Sep 19 2016

OPINION: Being an Upstander

I am a staunch supporter of the press, in its role as the Fourth Estate, to question, poke and prod. A free and open press strengthens democracy and good governance. It creates the public sphere to exchange information and ideas. Hooray to those journalistic institutions which do that well! And hooray to Piedmont citizens who seek out information, ask questions and stand up to agree or disagree with what’s happening in our town! We all benefit from engaged, intelligent discourse, even if we have to respectfully agree to disagree.

More and more, however, the Piedmont Post has turned its long-simmering personal enmity towards district administrative personnel and members of the school board into a malicious campaign. The latest tempest is around the hiring of an athletics director who happens to be engaged to a family member of a PHS administrator’s spouse. Were the right people notified at the right time? Yes. Was that PHS administrator involved in the hiring of the new director? No. Does the new director report to that PHS administrator? No. Fair questions; asked and answered.

The Post doesn’t like the hiring decision or how the hire was made. OK. But there are several things that bother me: calling schools in Arizona for reference checks, pushing for the names and resumes of other candidates (Really? Who would apply to a school district that publicly lists all candidates?), purposefully writing a misleading headline, and including family members in the supporting article is, to me, crossing a line of journalistic integrity. I am disappointed and disheartened. This reads like mean-spirited bullying.

As our district students are taught, it’s time for me to be an upstander, not a bystander. As an upstander, I have to call it as I see it and say enough. As an upstander, I welcome Mr. Acuna and his family into our community and want him to know that he has my support as he settles into his full-time work for the district. I appreciate his skills and talents, and his abilities to work around this on-going, distracting noise. As an upstander, I want to say that I serve alongside board members and staff whose first mission is to serve our students and their families, and who are people of honor and integrity. As an upstander, I thank all our staff for staying the course of our educational mission, for refusing to be side tracked by this kind of coverage, and for creating structures and opportunities that our students can leverage to develop themselves and their intellectual curiosity.
I like what the Post puts under its name every week: A community newspaper serving the citizens of Piedmont. I like that it is a forum for community news, issues and opinions, for what our kids and our neighbors are up to, for local candidates during election season. But this foray into salacious journalism does all of us a disservice.

Amal Smith, Member of the School Board

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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