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A leak about WSD

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I’m scanning the tweets this afternoon as a good twit does, and jumping right out at me is one posted by a veteran educator who’s listing three first names and congratulating them for making the short list for a senior job in Winnipeg School Division.

Hmmmm.

Didn’t the poop kind of hit the fan a while back when an ink-stained wretch was provided with the short list for the chief superintendent’s job?

I copied the tweet to board chair Suzanne Hrynyk and asked if this is OK.

That information is completely confidential, replied Hrynyk almost instantly; she said the division will investigate.

Meanwhile, I contacted the person who had disclosed the short list, and he said, "That was a huge gaffe. I posted that in error, and have deleted it."

Which of course leaves the question, who was in the know about the short list, which eduleaker will WSD be trying to identify, and why in the world would he or she be going around giving those names out to other people?

OK, Edward Snowden, you can stand down now...

Next time that the provincial Liberals complain that the mainstream media ignore them, here’s a teachable moment.

I reckoned that new Liberal leader Rana Bakhari might have something to say about education policy, so I contacted her office.

Back came the reply: "Thank you for your request. At this time, Rana and the Manitoba Liberal Party are talking with Manitobans about a range of policy matters including education. In light of recent stats showing Manitoba’s education quality continuing to decline, Rana has been researching policies that work in other provinces while consulting with educators. At this point, she would not be putting specific policy positions on the record. Perhaps you can send me a bit more information about the specific issues you would be looking to ask her about?"

That was followed shortly thereafter by another Liberal missive: "Rana would very much like to speak with you about education and answer any questions you may have. I hope I didn’t sound too dismissive in my initial response. That was not my intent. Please let me know if you would still like an interview."

Now, I don’t submit a list of questions prior to an interview, but here’s a bunch of issues on which I wanted specific policy positions that I sent back to Grit Central: "I’d want to discuss such things as the education funding formula, reliance on property tax, basing quality of education on assessed values of property, moratorium on closing schools, policy on building new schools, testing, math curriculum, schools of choice, no-fail policy, etc.
In post-secondary, formula for operating grants; capital budgets; and megaprojects such as UCN, UM’s Southwood plans, Assiniboine Community College further phases; capping tuition."

And thereupon I received a third email from Bakhari’s aide: "Those are all very important issues that Rana and the Liberal Party have been researching and forming policies for. At this time, especially with by-elections going on, Rana is not available for an in-depth discussion about education policies. She will continue consulting with experts in the field and forming education policy with our members leading up to our AGM. After which, she would look forward to discussing those policies with yourself. Thank you for your interest."

That AGM will be in April.

Sigh.

Moving on....

One recent evening I saw a tweet from a colleague here who was looking for story ideas. And a principal of a school in a division we’ll hypothetically call St. James-Assinboia tweeted back to her: "write about all the kind and amazing things kids and schools do everyday. I usually see negative things written."

Is there any point in even sighing? I know there’s no point in listing links to all the stories I do about good students and good schools and good teachers.

Enough of that one...

Not much action from Couchsurfers for a while, it’s mostly people asking broadly for a host in Winnipeg, but who can’t be bothered to read hosts’ profiles and send out individual requests.

I did see one such person, who described herself as a beautiful woman — never seen that before, and might be a little leery about how she grasps the concept.

And the guy from Cameroons via England, he’s still looking for hosts, but has now moved his arrival back to February. He’s the guy who figures two nights in your guest room will make you a BFF who’ll vouch for him to immigrate or get into the provincial nominee program.

Seguing seamlessly...

Some professional advice on being an interview subject: If you don’t want to see something in the paper, don’t say it. Especially don’t say it if it’s maybe not true.

If you don’t want to answer a question, say you don’t want to answer, and then decline to elaborate — sure, I’d much rather you told us everything, but the bottom line is, if you don’t say it, you won’t be quoted in print saying it.

Now let’s say you’re in an interview you’ve willingly granted, and you get asked a question. The most applicable and appropriate answer is A, but you don’t want people to know that and you don’t want to see it in the paper.

So you answer B, which is maybe true but not as valid an answer, or partially true, or maybe you’re just making it up.

Your correct option is C, which is to decline to comment.

But you answer B, and my colleague accurately quotes you in a story that gets published.

I see my colleague’s published story, and I realize your answer B is germane to a story I’m doing. But maybe, in the context of my story, answer B opens up all kinds of problems for you that you hadn’t contemplated previously. Answer B can get you in more trouble because you hadn’t thought through what that web of deception could lead to, to coin a phrase.

So then you get all outraged and demand an immediate retraction of answer B and an apology from us.

For being quoted in print accurately.

Just don’t do it in the first place, OK?

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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