Friday, November 20, 2009

Persona Non Grata

Okay, so I'm convinced now because it happened yet again. Every time I ask for information, basic information, from any staff member (usually people up the food chain), I get a polite message that my request has gone to Joy Stevens (the public disclosure person for the district). I'm thinking there's some e-mail saying, "Don't give this woman information or at least make it take a long time." I suspect Charlie's in the same boat.

This is basic stuff like terms (seismic diaphragm versus seismic upgrade versus seismic mitigation). Yes, I could look it up online but, as we discovered from Meg's work, the district sometimes has its own language and definitions.

I understand not having multiple people trying to answer the same question but I know who to direct a question to (and I try to ask if I have the right person if I am not sure).

I suspect that the pushback the State Auditor is getting from the district on BEX information isn't just inability to access it or find it but the district dragging its feet because they don't want the audit to come out before the levy election.

It's pretty frustrating.

14 comments:

Steve said...

I think it would be worthwhile to test this theory by having someone else ask for information you want, see what kind of response they get from the district, and *then* ask for it yourself and compare. Would make a nice story for the papers.

seattle citizen said...

If I were "district," I would be giving you and Charlie anything your little hearts desired, Melissa. They know that both of you (and others) are informed, articulate, interested, and connected (via this blog and other outlets) It would be a benefit to them to give you access.

But I could see where it might not be seen that way...

Keep knockin' on those doors! You do a great job of trying to keep us all informed, thanks.

Sahila said...

The District was ordered by the Court two weeks ago, to provide a complete record of documents relating to the closure process, including all public testimony, emails, presentations etc...specifically, all video recordings were to be transcribed and all documents were to be provided in full, not in summary format...

The District has not... its provided some emails saved to disc, which we cant open (error message says we dont have permission!), and it hasnt transcribed the videos etc...

District is complaining about having to provide somewhere around 10-20,000 pages of documentation...

Which it doesnt already have archived somewhere???? If not, why not?

We are filing a motion on Monday re this contempt for the Court's Directive to provide a full record of the closure process...

dan dempsey said...

Perhaps given this record of anti-transparency Director Sundquist should rethink his incentive proposal?

Seattle Parent said...

Hey, don't feel so bad, Melissa-
A friend of mine asked for minutes from a specific High School Steering Committee meeting, and was told by "legal" (who also serves on that committee) that she had to submit a public records request.

After submitting the request, the response was that the meeting had never happened, thus no minutes!
What a waste of our tax-payer's money---

I've also experienced similar run-arounds, asking for simple information such as a link to a document, only to find my request routed to either the public records request or to "legal."

I guess it keeps our tax dollars at work.

Michael said...

It may not be a "run-around." I'm no fan of the District, but look at RCW 42.56.

Above all they haev to be consistent. They can't answer one persons questions by phone, and not others. So they take the approach that all requests follow their established procedures.

Charlie Mas said...

It's not a big deal to contact Joy Stephens in the legal department to request public records.

She has sent me any number of things over the years, including minutes from meetings of the program placement committee, strategic plan documents, and school transformation plans.

Fortunately, most of these documents are now electronic, so you don't have to pay the copying cost and you don't have these big stacks of paper to store.

Charlie Mas said...

I sometimes contact people in the District for the first time only to have them say that they know who I am. It feels creepy.

Susan Enfield knew who I was before I introduced myself. I suppose that means that she thinks she knows something about me before having met me, which I don't think is helpful.

I suspect that people within the District talk about me, and I doubt they say nice things. I don't care. Whether they like me or not, whether they respect me or not, whether they think twice about me or not just doesn't matter. It's not about me.

adhoc said...

Charlie, you did run for school board, and I would guess some people know of you from through that avenue.

But I suspect you are probably right about people at the district knowing of you because they talk about you at the district, which, although creepy, is actually a really GOOD thing!!

Melissa Westbrook said...

I agree, Charlie. I'm sure people in the district don't like our tenaciousness. I'm not here to be liked, either. (I love when I get asked, " Do you like Dr. G-J?" I don't know her and I've met her just once. Do I like how she approaches her job responsibilities? No. Do I like her attitude towards parents? No. But she's not there to be liked either.)

My point is that they drag things out. In the case of the BTA, I think they would like to get as little data to me as possible. As far as the State Auditor's report on BEX, I think they are REALLY dragging their feet (in addition to not really knowing how to gather all the information because it is scattered far and wide).

Michael Rice said...

To Charlie and Melissa

Please don't ever ever stop what you are doing. You are doing great work holding the district's feet to the fire and insisting on accountability and transpairency.

If there is anything you think that I as a teacher could provide to you, please let me know. You knwo how to contact me.

Meg said...

Melissa- boy, do I hear you.

Do the people you contact respond to you? Because quite often, I've found that I simply get NO response of any sort until I contact Joy Stevens (who is invariably polite and professional). And then Ms. Stevens responds and I wait until my request can be fulfilled. It's a little odd, and not the experience at all I've had in contacting other districts.

Charlie Mas said...

Seattle Public Schools, as part of their dysfuctional instutional culture, approach all community engagement from within a fortress. I see this seige mentality everywhere, but most strongly in those who are most deeply steeped in the District's culture.

Think of the folks who are deep in their bunkers and they are the same folks who are deep in the internal District politics, who silo information, who build fiefdoms, and who will admit no wrong.

followthatdog said...

If you need a new name to start asking questions, just let me know. I'm happy to make calls and be that persistent requester. Just let me know.