As a former teacher representative on the Board of Education and as the only other person who was certified as qualified and interviewed in 2008 for the commissioner position, I’m hopeful that my perspective on the board’s decision to hire will qualify as being factual and true. Just maybe it will help. The questions over BOE’s process and transparency are indeed valid questions of ethics and even a possible criminal conspiracy if there was indeed a plan to hire a particular person. I wasn’t surprised at what happened and I even felt it would happen which is why I didn’t fill out the application I picked up. I knew from my previous experience that the board would never hire me but I went through the interview process then just to prove I was capable of being the commissioner and to have it on my resume. Everyone knew the board was going to pick Rita from the very start, which is probably why it was public. However, this is a different set of circumstances and challenges to pull off a “predetermined pick” that is being alleged by protesters.
This is not to bash or disqualify anyone as I believe there were three legitimate candidates—Deleon Guerrero, Demapan and Muña—but the question is, did the BOE really hire the best candidate for the job or was the process rigged? I am not against any of them; I just want BOE to be fair and choose truly the best person. Deleon Guerrero is a relative and I have great respect for her and her work ethic, Demapan is a very close friend whom I also respect and has an excellent work ethics along with being a real fighter, and Muna has been a longtime associate who truly has the experience as an associate commissioner. So this is not about me picking sides but questioning how BOE arrived at their decision, which was inconsistent with the past election and highly questionable by many.
My first question is why wasn’t the interviews conducted in the public domain like they did with Dr. Sablan and myself—we were interviewed at PIC and the public was invited to see the process and to hear the questions and answers. I understand the concern for a Ph.D., but to the board’s defense I was granted the “equivalency of a Ph.D.” as a result of my board membership for five years and the many years of work on PSS’ various task forces. So the first question is why BOE lowered the qualification to only a master’s degree. It really didn’t make sense to lower the requirements for the commissioner especially when there was more than one candidate with a doctorate coming forward. The requirements should have only been lowered when there were not enough candidates to meet the doctorate requirement. BOE created the appearance of impropriety from the very start so it’s not surprising to see how it ended. Next, why was the selection done in secrecy, which defies the expectation of transparency? Why wasn’t the field of candidate narrowed to the top two so their interviews could be held public like the last selection for commissioner? There was indeed no transparency in the selection process as claimed. It should also be noted that if the requirements were reduced, PSS’ Human Resource Department had to have played a role in changing these requirements, which gives rise to the obvious suspected ethics violation or even criminal act, which has so many people upset.
I think this is a matter for the Public Auditor or AG to review for ethics and even policy violations as they are the only check on the BOE in this civil matter. FYI, there hasn’t been a teacher rep on the Board since I quit in 2008 and it’s a constitutional requirement to have a teacher rep on the board! The board and our previous governors have all ignored this constitutional law for almost a decade but maybe now the Public Auditor and/or the AG will force the board and the governor to set the conditions for a teacher rep to be elected, given the board and the governor are violating the very law they took an oath to uphold by refusing to take action. The board has no excuse but our new governor needs to get busy so he can’t be blamed. Hopefully the protesting group will make a formal request to the Public Auditor and the AG for possible ethics violations and for failing to follow the law! Those teachers who are protesting the BOE process need to be doing all they can to get the governor and the board to grant them their constitutional right to be represented on the board which would positively affect the hiring and firing process for everyone at PSS in a good way. But if you are expecting fairness and transparency from the BOE by simply protesting with a petition, then you need to know that you are wasting your time!
Ambrose M. Bennett
Former teacher/BOE member