Jan 30, 2018
For decades in Tucson, Ariz.’s public school district, rumors of a “blacklist” -- a secret roster of teachers who were barred being hired -- had circulated. But not until Arizona Daily Star education reporter Hank Stephenson put some mysterious pieces together did the list come to light. Among the clues: an off-hand comment by a trustee at the close of a school board meeting where Stephenson, a rookie on the beat, was the only reporter in attendance. What did Stephenson learn about the teachers on the “blacklist” after obtaining the actual document? How many educators were kept out of classrooms for frivolous reasons, like having used all their vacation days? And why does this matter in the context of Arizona’s shortage of qualified teachers? The 2016 winner of the Arizona Press Association’s Sledgehammer Award for his commitment to public records transparency, Stephenson discusses ways to make the most of available documents; why small, specific requests can be more effective than fishing expeditions; and what it’s been like to shift to the education beat after a decade covering politics.