I have a long, and until now very positive, history with New Hampshire Destination Imagination (NH-DI). All 4 of my kids have taken part in DI. Consequently, I have been involved one way or another with NH-DI since 1996. My son, who did NH-DI for four-years, won State twice, in 1999 and 2001, and went onto DI Global Finals in Knoxville, TN.
Last year I was an Assistant Team Manager. This year my wife and I were both Team Managers. I was also an Appraiser and appraised at the Sanborn Regionals (Kingston) on March 17, 2012. My wife and I both attended DI Team Manager training workshops this year, and I, in addition, did the online Team Manager and DI Appraiser training offered by the ‘DI University’. [That our 11-year old ended up as the Gnome at Kingston was a bonus.]
So, I have no axe to grind with NH-DI. I have been a great proponent of NH-DI and have enjoyed being a part of NH-DI.
So what is my gripe?
When my elementary team competed on March 10, 2012, at the Kearsarge (N. Sutton) Regional Meet, in the ‘Coming Attractions’ challenge, I was shocked to see that two of the appraisers were from our school! One of them had even attended our last dress rehearsal the week before and had spoken at length with the kids about their performance.
Until that point it had never crossed my mind that NH-DI permitted such Conflicts of Interest.
Right after their performance the kids (ranging in age from 8 to 11) asked me how it was possible that they were judged by two of their teachers! They found it incongruous.
We did not do well in the challenge, mainly due to stage fright. But, we came 4th out of 10. Here are the results. Given the blatant Conflict of Interest we feel that there should be an asterisk next to our placing! We don’t feel good about it because we know of the Conflict.
So there is my issue. Plain and simple. NH-DI should let all concerned know, from the get go, that it is possible to have Conflicts of Interest when it comes to appraising. That is it. Period.
I just want transparency. NH-DI should publish a list of all the appraisers and their affiliations. That way everything is all above board.
Yes, many sports employ ‘partial’ judges and Olympic ice skating and free style skiing comes to mind. But, the affiliations of the judges are always disclosed.
To me, having these secret conflicts of interest totally undermine the integrity and credibility of NH-DI.
In my opinion, it is not fair on the kids. They put a lot of effort into the competition. Let them have a perfectly level playing field — SANS suspicions of Conflicts of Interest.
What have I done?
Right after the competition, on March 14, 2012, I e-mailed Jim Heedles the Regional Master for that event. I also contacted, via e-mail, Kara Swedlow, the NH-DI the Affiliate Director. They, for obvious reasons, want to play down this issue. I also tried AskDI@dihq.org but they just referred me back to NH-DI!
I have also spoken, by e-mail and in person when I attended the March 17 event, with a number of NH-DI officials. All of them expressed ‘surprise’ at what I had to say and ‘promised’ to look into it. But, nothing has happened — and I can fully appreciate that NH-DI does not want their results and reputation to be compromised.
The young lady coordinating my appraising on March 17 had asked me via e-mails whether I had any conflicts of interests. I informed her that I had none at the meet that I was officiating — but told her what had happened at the March 10 meet. She assured me that they try very had to avoid such conflicts.
So imagine my shock when one of the appraisers I was judging with, on March 17, informed us that he was a teacher at the school that had just performed — and he had appraised!
I spoke with the coordinator. She was aware of it, but said that the teacher had assured her that he did not know any of the kids in that team.
Come on! All I am asking for is transparency. With DI there should never be any doubts or suspicions that the kids did not get a fair shake of the stick.
Thanks for reading this. I feel much better now that I have got this off my chest.