Why On Earth Would We Make Performance Reviews of Principals Secret?

A bad idea percolates in Arizona..

Advocates for government transparency are objecting to language in an education bill that would prevent the public from reviewing school principals’ performance appraisals.

At present, whether the public has access to those performance appraisals depends largely on the policies of individual school districts.

But HB 2823, authored by Rep. Doris Goodale, R-Kingman, would specifically exempt principals’ evaluations from public disclosure. The language is part of a larger bill addressing teacher and principal performance appraisals and incentives.

“The public has a great interest in how our schools are doing,” said David Cuillier, interim director of the University of Arizona School of Journalism and chairman of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Freedom of Information Committee.

“Every group out there thinks their group is special and deserves an exemption,” said Dan Barr, a Phoenix attorney who represents media organizations. “To shield from public view the performance reviews of public school principals doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Based on concerns raised about principals’ evaluations, Goodale said she will review that language with attorneys to make sure the bill doesn’t overstep current law. She didn’t respond directly to questions about the intent of the language other than to say the goal wasn’t interfering with the public’s right to know.

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Yeah, these cats ought to give it up. Nice work by the Goldwater Institute.

The Arizona Court of Appeals today unanimously ruled in favor of the Goldwater Institute in rebuking the Congress (Ariz.) Elementary School District for its efforts to permanently deny public information sought by four parents and taxpayers.

“This is the second court to tell the Congress school district that it has no case,” said Clint Bolick, the Goldwater Institute’s litigation director. “Hopefully, district officials will stop trying to silence these women and instead will start following the law.”

The four women have sought records over the past 10 years ranging from school board meeting minutes and agendas to their own children’s school records. On at least three occasions, the state Attorney General’s office and the Arizona public records ombudsman have found the school district violated its obligations to open meetings and public records under state law.

“It would defy the purpose of our public records law to deny the public rightful access to information on how the district is conducting its functions on the tenuous ground that requesting such lawful access constituted a public nuisance,” wrote Judge Sheldon H. Weisberg.

The full release is here.

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