The Wake County school system has reduced the amount of information and background it provides the public about new principals, assistant principals, area superintendents and assistant superintendents.
For many years, Wake released detailed work histories and educational backgrounds of newly appointed administrators. That meant members of the public or media who were interested could check back with other districts where the person had worked to assess his or her work history.
But district officials say that information is considered confidential under the state’s personnel law and was being released without permission.
Since August , Wake has released only the last two jobs and the highest educational degree for the new appointees, after getting their permission. This change also affects employees who are promoted internally, in an apparent contradiction of state law.
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“The district has found a way to provide more information to the public and parents than is listed in the statue by getting consent,” said Jonathan Blumberg, an attorney for the school system. “This is an extremely minor change in what was provided previously.”
But John Drescher, executive editor of The News & Observer, said the change will leave the public with less information about who oversees the education of Wake’s 155,000 students. The N&O has been in contact with school leaders since the change was made in mid-August on how much information is released.
“The public should know about the professional backgrounds of the people who work with our children every day,” Drescher said. “The old practice of reporting the work histories of principals and administrators served the public well for more than 15 years.
“The old practice could help reveal if an educator left a school under difficult circumstances. It’s difficult to see how this change, which is not minor, serves the families of Wake County.”
Last monthwhen Wake hired a new assistant superintendent at $124,185 and two principals at salaries of $96,844 and $74,624, the only work histories initially released were for their most recent two jobs. Wake later issued a press release with more information on the new assistant superintendent.
Degrees not listed
Wake changed its policy during the summer after Blumberg said he was asked by school administrators to review what personnel information was provided to the public. Blumberg said he determined Wake had been releasing more than was permissible.
“The General Assembly, in drafting the statute, created a balance between confidentiality protection of employees and the public’s right to know,” he said. “They did not put in the list of items that the public has a right to know the educational degrees or college attended or positions held outside the school district.”
Blumberg said the district should get credit for being transparent by asking for permission from new employees to release information on their highest degree and their last two jobs.
While the state personnel law says that districts must provide information on all promotions and job changes in the district for current employees, Wake is also only releasing the most recent two jobs for internal appointments. Blumberg said Wake wanted to use a consistent form for all appointments and transfers. Nothing prevents the media from contacting the people to request information on their backgrounds, he said.
The difference in practice was apparent when the school board announced last month that Jamee Lynch had been hired as principal of Millbrook Elementary School in Raleigh. Her one-page sheet listed only her doctorate and her most recent two jobs, including her position as a principal in Dallas, Texas.
The sheet didn’t note that Lynch was a former Wake school employee. When Lynch was named a Wake high school principal in 2009, her sheet had listed her undergraduate and master’s degrees, her professional licenses and her jobs in and outside of the district since 1995.
Amanda Martin, an attorney for the N.C. Press Association, said Wake should be providing the work histories for the current employees who are promoted. For new people hired outside Wake, she said it would be useful for the district to ask them for permission to share their whole work history.
“It will help the public understand who is being hired,” she said.