Octorara’s School Board meeting was held on Monday, August 19th. However, before providing my synopsis of the event, I will be posting 1 of 2 press releases presented at the meeting. This press release is the Board response to my Right-to-Know request, and the Office of Open Record’s appeal.
Below is a photo image of their press release:
The assertion is my initial request, and all subsequent attempts to contact were send to a (meaning one) “not for external use” email address. How did I ever get that email address anyway?
Below is a screen capture of my original email that had the Right-to-Know request attached.
My request stated,
I am seeking copies of all meeting minutes, notes, emails, and correspondence from all school board members and administrators involved with the discussions, debates, policy decisions, official recommendations, and votes which led to the nonpublic board decision to extent Dr Newcome?s contract as Superintendent of Schools and begin negotiations in the Fall of 2012.
My understanding is all official action must be done in open meeting, and therefore any official action is also subject to open records or Right-to-Know. Moreover, Dr Newcome’s contract, as a public employee, is suppose to be available at the request of parents, citizens, and taxpayers.
Who was the initial request sent to?
- firstname.lastname@example.org (School Board’s General Contact Address) – In the previous incarnation of Octorara’s site, this email address was listed to contact the Board as a whole. I started using this email back in January 2013 with the Tax Petition. This email address is no longer listed on their site, and the claim is it was and always has been “not an external email.”
- email@example.com (Lisa Bowman, Board President) – This has been and is the current address listed for Ms Bowman on Octorara’s website. I also used this address in connection with the petition. Ms Bowman denies ever receiving any email.
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Dr Thomas Newcome, Superintendent of Schools) – This has been and is the current address listed for Dr Newcome. He also denies ever receiving the initial email.
The Right-To-Know Deemed Denied Appeal form asked for one contact email on their form, and the address I chose was the one for the School Board as a whole. The Office of Open Records send 3 more notices to this address. One would presume they would not move forward with an appeal if these notices were kicked back, or they would use alternative methods of contact.
I don’t think the Board’s statement will change many people’s minds about the events. Those with full faith in the Board will accept that the request and appeal was never received. Those who question the forthrightness of the District will also question the Board’s version of events.
Overall, the District and Board plan to fight the Final Determination for no other reason than to have the assertion they intentionally and willfully acted in bad faith erased.
If that is the case, can we expect the records to be provided in the near future? Only time will tell. If this legal action really is about keeping information away from public scrutiny, then… who knows?
- Pennsylvania’s Office of Open Records Orders Octorara to Produce Records (parkesburggazette.wordpress.com)
- The School Tax Vise: Taxes Soar, But Districts Still Struggle (octorarataxes.wordpress.com)
- PA HB/SB 76: Octorara vs ‘Property Tax Independence Act’ (octorarataxes.wordpress.com)