Sunday, January 23, 2011

Decision-making 101

Many people have asked about the Open Records Request I sent to Ramona Tyson on Thursday, January 13, 2011. Here's the story:

To date, Tyson has not opened the clearly labeled e-mailed Open Records request.

The law provides that the custodian of the public records has three (3) business days to decide whether the record requested is subject to inspection under the law and to provide access to the document for inspection and copying.

Of course, the week of January 10 - 14, schools were closed due to ice and snow. Most salaried state employees teleworked that week if they were unable to get in to their offices. But apparently not Tyson. We must not be paying her enough.

Then, Monday, January 17 was a state holiday recognizing Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday.

So, I cut Tyson some slack. However, it is now January 23, 2011 -- 10 calendar days and at least 4 business days -- and still no response to the Open Records Request for the 2004 Ernst & Young Salary Study.

Of course, since Tyson has never opened the request e-mail, she has no idea what I am asking for.

I simply am asking for a critical piece -- the 2004 Ernst & Young Salary Study -- of the overall DCSS financial puzzle. The whole financial puzzle must be completed before it makes any sense to redistrict or proceed with any closures or consolidations. In short, we simply do not have the necessary basic, raw financial information required for responsible decision-making.

We also do not have related and accurate student population information, nor do we have accurate staffing information. Dollars. Numbers. Copies of state and federal reports to confirm funding and spending. DCSS has this -- or can get it. DCSS must share it. All of it.

We have waited this long ... let's stop yelling at each other and insist -- with one voice -- that Tyson provide the required, documentable information. Provable. Transparent. Online. It's time to stop DCSS's secrecy and irresponsible, uninformed, costly decision-making practices.

For those who think that if only we paid Tyson more -- a whole lot more -- she might just do her job ... think again.


Cerebration said...

This is disappointing. Perhaps they are just super-busy with redistricting, determining Tyson's raise and preparing for the SACS visit that starts tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Will SACS be aware of these type things? There's plenty of examples. Will they be investigating these kind of things? Does anyone know?

Cerebration said...

I would ask anyone out there - Let us know if you -- or someone you know well -- has requested, but not received information from DCSS under Georgia's Open Records Act. Who? What? When? Where? Why?

Give us the facts. We will keep your confidence if you need us to.

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised one bit Tyson has not responded. Tyson's (Clew's) leaders want us to believe that they know the way to success, but continue to fail in all aspects, the most important being transparency. How can we trust them, just 3 years ago we tried this and no one could be honest and now, with the same leadership in place, minus the top two, and once again the stakeholders are trying to figure out this process and do not have all the information to make an informed decision.

I also believe the 450 number for the FTE was another ruse to try and make us believe this had to be done to receive more state funding. I think this is a bigger story that people are not aware of. How many months have we heard about the FTE funding and the 450 attendance minimums?

It was also ludicrous MGT or DCSS did not have any cost analysis for this plan when they originally presented. They claim they'll have it ready by this week, but now the folks, who attended last weeks meetings, will have to discern the information on their own and fill out yet another survey.

I can't believe these consultants and the DCSS leadership didn't think the stakeholders would be asking for all the numbers and formulas used to formulate the two current plans. Hey! We're smarter than you think, Ms. Tyson.

Cerebration said...

For those who want to review what Lynn Jackson from the state DOE had to say at the budget committee meeting regarding state funding, read this post:

DCSS Budget, Finance and Facilities Meeting 10-21-10

Thankfully, Dunwoody Mom attended the meeting and took copious notes which she shared on the blog.

There is a chart that shows the FTE funding break points. The minimum needed for elementary schools to earn FTE is 200 students; middle 400 and high school; 500. From there, you build FTE credit and can add "points" which translate to teachers and support staff.

Dunwoody Mom reported, "Also, Ms. Jackson made the point that schools must have a minimum of 450 to qualify for specials such as Art, Music."

But that's not what redistricting is about. At first, way before there was MGT Consultants and Charrettes, there was a Citizen's Task Force -- charged with figuring out which schools to consolidate and close. (CITIZENS were charged with this task - not the administration or the board). After much much work, they could not come to an agreement, because many of the schools needing consolidation are in south DeKalb, and taking action there was strongly opposed by Sarah and Zepora. Here are snippets from the Feb 9, 2010 meeting minutes with the Task Force:

Ms. Roberts commented on students in the southern portions of the county being unduly burdened with long transportation rides / travel times and recommended re-drawing attendance lines countywide.

