Sep 12 2016

OPINION: Piedmont Post Again Makes Baseless Attacks

“The Piedmont Post Again Makes Baseless Attacks on School District – “

The Sept. 7, 2016 Piedmont Post includes a front page article entitled “School Supt. Sidesteps public hiring in naming Director of Athletics.”  Once again, the Post disregards basic journalistic integrity in making baseless accusation and insinuations against the Superintendent.  The Post’s bias is evident by the placement of this claptrap on the front page, while burying on page 7, with the ho-hum headline “PUSD scores well in new state testing,” the news that Piedmont students’ scores on CAASPP testing for unified school districts tied for 1st in California in math and 3rd in the State for English Language Arts.  The flaws in the Post’s reporting include:

  • The Post asserts that Superintendent Booker’s hiring of the Athletic Director “displayed an attempt to limit publicity and avoid an open search process.”  Not true.  As the Post knows, “the District advertised the position to recruit an Interim Athletics Director on a contract basis for January through June of 2016.  The District received 22 applications.  An interview committee, consisting of administrators, coaches, and parents, interviewed five candidates.  Mr. Victor Acuña was selected for the interim position due to his extensive experience and positive recommendations.”  If the Post means to suggest that the District needed to repeat this process for the 2016-17 school year, after the District and parents were delighted with Mr. Acuna’s performance to complete the 2015-16 school year, that is ridiculous. By failing to mention the open search process, the Post misleads.
  • The Post article provides a lengthy discussion of the CSEA collective bargaining contract with the District. One might think the CSEA contract somehow applies to the Athletic Director position—otherwise, why would the Post discuss it?  But it does not, as the Post was informed when it contacted the District.  The Athletic Director position is “classified management” because it does not require an academic administrative credential.  Use of the word “classified” does not render the position subject to the CSEA contract.  The Post declined an offer to discuss any questions with the Superintendent.  Why would an “investigative journalist” decline a chance to interview the obvious target of the article?  Don’t facts matter?
  • The Post continues to comment that it has not been given Mr. Acuna’s resume. The Superintendent long ago informed the Post that the District does not give out information that includes an employee’s personal information.  However, the Superintendent provided the Post with all the information about Mr. Acuna’s prior employment.  There is no issue.
    • In fact, the Post is fully aware of Mr. Acuna’s previous jobs. The Post reporter called Mr. Acuna’s supervisors at two former jobs posing as someone conducting “reference checks.”  When challenged, as both already had provided reference checks to the District and knew Mr. Acuna was working here, she admitted she was from the Post.  Please note that the Post previously accused the District of not conducting reference checks—I suspect we will wait a long time for an apology from the Post.
    • The Post asserts the “title of the newly created job is misleading.” It is hard to see how.  Acuna oversees all PHS athletics, which are the only athletic programs the District runs.  He oversees all athletic facilities, including District facilities used by the Rec Dept., which runs non-school programs for PMS and elementary students.

    Basic journalistic ethics requires at least some attempt to provide accurate information.  The Post seems to go out of its way to avoid accurate reporting, ignoring the information it is given and declining to meet with the Superintendent.  I am finishing up 8.5 years on the School Board.  Throughout Superintendent Hubbard’s tenure, the Post levied unsupported attack after attack on her and the District.  Now, this sad Post tradition seems to be continuing over to Superintendent Booker.

    Given the tremendous job being done by our education professionals in Piedmont, the reason for these attacks are a mystery.  But it is harmful.  The District is not able to match salaries paid by many surrounding school districts, but has been able to attract talented people because it is a great place to work.  The Post’s attacks undermine that feeling of community support and appreciation.  Families also move to town because of the great schools.  The Post’s baseless attacks harm that reputation as well.

    Rick Raushenbush, School Board Member

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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