I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Public Records Request--Should Board Members Have to Request Information This Way?

Last Friday's workshop  (after minute 1:02 of Item II, Comments from the Superintendent) was marked by a spirited debate about exactly what documents an individual board member is entitled to receive in order to effectively do his job as a duly-elected constitutional officer.  The school board is the entity, under statute, that "supervises, controls, and oversees" public education in the county.  In order to fulfill this duty, sometimes we need data.

I have been asked, specifically, to provide data as it relates to my conduct as a school board member.  I have done nothing wrong, I have nothing to hide, and I have complied.   The district has been asked to provide reams of information by the Office of Civil Rights as well. I have compiled my portion of this request for information, and It is my understanding that the district staff has completed their portion.

But I've been told flat-out that an important component of what I have submitted will not be given to OCR. I do not understand the reasoning behind this, as I believe what I sent to Donna Waters, School Board General Counsel, should be sent along with my documents to OCR.

I have seen the draft of the district's legal response to this complaint, and I feel much of it is very good-- yet I do not feel it convey's my position accurately in a number of critically important respects.

So at the workshop this past Friday, I asked about this.  I asked for a copy of the district's response so I could ensure that my portion is/was returned to OCR unadulterated, not filtered.  I was told I was on a need to know basis, not entitled to see or receive a copy of the district's submission.

I do not believe the district is acting properly in denying my request, so now I have to submit a written, official public records request to receive what I request.  It is sad, it is ridiculous, but that is what this has come to.  Too bad people do not realize what I want to report to OCR  actually reinforces and supports the District's position:  we do not single out Black Students for treatment and punishment that is overly harsh.  We do not discriminate against Black students.

So here comes my public records request---the first time in 10 years I have had to request data this way.  It's great when we can all get along and sing Kumbaya---but when something is wrong, I will say something and I will advocate for the fair and respectful treatment of elected board members.

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