Maureen Sabolinski is the superintendent of schools for the Town of Franklin, Mass.
According to Boston’s FOX 25
, a teacher at one of her schools—Franklin High School—“is reportedly under investigation for ‘serious allegations of alleged misconduct.’” Sabolinski told FOX 25 that “the allegations involve a high school teacher, and they came out after a staff member saw something on Twitter.”
Ms. Sabolinski started out okay by making a reasonably good statement about the incident, saying, “It’s a pity and we’ve all felt very sick and devastated. It’s a breach of trust.
Parents send their children to us and, if an adult makes a bad choice or blurs the lines, it impacts us all as educators.”
But then things got very, very strange.
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The day after releasing that statement, she agreed to give a news conference—but only under one condition: that the television cameras didn’t show her face.
For some reason, FOX 25 agreed to her terms and shot her at an angle from behind. That angle didn’t exactly obscure her features—you can still make out part of her face, her hair, and her back—but it left an unmistakable impression that she was an eccentric person who may have had something to hide.
According to the FOX anchor, Ms. Sabolinski didn’t want to show her face because “the story wasn’t about her.” But that’s the case for corporate and organizational leaders much of the time, and they’re still expected to act as spokespersons for incidents that occur under their watch.
Plus, as the school superintendent, this story was
partially about her, insofar as she’s the person who’s expected to handle the situation responsibly while keeping parents informed about her actions. Her job in a crisis is to convey a sense of confidence and competence, and hiding her face didn’t help her send that message successfully.
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All Ms. Sabolinski had to do was make a statement that expressed her commitment to learning more about the incident and that pledged to take whatever actions were necessary to ensure the safety of her students. Even the news anchors seemed to grasp the proper crisis management response
: get in front of the story and make a short statement that is limited in scope.
Instead, she made a bizarre demand—Don’t show my face!—and earned a merciless five-minute television segment as a result.
Brad Phillips is author of the book The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview. He blogs at Mr. Media Training, where a version of this story first appeared