PLEASANTON -- Want to view Pleasanton school district employee salaries, a report on complaints about a principal, or other information disclosed in response to public record requests? All that is now available on the school district's website.
Calling it part of its mission to be transparent, in the last few weeks the district debuted a web page for posting its responses to public record requests. Earlier this week, the district posted an outside investigator's report that led to the school board's controversial decision in December to reassign Walnut Grove Elementary School Principal Jon Vranesh. He was moved into another administrative job called "itinerant principal" after employees complained he had created a hostile work atmosphere and used inappropriate language to refer to women.
Some 1,000 pages of documents related to the probe of the principal can be viewed by visiting pleasantonusd.net and clicking on "public record act requests." Some school parents criticized the move and accused the district of secrecy for not explaining it. Parvin Ahmadi, the Pleasanton school superintendent, said the district was considering routinely posting all public record responses months before the principal dispute erupted.
"The public has a right to know," Ahmadi said. "We think this in line with transparency and getting information to people."
There are limits to disclosures, however, school officials said. The district delayed release of the investigator's report and interview transcripts until it could black out the names of district workers to protect their privacy, Ahmadi said.
State public records expert Terry Francke, the general counsel for Californians Aware, said that online posting of public record requests and responses can provide a valuable service.
"If it's done absolutely consistently and includes posting of requests and denial letters, it could be a great resource for the public -- learning what's already been disclosed, what has been withheld and why," Francke wrote in an e-mail.
However, he added, a local agency would be abusing its power if it posted only some records responses and not others to deny an exclusive story or lead time to a news organization. Pleasanton school officials said they will be consistent, posting online responses in all cases in which they release information sought by a record request.
School officials also said they will explain online why they withhold or black out some information because of disclosure exemptions allowed for student records, litigation matters, invasion of privacy or other reasons, Ahmadi said. She added that the district hasn't determined yet whether it would post online explanations of complete denials for records.
"The online element is new to us," Ahmadi said.
The district rarely denies a records request entirely, Steward said. It's not unusual, though, to release some information but to withhold parts that qualify for exemptions, she added.
The district website also lists who sought the records. Nicole Steward, a school district spokeswoman, said she doesn't think identifying the requesters will discourage people from seeking records.
Steward said Pleasanton is following in the footsteps of Palo Alto and Los Angeles public school districts, which post public record disclosures. At some time, Steward said, the Pleasanton school district also may post the hours of staff time it took to prepare the reports.