We have heard, time and again, the assertion that searches for top education administrators won’t attract the best candidates if the names of potential candidates are made public.
The premise is many promising candidates wouldn’t want to publicly express interest in another job because it might compromise their standing with their current employers.
LSU officials have used this argument in recent years to defend secretive searches for top administrators. Some members of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board also have used this rationale to argue for secrecy in selecting the next school superintendent.
But we see no data to support this argument, and we have long argued that administrators who are in good standing with their current employers have nothing to fear from publicly expressing an interest in another job. In fact, popular administrators being considered for other jobs often are rewarded, not punished, by present employers, who have a natural interest in wanting to keep a talented leader from leaving.
Consider the recent case of LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva, who was being courted to become the next athletic director at the University of Tennessee. Upon hearing of Tennessee’s interest in Alleva, LSU Chancellor Michael Martin announced that he would be presenting a new compensation package for Alleva at a future meeting of the LSU Board of Supervisors. Presumably, public knowledge of Tennessee’s interest in Alleva placed Alleva in line to get a raise.
Similarly, in 2002, when then-LSU Chancellor Mark Emmert was under consideration for the presidency of the University of South Carolina System, public knowledge of South Carolina’s interest in Emmert appeared to raise his stature at LSU.
In 2003, when then-LSU System President William Jenkins publicly interviewed for a job as president of the University of Florida, his ultimately unsuccessful candidacy seemed to increase his popularity in Baton Rouge. Roger Ogden of New Orleans, who was then the chairman of the LSU Board of Supervisors, said at the time that it was flattering to LSU that officials of a school with the University of Florida’s reputation would seek out Jenkins for its top post.
When Myrtle Dorsey served as chancellor of Baton Rouge Community College, she was a finalist for some out-of-state jobs in higher education. After not being selected for those jobs, Dorsey continued to serve at BRCC until earlier this year, when she accepted a job as chancellor at St. Louis Community College. During her tenure at BRCC, Dorsey’s job hunting did not appear to compromise her standing with those who oversaw her work.
Such cases should call into question the conventional wisdom among many education boards that secrecy is needed in picking top administrators in order to get the best candidates.