April 30, 2012

Cheers and Jeers: April 30, 2012

CHEERS to institutions that use public forums to introduce candidates for key positions. It used to be, years ago, that the search for the right person to fill most administrative positions in colleges, schools and other entities was done behind closed doors. A few key people would take part in interviewing applicants and choosing the appointee. Then, the idea of search committees was introduced, and "stakeholders," as they are called, were given the job of searching out and narrowing down candidates by paring down applications and then usually with a group interview. So, for example, a search committee for a college president might comprise faculty, student, staff and community representatives. Still, it was unusual for the public — or even employees, in general — to meet the chosen person until the official announcement was made. But in recent years, colleges (North Country Community College is the latest), schools (Peru Central in recent weeks) and other bodies (Plattsburgh Public Library Board of Directors last week) have held public forums to give staff and community members a chance to meet candidates, hear about their experience and goals and ask questions. This is the first time the method has been employed by the Plattsburgh Public Library Board members, so special kudos to them, especially in light of all the controversy they went through during budget preparations this year. Any process that involves public funds, as these institutions all do, should be as open and inclusive as possible. Doesn't it make sense to hear feedback from as many constituents as possible before making such a weighty decision as choosing a future leader? We think so. We applaud all those who employ this method and encourage those who don't to consider public forums for candidates.

JEERS to organizations, towns, villages, businesses, etc., that don't list their phone number prominently on the home page of their websites. It's frustrating for those seeking information beyond what is featured on the web. As well-planned as a website might be, questions might still remain or more details might be needed. Often, you find the "Contact Us" section includes only an email address — inexplicably, no phone number. People needing information sometimes want to speak to an actual person. If you truly want to be helpful to the public, give them easy access by phone — and don't make them hunt around to find it.

— If you have a Cheers and Jeers suggestion that you want the Editorial Board to consider, email it to Editor Lois Clermont at

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