Excess potpourri

By Marsha Sutton

Excess education potpourri just keeps piling up.

Grading transparency

A report issued Feb. 24 by the First Amendment rights group Californians Aware audited the responsiveness of school districts that were asked for records of their most recent out-of-court settlement agreements. The point was not necessarily to review the material but to examine how transparent and responsive each public agency is.

CalAware graded the agencies by beginning with 100 points and subtracting 10 points for each infraction. If the agency blocked the request entirely, it lost the entire 100 points.

The San Dieguito Union High School District received an A+, the highest of all local districts, with no offenses.

The Del Mar Union School District received an A, losing 10 points for the following offense: “Failed to provide Tort Claim that resulted in the Settlement Agreement within 60 days (or satisfactorily demonstrate that none exist) – Poway Unified School District v. Superior Court, 62 Cal.App.4th 1496 (1998).”

The Solana Beach School District received an F, for failing in seven separate areas and losing 10 points for each. The Rancho Santa Fe School District received a D, for failing in four separate areas, costing 10 points each.

Offenses for both Solana Beach and Rancho Santa Fe included, among other violations, not responding within the required 10 days and not assisting in identifying and/or providing responsive records.

Solana Beach also failed for the same tort claim offense as Del Mar’s. And Rancho Santa Fe also failed for the following: “Replied that the request should be submitted on an agency form or by letter to the agency prior to complying with the request – OR – Requested information such as the purpose of request, what the records would be used for, or the requester’s address, phone, or affiliation prior to complying to the request.”

For nearby districts, Poway Unified received an A+, Encinitas received a B, and Carlsbad Unified and San Diego Unified both received an F.

This was the third and final phase of a California Public Records Act audit by CalAware, which contacted more than 250 California agencies, including nearly 200 K-12 school districts. CalAware reported that over half the districts failed decisively.

Some districts disagreed with the labeled offenses and criticized the exercise for its narrow definitions of acceptable responsiveness. The full list can be viewed at: www.calaware.org.

Area elections for trustees

Last month, the San Diego County Office of Education agreed to consider resolutions to initiate studies of school districts’ election systems. The aim is to collaborate with districts to ensure compliance with the California Voting Rights Act. The Del Mar Union School District is one district that passed this resolution.

Clauses in the DMUSD resolution, passed 5-0 last November, state: that the district “finds it necessary to review its current trustee election system in light of the California Voting Rights Act,” that changes to bring the district into compliance may include “adopting a by-trustee area election system,” and that any changes be made in time for the November 2012 elections. This would allow “for trustee area boundaries to be accurate and current based on the 2010 census data if the district ultimately determines that adoption of a trustee area electoral system is appropriate.”

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