Disappointing Okma story
Thank you for your story by Lisa Brody covering the problems at the Okma International Academy (Downtown/March).
Downtown is one of the few remaining publications that is willing to report on important local issues and, generally speaking, it does so with intelligence and nuance.
I was disappointed, however, to read this line from Lisa Brody: "All allegations against Gibson were investigated by the joint steering committee, which found the principal had done nothing wrong, a Bloomfield Hills Schools spokesperson said."
There are several problems here, some of them seriously misleading. First, there is no attribution for the Bloomfield Schools "spokesperson." This is usually Shira Good, the communications director paid by the director. It could, of course, be Rob Glass, the district superintendent. Or it could be Paul Kolin, the BHSD Board President. The latter denies it was him. So who is giving this information to Downtown on the "joint steering committee" and its investigation that has supposedly cleared up any issues? BHSD, for example, has conceded – along with all 13 consortium Districts – that the "joint steering committee" was not operating properly. It has never been in compliance with the Open Meetings Act (since it was created in 1996) and is being reconfigured entirely. Its first lawful meeting was March 4, 2019. The only agenda item was to hear public comments and to sketch a plan to create a functioning "joint steering committee."
To the extent that a “joint steering committee" existed before March 4, 2019 it was chaired, as Brody notes, by principal Gibson and consisted mainly of her staff. So the claim that the principal's own committee had investigated her activities and "cleared" her is, well, rather strange reporting, no?
The fundamental issue here is public oversight. The "joint steering committee" is now acknowledged by all to be barely functioning and illegitimate body. So when Brody reports that this body has conducted some kind of investigation – and does not provide an attribution for who is claiming this – the taxpayer and reader has every right to be deeply skeptical of this information. Frankly, it sounds very much like self-serving messaging being presented as news. That is a shame. There is plenty of information to review and report on (see more disinterested coverage in The Detroit News and Troy Gazette, for example, or even the Birmingham Seaholm Highlander).
When you couple this with the opening characterization of a teacher as a "disgruntled" employee, well, you see an even bigger problem. Please feel free at any point to contact those of us who have sifted through the mounds of paperwork and FOIAs on this issue. It really is quite important that the community has a good look at it.
(Publisher’s note: The school spokesperson quoted in the story is district communications director Shira Good, which normally is noted in our stories. As to the use of the term “disgruntled,” it means disappointed, unhappy, displeased, which would certainly be a fair description of a former employee who filed a lawsuit against his past employer. Lastly, we take exception to any suggestion that our story was not a “disinterested” presentation of the facts. We have no dog in this fight, as the saying goes.)