7. Choose a Point Person

The district should choose an individual to be the public face and voice of the privatization effort. Likely candidates include the superintendent or a business officer, but whoever is chosen, it must be clear that he or she has the support of the superintendent and board. Opponents of privatization may work to sow disagreement among key decision-makers in an attempt to thwart the contracting process. A united front will be helpful, even if the unity involves no more than a commitment to simply exploring the topic.

The point person should possess a number of characteristics. First, he or she should have a measure of courage. A point person should be able to maintain his or her composure despite midnight phone calls from hostile individuals and repeated name-calling, boos, hisses and guffaws at school board meetings.

Second, he or she should be media savvy. Privatization efforts are controversial, and controversy is a magnet for media coverage. School employee unions are familiar with media campaigns and are practiced at generating media coverage sympathetic to the union position. The point person must not only be familiar with counterarguments to union talking points, but must be adept at extemporaneously distilling these into quotable rejoinders.

Third, the point person should have experience in a high-profile leadership role. For public relations purposes alone, no district should delegate this key role to a person fresh out of college, for example. Yet gray hairs are not enough; a potential point person must be accustomed to executing complex projects despite public and private criticism.

Board members should be careful to defer public discussions to the point person. An agitated board member ad-libbing on unfamiliar details to a reporter could generate hard feelings, bad media, an unfair labor practice complaint and even a recall campaign.