The argument has been made for years that the best candidates won’t apply for high-profile education leadership jobs in Florida because of the state’s open records provisions.
Now a state lawmaker has put that view into legislation, as he aims to shield applicants to top posts in the state university and college systems from the public’s eye.
Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, has filed SB 182 to create a public records and meeting exemption for college and university searches for presidents, provosts and deans. The bill language offers the rationale:
If potential applicants fear the possibility of losing their current employment as a consequence of attempting to progress along their chosen career path or seeking different and more rewarding employment, failure to have these exemptions in place could have a chilling effect on the number and quality of applicants available to fill the position of president, provost, or dean of a state university or Florida College System institution.
Of course, Florida’s current law making the applications available has not stopped schools from finding to highly praised leaders in the past, including former University of Florida president Bernie Machen and former Florida State president Eric Barron. It also allowed interested parties including students and faculty to participate in the process that led to the selection of current UF president Kent Fuchs and FSU president John Thrasher, who are still establishing themselves.
Several other states are less transparent in selecting their school leaders. Should Florida go down that road? And if it does so for university top brass, will school district superintendent searches be far behind?