SPI Randy Dorn
In a few hours, Randy Dorn, Washington’s superintendent for public instruction, will walk out of the jail in rural Buckley, Wash., after serving 24 hours for a drunk driving offense. Will the public allow him put this incident behind him? Or will it hamper his efforts to guide the state’s public schools through rough financial waters and a changing academic environment?
Dorn entered the jail Monday at 6 p.m. Monday. He pleaded guilty last week in Orting Municipal Court to drunk driving after an incident in the city a few weeks ago. He was sentenced to 365 days in jail, with all but one suspended. He will also pay an $866 fine.
In statements over the past few weeks, Dorn has owned up to his mistake and talked about doing his time and moving on. Also, he’s discussed how his arrest could become a teachable moment for students and others in the state. Some folks have called for him to step down from SPI. Others have criticized Dorn for using SPI’s communications office to issue information and statements about his DUI because it’s a personal issue.
It’s been a slow news time with the Legislature dragging out budget negotiations, thus TV news stations have been camped out in SPI’s lobby and on Dorn’s doorstep. This is the kind of media crap that, as a long-time reporter, drives me around the bend. There is definitely a time and place for this hounding behavior on the part of reporters. I’ve engaged in it myself. HOWEVER, I don’t find this particular offense to be one of those times. If Dorn had been using state money inappropriately or engaging in behavior that directly affected the operation of Washington public schools I think the public and the media would have every right to hound him and his staff.
OK, rant over … still I wonder if this incident will make it hard for Dorn to do his job? There’s no doubt it will affect him personally and perhaps in his relationships with other state leaders. Voters won’t get to weigh in for another three years.