Opinion > Star Staff
Plano ISD must reevaluate its approach to public in wake of Hunt arrests
By J. David Barron, What Gives
Talk about 'Baptism by Fire'! New Plano ISD Superintendent Richard Matkin probably still has the seat of his pants smoking.
And there are many who aren't offering him any water to cool his knickers.
Matkin is an unequivocal genius when it comes to his forte of finances. There's nary a snarl regarding the man's gift with being able to spearhead a gazillion dollar budget and balance it down to the last bone. However, what he got from his introduction to working with irate parents was a lesson.
Let's hope he learned.
Here's his primer: A couple of certifiable sick-os were each recently popped at none other than the same elementary school inside one of the state's largest school districts. What are the odds?
That's certainly what a bunch of very angry parents wanted to know when they met with Matkin and other reps from the Plano ISD during a meeting at the school on Oct. 23. One of the perps was given 62 years for his pedophilia behavior. The other has posted bond and is awaiting his day in court. Both were teachers at Hunt Elementary, the school of note. And, as one parent angrily questioned, "How could this happen twice?"
There are, of course, lots of other questions and details still to be addressed. The Collin County Sheriff's Office has an arrest affidavit stating the second sick-o was told to stay away from the victim by a former principal. Does anybody other than moi want to scream, "What the hell?!" to that disclosure?
The Plano ISD is on record that other allegations were made against the latest perp during the same time as the "alleged" abuse, but won't say what it was. Again, "Are you kidding me?!"
Then there is the Plano ISD itself, which has been, in a word, "difficult" for the media to work with regarding this travesty. The district's Public Information Officer, Leslie Range-Stanton, is very slow to respond to inquiries. Matkin has thus far refused to engage in any meaningful discourse with the media. It's as if the powers that be in the Plano ISD have huddled together back-to-back with all weapons available loaded, cocked, and pointing outward.
Well, guess what? A siege-like mentality won't work. Ask the farmers who watched the Alamo go down.
Before we go any further heaping criticism upon Matkin and minions, it should be noted that he and they are trying. Following a meeting prematurely convened due to a shoutfest, they tried again this week. It went much better, according to one parent who was a part of both audiences.
It should also be considered that Matkin only drew the very shortest straw imaginable for his first foray into public relations with a lynch mob. Can it get any more enraged, tempestuous, furious, vehement - pick one - than when a situation involves an adult being a sexual predator of a child?
It's obvious Matkin is doing his best to be sure this type of situation never has a chance to raise its ugly head again. He would also probably be the first to give himself a failing grade in how this abhorrent crime was initially managed. Compunction and penance are fine, but what we hope he has learned from this catastrophe is that as a leader, it's incumbent to know where your strengths are; perhaps more importantly, where you are weak, and then have the character to get help in those areas.
Matkin may be a wizard in finances, but he's no crisis control expert. The Plano ISD has the resources to hire a crisis management consultant. Instead of trying to maintain order in the face of impossible odds, such as what this case has presented, use those resources right now to get this tragedy under control while also doing the right thing in all the other areas that are being addressed.
If not, Matkin can't expect even a drink of water from his detractors.
J. David Barron is a staff columnist for Star Newspapers. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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