Tuesday, October 9, 2012

John White's sense of irony

Irony, noun: Expression in which the intended meaning of the words is the opposite of their usual sense.

Has Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White developed a sense of irony? Judging from news and editorial reports of the last few days, the imposing stone Claiborne Building, which houses White’s department, has become a Temple of the Ironic.

On one hand, White explained to Shreveport Times reporter Mary Nash-Wood that his department requires the services of a new public relations person because “The No. 1 thing people ask for is more communication. We’re not about just hoping information gets to parents and teachers. We’re trying to be proactive in working to meet those parents, teachers and students wherever they are.”

So desperate is the need that White reached all the way to Tallahassee, Florida to hire one Deirdre Finn at the sum of $12,000 per month for four months (with a three-year option) to manage communications for his office.

The need is not so critical that Ms. Finn’s presence is required in Baton Rouge full-time, however: “she divides her duties between Baton Rouge and Tallahassee.”

Here’s where the ironic part comes in. At the same time that White so desperately needs a Floridian to manage communications in Louisiana, his department is being sued for its refusal to communicate important information to the news media.

On several occasions, White promised to give up records involving the way private and religious schools were chosen to participate in the new state voucher program. He has reneged on that promise, and now refuses to explain the voucher process to the news media and the tax-paying public.

White’s refusal raised the ire of the Baton Rouge Advocate, which opined in an editorial, “If the Department of Education is acting in the best interest of the public in implementing the voucher program, then why does White feel the need to hide documents relating to the program from public view?”

The Lake Charles American Press is also incensed: “But because taxpayers are footing the bill for this program — the state is paying up to almost $9,000 per student — the public has a right to know the details of how this program has evolved and is evolving.”

It’s not that White is unable to communicate the information because he lacks a staff member. He just doesn’t want to.

Which raises the question: Is Deidre Finn being paid $12,000 per month to really give out information, or is it to put an attractive spin on White’s refusal to communicate?

Maybe irony is not the right word to use here.

Cynical, adjective: Denying the sincerity of people’s motives and actions.

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