Unfortunately, sometimes a source leads you wrong — even if they don’t mean to.

While I was reporting on a controversial San Diego Unified rule that discourages school board members from publicly criticizing the superintendent or employees, the spokeswoman for the Palm Springs Unified School District told me that the district had no rules to restrict what board members said publicly.

The school district was another client of Aspen Group International, LLC, a consultancy that helped the San Diego Unified board create its policies. Its leader, Randy Quinn, said similar rules were in place at the other districts Aspen consulted, but the Palm Springs spokeswoman seemed to differ:

“I don’t think our board members would do that as a general rule,” said Joan Boiko, communications manager for the Palm Springs district.

But it looks like they did. The Palm Springs district has a policy that nearly mirrors the controversial San Diego Unified rule.

Asked about the policy later, Boiko wrote via e-mail that she thought I was asking about “a policy that would curtail the board from stating their opinions on issues openly.”

Well yeah, I was. Not publicly stating “individual negative judgments about superintendent and staff performance” sounds to me like a policy that curtails the board from openly stating their opinions. Whether it’s a good restriction or not is a separate question.

Boiko said the policy was simply that “personnel matters (whether being addressed by the board or an administrator) are ALWAYS confidential.” Public agencies are prohibited from discussing employment details such as why someone was fired or what healthcare plan they chose in public.

The legal director for the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, David Blair-Loy, holds that this policy “goes way beyond the limits of confidentiality.”

My apologies to readers. I hope this helps clear the air on a controversial topic.


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