Editorials

District spokesperson would scrub the news

If everything’s done under the sun in the Monroe County School District, what is the pressing need for a spokesperson, as proposed by Superintendent Mark Porter and the majority of the five-member School Board?

If there was a flak working for the district back in 2009, we doubt we’d have ever gotten to the bottom of the embezzlement scandal involving then-superintendant Randy Acevedo and his now ex-wife Monique Acevedo, then a high-ranking administrator who is serving the tail-end of an eight-year prison sentence. The stench of corruption likely didn’t start and stop with the Acevedos, but much of the investigation back then that led to their convictions was aided by reporting from Keys newspapers —reporting that was done without a spindoctor trying to get in the way.

Even if a spokesperson was washing the message during the Acevedo era, we have many sources and would have reported stories that would have made the official message look ridiculous.

There have been minor scandals to erupt in the meantime that some in the district would have loved to have made usefully opaque by way of a spokesperson. Last year, the district was forced to discuss the apparent theft of more than $21,000 from a day-care program run out of Horace O’Bryant School in Key West. News of the missing cash, which was held in an unlocked drawer at the school, was kept from the public and elected School Board for six months.

The ease in which that omission was executed demonstrates the district’s appetite for keeping bad news hidden away from the public and press. The Key West administration doesn’t need a spokesperson to help launder facts. It can do that just fine now, and without having to pay a high salary in the process.

That said, it would have been interesting to see how the news about the recent release by the district of the names and addresses of graduating seniors to the political campaign of the state attorney would have been spun. Unfortunately for the district, but fortunately for taxpayers, that news was reported without a filter.

Spokespeople are useful to the public in certain notable sectors — especially in police departments and similar agencies that deal with emergency situations. Those spokespeople serve the public and press by providing crucial information regarding recent crimes, vehicle accidents that delay traffic, natural disasters and messages about safety and crime prevention.

From a fiscal standpoint, those professionals are busy doing real work. In other words, the taxpayers are clearly getting their money’s worth out of the work they do in demonstrable ways.

The School District doesn’t have a spokesperson now, so there isn’t currently any work to be done. So if the position is created, so too will busy work to occupy this person’s day.

Clearly, the district has faced some harsh, but fair, criticism because of past scandals and the way it handled them. All that is far outweighed by the excellent work done by Monroe teachers. Keys students and parents also make Monroe County a model district. But along with great teachers and students, money also goes a long way in making the district successful — money that we can’t afford to waste on high-paying, make-work jobs like spokesperson.

  Comments