Recall the Gazette-Journal

The Reno Gazette-Journal, impartial observer, is leading the fight to remove six members of the Washoe County School Board.

School board members screwed up royally by doing business in violation of the open meeting law when they dealt with a problem involving Superintendent of Schools Pedro Martinez. Their attorney screwed up worse by watching them throughout that process without once telling them they had wandered outside the law.

How did board members then respond? They admitted their mistake, reversed their action, paid a fine, and are trying to move on. Isn’t that the way we want public officials to act when they make mistakes?

How did the critics of the board members then respond? The Gazette-Journal and some community figures want them to keep paying. Every time the board members try to get back to work on, you know, education, the newspaper launches another attack. Why? Here’s our theory:

Pedro Martinez, like his predecessor Heath Morrison, is a graduate of the Broad Academy, a right-wing institution dedicated to making education an arm of the business community. “The business of urban education” is the way the Academy describes it (“Agendas,” RN&R, Oct. 6, 2011). The Gazette-Journal and developer Perry diLoreto, who promised to finance a recall campaign, are distressed that the business community they both champion must now be treated like any other players in this valley and no longer have special entrée into the school district.

In the case of diLoreto’s sudden interest in leading on education, residents need to ask themselves, should another rich developer have still more power in this valley that is already too heavily dominated by developers?

As for the Gazette-Journal, champion of the overdog, it has for too long been far too cozy with the business community it is supposed to challenge and scrutinize. With the Gazette-Journal Building as recall campaign headquarters, how can the community trust its “news” coverage of that campaign? Instead of being a chamber of commerce newsletter, it would be nice if the Gazette-Journal would stop living down to A.J. Liebling’s description of the press as “the weak slat under the bed of democracy.”

Moreover, with the RGJ leading a campaign, other media entities—the valley’s television stations and the Sparks Tribune—have a responsibility to cover the newspaper as another political player, like DiLoreto, obtaining interviews with RGJ representatives on their strategy as the recall evolves. At a time when it is more and more difficult to drag good people into running for office, the Reno Gazette-Journal is making office-holding all the more intolerable. Officeholders who make mistakes and then correct them are, according to the newspaper, unfit for office.

The board members should not only not resign, as the showboating Gazette-Journal demanded in a front page editorial, they should proceed to choose a new superintendent who is independent and not tied to special interests. That means excluding any more graduates of the Broad Academy.

We want a board and superintendent dedicated to the students, not to special interests with their own agendas. Whatever their flaws, we have never doubted that all members of the school board have exactly that devotion. Our students are safe in their good hands. The same cannot be said of the hands of the Reno Gazette-Journal or its corporate cronies.