New vote for superintendent won’t right wrongs

Even on an elementary school playground, it’s bad form to call a do-over. High school students who blow their final exams don’t get to retake them.

In those situations, someone can step forward to hold a person accountable for poor performance. The Clark County School Board has no such worries. Its only remedy for running afoul of the state’s open meeting law last week, when it rushed to name Pat Skorkowsky the district’s superintendent, is to hold another vote next week.

As if the School Board will seriously reconsider a national search for new leader. As if a properly noticed agenda item will give the taxpaying public the opportunity to sit in on an interview with Mr. Skorkowsky. As if there will be any genuine deliberation before a new vote June 3.

Mr. Skorkowsky was named interim superintendent when Dwight Jones resigned three months ago as leader of the nation’s fifth-largest public school system. On May 21, the board used a vague agenda item, a catch-all notice related to its superintendent search that had carried over to every meeting for about two months, to interview Mr. Skorkowsky late at night and initiate contract negotiations with him.

Telling the taxpaying public that a board may or may not make its single most important decision at any given meeting, requiring interested members of the public to be present at all times, is horrible governance.

“At no point should you schedule a surprise interview near 11 p.m.,” said Martin Dean Dupalo, a former School Board candidate and president of the nonprofit Nevada Center for Public Ethics. “Politics in the middle of the night is never healthy for the public.”

If trustees were apologetic for going off the rails and diminishing public involvement in the hiring process, that would be one thing. Instead, they’ve defended their actions while moving to remedy a wrong they won’t acknowledge.

“We don’t think we did anything wrong,” said Board President Carolyn Edwards, who was steamrollered by her fellow trustees last week. “If there is any possibility we violated the open meeting law, the best thing is to do the vote again.”

Trustee Linda Young said hiring Mr. Skorkowsky required “a lot of courage” because the board was “being hammered to do a national search by some special interest groups and politically powerful individuals.” It takes courage to limit public participation? Please. Ms. Young conveniently failed to acknowledge that the board was also being hammered by the biggest special interest group of all — the teachers union — to hire Mr. Skorkowsky at once.

Trustees are equally insistent that Mr. Skorkowsky is the best-qualified candidate for the job. We certainly hope he succeeds.

It goes without saying that the decisions of elected bodies are important. But the way in which they go about making those decisions is just as important. Other Nevada government bodies should learn a lesson from the School Board’s blunder, because trustees clearly haven’t.

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