School districts around the country are frequently tasked with difficult decisions regarding confidentiality in the search process. Boards are asked to weigh the desire of the public’s interest in transparency about the candidates who could lead their school community, with the preference of confidentiality for candidates who are making impactful career choices. In Texas, this is not up for discussion, as Texas Government Code 552.126 clearly states that only the name(s) of the finalist(s) being considered for the position must be publicized at least 21 days prior to the meeting where the final vote will be taken regarding the employment of the individual. Most commonly there is only one finalist.
HYA has been working under the conditions of this law since it took effect in Texas in 2011. Boards are pursuing a compelling slate of candidates who are successful in their current position, and a search that is anything but confidential competes with that notion. Exposing candidates to the public could have negative consequences on a candidate’s current position, perhaps raising questions about commitment. This uncertainty may dissuade a highly qualified candidate from going after a position so as not to put themselves in a detrimental situation in their career.
Candidates are interviewing the districts as much as the districts are interviewing the candidates; they want to get to know the District while keeping their interest confidential. HYA in its recruitment process informs the candidates with as much information as possible about the District’s success and challenges. HYA has even recommended that Board members provide “windshield tours” for candidates, driving candidates through the community to learn more about the district while maintaining their confidentiality as they decide whether or not to continue to pursue the position.
Texas recognizes the importance of openness when it comes to public officials so the 21 Day Lone Finalist Rule is a compromise of sorts. While the Board of Trustees in Texas, are elected to make decisions representative of their community, they recognize the importance of transparency with the community. Once the Trustees have a lone finalist, the name of that candidate is released to the public. This allows the community a minimum of 21 days to gather background information on the candidate, and frequently involves opportunities for the candidate to meet with stakeholders to address questions and concerns that arise.
The 21 Day Lone Finalist rule in Texas is a compromise between confidentiality and transparency.
Community Transparency and Candidate’s Confidentiality
While Boards have always had to make decisions around the level of confidentiality they seek and accept in the search process, the public desire for transparency is adding a new dimension to these questions. Transparency is a driving force in many communities regarding governmental decision making while confidentiality is a critical consideration for candidates as they consider a career move…