valuable lesson for investigative reporters

As many know, I’ve kept poking around at the high school story I wrote about last month. And I’ve complained more than is probably seemly about the angst of it all – about how tiring it is to meet with numerous scared sources, dig through raw data, the tricky task of presenting the results in a balanced picture.

Now I’m embarrassed – because all my angst was about internal consequences. But no sooner had this story arrived in newsboxes on Friday than the real-world consequences feared by those sources began. One of my main sources, quoted in an earlier story, was escorted out of the school building and told he was being “reassigned” from the building where he’d taught for 11 years. Another was told by the principal, who’s leaving the school two years short of being eligible for retirement, that he had “something in store” for her on Tuesday. a

I now can’t mention honorably the way learning that made me feel. Their bravery astounds me. Thank god they have a union, and a contract that doesn’t proscribe talking to the press.

And my only consolation is that the piece may help the kids in that school, who deserve better than they’d been getting, and who didn’t get to talk to me at all.

The real indictment may be of schools chancellor Joel Klein, who honorably wanted to change the rules that had failed to serve low-income students for year – but by demanding instant results, and discouraging the value of experienced educators, may have damaged some kids’ prospects beyond repair. It’s too early to know that for sure; we’ll only know in 20 years if the events I’m noticing are core to the process or just the collateral damage of a more useful process.

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