Integrity isn't optional for our school leaders

By JEFF WEBB Editor of Editorials
Published March 18, 2007

How pathetic is this?

Of the six education administrators who were finalists to become the next superintendent of the Hernando County school district, three misrepresented themselves.

One flat-out lied on his resume.

Another was either dishonest or inexcusably inaccurate on her resume.

And the third waited until he was offered a job to disclose that Hernando's salary was at least 30 grand shy of acceptable and that he planned to retire in four years anyway.

What a sorry statement about how little some people respect what should be one of the most respected institutions in our civilization. And what a distressing sign that some people have so little respect for their reputations.

One might expect, and even excuse, such deceptions from a teenager who juiced-up his MySpace profile, or a recent college grad who embellished her employment history as a waiter by saying she was in the nutrition delivery industry.

But folks expect more from a person who alleges to be capable of directing the second-largest workforce in the county, and whose leadership will have an effect, some lifelong, on almost every child, parent and taxpayer.

Yes, we expect the person who is superintendent of schools to be much more. We expect the superintendent to be smart, efficient, accessible, open-minded, unbiased, stingy, generous, perceptive, observant, even-keeled, tolerant of some things and intolerant of others, articulate, well-groomed and a good listener. And that's just for starters.

In short, we expect the superintendent of schools to be no less than a doggone pillar of the community - and eager to accept that responsibility.

We don't expect the superintendent to be perfect. We don't expect every decision will be the right one. And we understand that even the right decisions don't always work.

But at the most fundamental level imaginable, we expect the superintendent to be honest and forthright. Not usually or almost-always honest and forthright, but 100-percent-of-the-time, guaranteed, no-ifs-ands-or-buts honest and forthright. No altering reality. No withholding information. No playing games.

Finalists Craig Bangston, Lorenda Tiscornia and Harry La Cava, fell short of those expectations. They, as well as the consultant the School Board hired to vet the applicants, wasted Hernando County's time.

But if it's any consolation, we'll know better next time and, I suspect, in the long run, all this will turn out to be a much bigger deal for them than it was for us.

Jeff Webb can be reached at 352 754-6123, or webb@sptimes.com.