cut. It violated the law if it possessed a document containing the names at the moment the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette presented a request to inspect it. Even if it no longer had the document, the board appeared to care more about catering to job applicants than sunshine. The board doesn't want to personalize the issue. It is committed to the process that began with a headhunter. That process omits Morris Holmes. At this point, why would board members want to list demerits of Holmes -- or of any other candidate? A public discussion of Holmes would inevitably bring up New Orleans, where Holmes was bought out as superintendent amid financial problems. It is also a segregated school district with something less than a stellar reputation for academics. The candidates for interviews come from districts that claim progress in closing testing gaps. "Claim" is an important word, however. The famed Texas miracle turns out to be built in large measure on fraud. Whomever the Board chooses, the controversy raises issue the board shouldn't ignore. Is Holmes really in disfavor with certain central office supervisors because he's making them work harder? Does the board really, as President Tony Rose said on TV, "micromanage?" Any prospective superintendent should ask him to explain. Or run. The noise is not unhealthy. People care. I only wish some of the noisemakers had been on hand for another decision with profound impact on Little Rock. That was when the state Board of Education created a charter school in well to do West Little Rock. It will drain millions from public schools and cherrypick high-achieving black students, worsening the testing gap. Where was the outrage then?


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