Ms. Copelin-Wood asked who made the “23-school” decision (in reference to the 23 schools that were
chosen as “under utilized”). She stated that alls schools should be considered and that the TF should be able to “look at what they want.”

Anonymous said...

I think you are gonna have to do the registered letter/return recpt requested route on this one.

Sometimes the old fashioned "you gotta sign for this one" works best.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anon 1:10 AM. Spend the couple of dollars and send it registered.

Anonymous said...

Probably, once Ms. Tyson saw the email was from Sandy Spruill, I am sure she deleted right there.

I'm not sure why Sandy, who has insulted Ms. Tyson at every turn, would believe Ms. Tyson would acknowledge an email from her.

Besides Open Records Request are handled by the HR Department.

Ella Smith said...

I agree a register letter needs to be send.

I also do not know if Tyson is even the one who handles these requests.

If a registered letter is sent and you do not get a response then their is a problem. I think the other issue is that you have to pay for the copying of all such documents. I have heard this before so I think it might be true. I would suggest a registered letter be sent and then if you do not hear then it will be a reason to be very upset. However, I do not think they want the public to have this information either.

Anonymous said...

I suppose that an email could be construed as other than a "written request" as provided for in the Ooen Records Request law.

Send a certified letter and also a copy to SACS so that they know that the request has been made. Also, to the poster who said that it should go to HR, that is of no importance. If Tyson receives the letter, she is compelled to comply, which might certainly mean passing it along.

As for copying expenses, the law does state that they must be reasonable--you can't be charged a buck a page or some such.

Anonymous said...

Though I'm no supporter of DCSS's administration, I'd cut Ms. Tyson some slack here. Having led the preparations for an accreditation visit at the university level, I can vouch for how time consuming it becomes as the hour approaches. Throw in the ice storm helping derail some of that time and, honestly, she has larger issues to deal with than answering an open information request (her, not DCSS). Yes, it should be sent registered mail, to a more appropriate staff member. If it is ignored at that level, then there's a more serious issue in play.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Tyson deserves ANY slack. For $75,000 extra dollars a year (plus little bonuses that equal some of the salaries in the schoolhouse), she can answer one freaking email. She has hired a management company to do her redistricting work for her, so she can answer email.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see a member of the DeKalb Delgation make a request for the 2004 Ernst & Young salary audit. It would even be nicer for a request to come from both a Democrat and a Republic delegation member. C'mon Mike Jacobs and Howard Mosby!

Anonymous said...

Sandy, you did not ask the right person. Nor can you do it by email. Use a registered letter but first find out who 'the custodian of the records" is for DCSS. According to the Georgia Attorney General
"An Open Records Request should be made directly to the custodian of the records that are sought."

According to the online Georgia Encyclopedia

Open Records Act
The Georgia Open Records Act opens to public inspection records maintained by most governmental bodies and agencies or private companies carrying out governmental functions. In general, all records, in whatever form maintained, including books, maps, tapes, photographs, and computer-based information, which are prepared and maintained or which are received in the course of operation of a public office or agency are defined as public records. All public records are open to the general public and subject to personal inspection, and copying, at a reasonable time and place.
Agencies are not required to prepare reports, summaries, or compilations of public records. Records are to be made available to individuals, but government employees do not have to take time from their usual duties to create records or make summaries. The custodian of the public records has three business days to decide whether the record requested is subject to inspection under the law and to provide access to the document for inspection and copying. If within that period a superior court grants an order declaring that the records are not subject to disclosure, then they do not have to be disclosed.
Any records maintained by computer are to be made available to requesting parties by electronic means where "practicable"; it is not clear what "practicable" means in this context. Reasonable security restrictions on electronic access to such documents are permitted.
An individual who has the right to inspect a record also has the right to make extracts or copies of the records under the supervision of the custodian of the records; the custodian has the right to adopt and enforce reasonable rules governing this work.
Agencies subject to the Open Records Act must provide at least fifteen minutes of free time for search, retrieval, and other direct administrative tasks associated with complying with the request for a public record. The hourly charge that is imposed should not exceed the salary of the lowest-paid employee who has the necessary skill and training to carry out the request. The custodian of records is given the discretion to decide which employee has the skill and training to oversee the copying of these records. Agencies are required to utilize the most economical means available for providing copies of a public record.

