Octorara Area School District website receives D- on Sunshine Review

Ocotrara DIf you go to the Octorara Area School District website, you will notice it is going through a redesign. It looks like it will eventually be more user-friendly, filled with all the information parents and citizens need to stay informed. For now, let’s take a look at how the old site stood up to the Sunshine Review.

The Sunshine Review is about state and local government transparency, engaged citizens, and holding government officials accountable. Sunshine Review collects and shares information about state and local transparency using a 10-point Transparency Checklist to evaluate 6,000 state and local government websites, and is a non-profit that collaborates with individuals and organizations across America to promote state and local transparency.

The scores for transparency from school districts in Chester County run the spectrum. West Chester Area School District scores an ‘A-‘, while Tredyffrin-Easttown received a ‘D’ in the review. Most Chester County schools, however, received scores in the ‘B’ range. Octorara received the lowest score of all Chester County school districts. Of two Lancaster County neighbors, Solanaco SD also received a ‘D-‘, and Pequea Valley SD received an ‘F’. With the exception of Tredyffrin-Easttown’s score, the evaluations seem to show a trend that the more rural the district, the less transparency.

Octorara Shared Well

  • A current budget overview is published.
  • The names and contact information for all administrative officials are published.
  • The names and contact information of all school board members are published.
  • School board meeting minutes are published.
  • Information on public records is provided

Unshared or Not Enough Shared

  • The complete budget is not published.
  • School board meeting agendas and schedules are not published.
  • There is no information on
    • audits,
    • academic performance,
    • background checks,
    • taxes,
    • contracts, and
    • lobbying

We know school board agendas and schedules are published. However, the reason that they may have been missed in the review is because the district has a tendency to post such things with the least required notice. They could have also been missed because the old site was not at all user-friendly, nor was it easy to find information if you had not spent a lot of time on the site.

The first focus of Sunshine Review is an awareness-building effort to evaluate the transparency of local government entities, based on if the websites proactively disclose government data.

The current website upgrade will hopefully add more information for parents and citizens to stay connected and up-to-date.

4 thoughts on “Octorara Area School District website receives D- on Sunshine Review

  1. Transparency is needed everywhere these days…what are these people doing with our tax dollars? Schools that fail to inform the public should be ashamed of themselves, and held accountable by the law for their actions.

  2. Do they hire anyone that’s a true “professional”? That design is horrible. You would think that they would incorporate the the colors in the logo with the colors in the site design. Not that I’m big on the logo itself, but that’s web design 1.0.

    • Most likely, this is probably not a custom design. They most likely simply chose from a list of templates. Overall, I think the design itself is a big improvement over what was there.

      For me, it will come down to how much information the district provides, and how easy it will be to find it. For example, the 2012 Annual Report is at the bottom of the Superintendent page, and in a PowerPoint file format. Someone specifically looking for that information would spend a lot of time clicking thru the site to find it, if they could find it, and would need PowerPoint to view it.

  3. Who knew about the Sunshine Review? I certainly did not. Thank you for finding this and bringing it to our attention. And here’s hoping the OASD board and administrators will take steps to correct identified deficiencies. Let there be transparency in all things. Taxpayers have a right to know.

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