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Furthermore …

Berdimuhamedow
File
Jennifer Lopez earned $1.5 million for her Turkmenistan appearance. She claimed she was unaware of its leader’s abysmal human rights record.

Education experience wins out yet again

When school reformers pushed a bill this year downgrading requirements for an Indiana school superintendent, they argued that school boards should be able to hire someone like former Gov. Mitch Daniels, now the president of Purdue University, to lead a district.

But the Indianapolis Public Schools board didn’t turn to a former governor, retired military leader or corporate chief in filling its vacant superintendent’s post. It hired an experienced educator.

Of the three finalists for the job, in fact, North Carolina administrator Lewis Ferebee had the most traditional school experience of all.

Given the demands school superintendents face, that’s a wise decision.

Ferebee, 39, is chief of staff for the Durham, N.C., schools. He began his education career as a teacher, then became a principal and later supervisor over the middle schools in Greensboro, N.C. He has a doctorate in education administration from East Carolina University.

The other finalists were Thomas Darden, a New York City charter school developer and former venture capitalist, and Millard House, chief of operations for the school district in Charlotte, N.C., and founder of a charter school.

Ferebee faces a tough job. He will replace Eugene White, a former Fort Wayne Community Schools administrator who won accolades in his 11-year tenure as superintendent at Washington Township schools in Marion County but struggled to please parents, reformers and the business community in Indianapolis.

The selection of a non-traditional candidate wouldn’t have been a surprise given that some well-funded reform candidates were elected to the IPS board last year. The search likely made it clear that traditional public school experience is the best background for the state’s highest-profile district.

How much bad PR can $1.5 million buy?

Jennifer Lopez gave a concert in Turkmenistan, a former Soviet-bloc nation between Afghanistan and the Caspian Sea, on Saturday. And because of that, she is learning a lesson: Money isn’t everything. Ignoring reality can wreak havoc on one’s reputation.

“Us” magazine reports she made $1.5 million for doing the show. The next day, furiously doing damage control, a publicist for Lopez said the pop singer graciously obliged when representatives of the China National Petroleum Corp., which sponsored the concert, made a request for her to sing “Happy Birthday” to the despicable president of Turkmenistan.

And as for human rights abuses in Turkmenistan and by that president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, her representatives added that Lopez never would have attended the event in the first place had she known about them.

Oh, really?

Lopez ought to better scrutinize the people she hires to protect her from mistakes like this one.

As the Washington Post noted, had her staff Googled either the country or its leader beforehand, here are some of the things they might have discovered:

•“Human Rights Watch says that Turkmenistan ‘remains one of the world’s most repressive countries.’ Freedom House routinely includes it on their ‘worst of the worst’ report on human rights abusers, alongside Sudan, Syria, Cuba and others. They cite the total absence of any political dissent, fierce retaliation against those who do speak out, media censorship and a cult of personality surrounding the president.

•“The few independent journalists there are tightly controlled and live under threat. A man with Radio Free Europe was arrested without charge just last month.

In 2003, another Radio Free Europe reporter wrote in the Washington Post about being detained, beaten, injected with an unknown substance and forced to pay a bribe for his release.

•“The European Union, warning of worsening human rights abuses, has refused to engage directly with Turkmenistan’s government since 2008, shortly after Berdimuhamedow took office. …

•“Perhaps Berdimuhamedow’s oddest eccentricity is his apparently deep hatred of cats and dogs. At first, he ordered authorities in any city he was visiting to exterminate all stray cats and dogs there. But that eventually escalated to pets as well, with some dog-owners having their pet killed because the president had seen it from his motorcade and ordered its death.”

We know several human rights charities that could use $1.5 million. We’re just saying.

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