Getting School Superintendent Contracts…And Doing An FOI Audit While You’re At It

What a great FOI twofer! The New Haven Register, The Middletown Press and The Torrington Register Citizen are working on gathering all school chief contracts for Connecticut in order to build a searchable database. They also decided to test the responsiveness of each district under FOI law…

From the lede story:

Amity was one of only two school districts in the state to charge a fee for a copy of the superintendent’s contract and require that the documents be picked up in person, a recent Freedom of Information test done by three daily newspapers shows.

About half of Connecticut’s 149 public school districts responded within 24 hours to the FOI request seeking copies of school superintendent contracts, including Branford, Cheshire, Hamden, Milford, Orange, North Haven and New Haven.

The New Haven Register, The Middletown Press and The Register Citizen are gathering all school chief contracts for the state in order to build a searchable database. The publications decided to also test the responsiveness of each district under FOI law with the project.

The state’s Freedom of Information Act requires a response within four days, but this can be just a confirmation of receiving the request and an estimated time frame for when the documents will be provided. If no response is given by the fourth business day, it is automatically considered a denial and the requester may file a complaint with the state’s Freedom of Information Commission.

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News From Myanmar…er…Pennsylvania. Trickle-down Fascism Alert…

Not an FOI-related post, but I’d like to also use this space from time to time to highlight what I like to call “trickle-down fascism”: the inexorable creep of authoritarian tin-pot dictators in offices large and small across this great land. Consider it my occasional foray into the absurd. Today’s Banana Republic Moment is brought to you by the Allentown, Pa., school board:

For more than three hours on March 31 the Allentown School Board let children, parents, taxpayers and employees voice their opinions — all negative — on Superintendent Gerald Zahorchak’s plan to cut 247 teaching jobs and 85 courses next school year.

The next school board meeting shouldn’t be nearly as long.

It’s not just because the school board has approved the cuts contained in Zahorchak’s new Program of Studies, but because one group has been ordered to keep negative comments to themselves: teachers.

It seems the powers-that-be in Allentown would like all those fussy teachers to toe the line and swallow policies they find repugnant, all in the interests of appearing to agree with them.

In an email to district principals for distribution to staff, Deputy Superintendent Russ Mayo issued a five-point reminder that employees could be disciplined if they are “making public statements that are inconsistent with district policies and that could serve to harm the effectiveness of district programs.”

In other words, silence! This is trickle-down fascism at its finest: a public official trampling on the rights of public employees in the name of state-enforced orthodoxy. It is profoundly un-American, and these officials should be ridden out of office on a rail. If and when citizens simply refuse to abide by such heavy-handed tactics, our civic life will improve markedly.


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Post and Courier Wins a Biggie…

The Post and Courier

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Great news from South Carolina….

The S.C. Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of The Post and Courier in its quest to gain access to individual evaluations of former schools Superintendent Chester Floyd’s performance.

The dispute between the Berkeley County School District and the newspaper dates to 2007, when school district officials refused the newspaper access to board members’ individual summations of then-Superintendent Chester Floyd. The board released only an overall evaluation of the superintendent. The district said its documents were protected under attorney-client privilege because its lawyers had facilitated the process.

The newspaper’s lawsuit countered that the tactic circumvented the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

After five of the nine board members gave Floyd a commendable review for 2007, he received a 5 percent raise, bringing his salary to $196,980. The district refused to disclose how the other four board members rated him.

Newspaper attorney Charles Baker said Monday’s ruling made clear two things: a motion by the newspaper to gain access to a blank copy of the questionnaire that individual board members completed should have been granted; and the lower court’s summary judgment, which cut off the newspaper’s ability to prove its case, was premature.


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