I blogged on February 3rd:
“Personally, I believe that the board should cast the net far and wide in the search for a new superintendent. The system is faced with problems that are the culmination of years of good old boy politics and 'scratch my back, I'll scratch yours' operations.I think it is imperative to introduce 'new blood' into the system.”
I followed up on February 10th:
“Aggressive new administration is needed to establish procedures and policies that will ensure that every penny is properly accounted for. The board must also tighten up its screening policies on outside contractors.”
I noted on March 23:
“The formalities are being pursued, but I’m not sure that a new superintendent is.Several members have expressed their preference for the ‘same old, same old’ in the person of Assistant Superintendent D. C Machen.Is the search genuine or is the fix already in for Machen?I suspect the latter.”
On April 28th I laid out the reasons I believe someone other than Machen should be chosen:
“The main question in most people’s minds is whether or not D. C. Machen should be the next superintendent. Machen has been the Assisitant Superintendent for Administration. It was under his watch that School Board Administration paid $291,266 to Ark-La-Tex Air Repair, Inc., for overcharges, replacement costs covered by warranties, installations that did not occur, and one missing unit.It was on his watch that Administration may have violated the Public Bid Law for air conditioning purchases and installation totaling $254,598.In addition, the School Board may have violated Public Bid Law through a $1,067,000 emergencymold remediation contract.Also under his watch, School Board Maintenance Department employees authorized credit card transactionstotaling $1,833 with Ark-La-Tex Air Repair, Inc., for air conditioning duct cleaning andsanitizing and the replacement of a control board that did not occur.One current School Board employee performed work and received $3,894 from a current vendor of the School Board in possible violation of Louisiana ethics laws. One former School Board employee may have violated Louisiana ethics laws by receiving $105,769 for services performed for the School Board within two years of the end ofhis employment. (Louisiana Legislative Auditor's full report)Yet incredibly, despite all of this, several board members have already expressed their support for Machen as the new superintendent.The fix is in.”
It didn’t take a crystal ball to predict on May 9th :
“No need to waste any more time with this. The three finalists will be Machen, Debbie Hays and probably Scott Smith . . “
I ordinarily believe strongly in promoting from within. In this case, I felt that someone from outside should be brought in to clean up the financial mess that the system finds itself in.
Although the board had an applicant from Texas (how he found the ad, I don’t know), but of course he did not receive a single vote in the selection of the finalists.
I am not questioning the character of any of the three finalists, in fact I’m sure that they are all estimable individuals. What is troubling is the despotic good old boy nature of the selections.
I have outlined my problem with Mr. Machen’s selection above. Scott Smith, I am told, is a very good principal at Benton High School. Again, connections. His wife, State Representative Jane Smith was superintendent.
Debbie Hays, whose father was a principal in the system is the sister of Sheriff Larry Deen, hands down the most powerful person in Bossier Parish.
These facts don’t disqualify anyone, but they do make it more difficult for any of the three contenders to come in and reorganize the system without regard for individual considerations. However, one of the three will be chosen.
The only finalist to actually admit that a problem exists – in other words, to acknowledge the elephant in the room – is Debbie Hays who said ‘We need to ensure that we have high quality fiscal responsibility maintained in all departments. I would like to take over the finance department. I would like to be the No. 1 person in charge and with that I would like for you to assist me and hire a chief business officer that would answer only to me and to you. And this person will be the overseer of all of our funds, how they are distributed, how they are managed so that we know they're managed effectively, efficiently and responsibility over all areas of department areas.’
For this reason, considering that one of these three will be superintendent, I believe that Debbie Hays should be the next Superintendent of Bossier Parish Schools.