Cerebration said...

FWIW, I heard from Sandy and she had received this email regarding her request:

Ms. Spruill:

This responds to your Open Records Act request seeking records of administrative transfers of certain students of the DeKalb County School System ("DCSS"). The records you have requested are exempt from disclosure pursuant to O.C.G.A. s 58-18-72(a)(1) because they consist of individual student records that DCSS is required to keep confidential pursuant to the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, 20 U.S.C. s 1232g(b).

Joshua Mayes | Associate

Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP
999 Peachtree Street NE | Atlanta, GA 30309-3996
404.853.8055 direct | 404.853.8806 facsimile |

Now, isn't that funny? She specifically asked for the Ernst & Young 2004 Salary Audit, yet got a reply as if she had asked for something completely different. I surmise this to mean that they are so buried with requests for transfer info, that Sandy was lumped in with that group.

Good news is -- now we all know exactly who to ask to get the records we request. Keep the above contact info handy - we'll all be needing info from this legal associate. (Not sure why a DCSS employee can't handle these requests - but hey, this is DeKalb - where we have lawyers doing everything!)

Sagamore 7 said...

Why would a county employee refer this request to an outside legal consultant? I'm sure this response email cost the county at least $75 to respond to Sandy.

Another waste of our tax dollars!

Sandy or Cere,
Are you emailing the law firm directly to get the E&Y report?


Paula Caldarella said...

That's odd...Must be drowning in Open Records Requests.

Anyway, if the Administrative Transfers requeste was simply the number of transfers and not any information with regards to student information, I cannot see why this would have anything to do with student privacy laws....

Anonymous said...

Obviously the email sent to Sandy was for another Open Records Request. Based on the answer, we can only speculate about the request. For full context, it would have been helpful to see the original request with the response.

Anonymous said...

1. Send a certified mail RRR

2. Ask your BOE member to check on the request.

3. Ask Fran Millar to check

4. How about setting up a fund so that the pages can be copied and published. Sandy should not have to bear the expense alone.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anon. 11:28, I did cut her slack until she got the raise! Now that she is being paid to do the job of Superintendent, I expect her to do those duties in a timely manner.

The fact that this "lawyer" responded to Sandy and referred to something completely different, shows me that they do NOT want this report out while these meetings are going on. I guarantee you after all this is done, we'll finally see the E & Y audit.

I cut this bunch NO slack! They were all there during CLEW's reign and know good and well what we're asking for. Plus, most, if not all, of these "staff members" make six figure salaries coming from OUR tax dollars. Someday this bunch is going to get that they work for US! One can hope....

Cerebration said...

How about setting up a fund so that the pages can be copied and published. Sandy should not have to bear the expense alone.

That's very thoughtful of you, Anon. To actually offer to support Sandy and the efforts of this blog.

You all do realize, we have no paid employees, right? This is not an actual news source, with advertising revenue.

If you want information, the best thing to do is go ask for it yourself and then report on the blog what you find. This is a group effort. No one should carry the weight alone.

Anonymous said...

When the parents at Nancy Creek did a FOIA 4 or 5 years ago, the parents were given the files in the conference room, where a copier was located. They let us use the copier in the building since they would not let us leave the building with the original files. It was a very long process of looking through files but I think they found what they needed. However, it didn't help much in the end since Nancy Creek became Kittredge.

It would be nice if Tough Questions 46, 11 Alive Feel Good News, Channel 2 Action News or Fox 5 I-Team could help us investigate this and get that 2004 audit released.

No Duh said...

They always hide behind the "personal records" bs when we ask for the numbers and reasons for special exceptions. They know we don't want names.

Anyone hear from their boe member whether the boe will insist on including specifics about central office staff in the attendance policy headed for discussion in Feb? Or will the boe just rubber stamp what the administration delivers as policy?

Anyone taking wagers?