Public Information (and a new blog address)

This is a modified version of the post I left on my previous blog site —

After several suggestions from folks around the state, I am relocating my commentary and efforts to this site  from  Asking Questions of School Boards (TESD). 
WHY? Because an address of TESD2009 is too local a name for the broad issue of school spending. While I live here, and was a member of the TESD board for 3 terms, this blog is not meant to be narrowly focused on TE.

TE does a great job. Don’t get my scrutiny confused with criticism. Having said that, however, I was somewhat appalled (confused, really) at a Public Information meeting this past week when the Board’s president Betsy Fadem said that TE wants to be first in education, but not transparency. Board member Debbie Bookstaber, along with Karen Cruikshank and Pat Wood did not seem to agree with this assessment. Caution in what to disclose is prudent, but openly suggesting that we aren’t about disclosure is something else.  I pointed out the denials I had received in my request for open records — and the charge I was asked to pay for a copy of the TE Teacher’s Contract ($9 for 36 pages scanned — in random order — which apparently means that our Administration does not have an electronic word copy of our major negotiation document).

Consistent with that hesitation about transparency however, the Board’s president had summoned a presentation (a paid presentation) by the District’s solicitor at this same meeting, attended by all of 3 members of the public.  Not that I don’t enjoy hearing a legal presentation on Open Records, but there was no decision to be made at this meeting, and paying several hundred dollars for his appearance  just in case a question came up seems a bit wasteful. Mr. Roos had prepared a memorandum on the topic and distributed it to the audience. That seemed to have been sufficient for the process, and his presence may have been a bit unnecessary as billable time. (Note that the District’s Open Records Officer and the Superintendent were not present at the meeting — perfectly customary in this case as the administration was well represented by other staff, but if the Board felt that the Solicitor needed to be present, perhaps they might have ensured additional administrative support).

So — welcome to my new site.  I have stopped posting on TESD2009 (for now anyway) and will try to follow the request of some of my followers — to advise readers about school spending and what kinds of questions you might ask of your own board (while examining my own local board’s budget and process.)



3 responses to “Public Information (and a new blog address)

  1. Sheesh — they’re scanning contracts, and then charging you by the page? How much paper and toner were consumed by scanning?

    Sounds like TESD needs to join the Information Age: EVERYTHING that is public and produced electronically should be online by default!

    • The teacher’s contract is in a booklet — half-fold of 8×11 pages….so they disassembled the book and scanned each page — and charged me 25 cents per page (the same as the “copy” fee authorized by the Right to Know.). Do I think they don’t have it in an electronic version? That’s their claim — and I have no way to refute it. If I went to a recruitment fair, the contract is often handed out.

  2. Andrea:

    Clearly, we should strive to lead in both education and transparency, as the TESD can do nothing without the long-term support and buy-in from our customers, and you don’t get that buy-in without public deliberation enhanced by access to the latest data and information.

    Of course, that also means that we also need to expect more from the customers. The price of liberty is vigilance, and while this may not be a popular thing to say, part of the problem here is that too few taxpayers ask the tough questions that leads to true accountability.

    In other words, keep giving them hell, Andrea.