Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (May 19) - The Department of Education, as a part of the government of Guam, has a duty and responsibility to the community to be open and transparent with information. No one at the agency should be clearer on that than the employees designated to provide information to the public - Gerry Cruz, DOE's public information officer, and his boss, Superintendent Juan Flores.

Yet education administrators have routinely made it a practice to be less than forthcoming in providing information. The most recent instance involves the visit of several U.S. Department of Education officials.

Philip Maestri, director of U.S. DOE's Office of the Deputy Secretary's Management Improvement Team, said he had no problem being interviewed by local media. Yet Cruz refuses to disclose the federal officials' itinerary. He said that the local education department doesn't want Maestri's team "to have to deal with" the media.

The DOE administration's apparent power play is an embarrassment to the government and this community. It's the job of every public official, whether local or federal, to "deal with" the press, which is why Maestri has no issue with media coverage.

Flores and Cruz need to realize that when they shut out the press, they also shut out the public.

The DOE administration's behavior destroys any confidence or trust from the public in the agency's performance. By going out of their way to deny media access, Flores and Cruz only increase the level of suspicion and distrust of the department held by the community.

Are the members of the Guam Education Policy Board comfortable with this approach? They can't afford to be.

The board must make it very clear to the superintendent that he must be open and transparent in disseminating information to the public. Flores, in turn, must ensure that Cruz is likewise instructed. He also must require that his public information officer become fully conversant with freedom of information laws.

May 19, 2004

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