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District seeks to limit 'unduly burdensome' public records requests

Original post made on Jun 19, 2018

Facing a 453 percent increase in the number of Public Records Act requests filed this year, the Palo Alto school district is looking to focus "overly broad" requests that have resulted in a backlog.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, June 19, 2018, 9:34 AM

Comments (73)

Posted by TorreyaMan
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 19, 2018 at 10:58 am

TorreyaMan is a registered user.

Kathy Jordan is on a wasteful fishing expedition in the guise of protecting students. I will not vote for her.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 19, 2018 at 11:17 am

I just wouldn’t believe anything PAUSD says when it comes to fulfilling records requests. This letter from legal is just another example of how our district spends legal money on the indefensible and CYA instead of doing a better job serving our students and families.

As a parent, I am entitled to receive records pertaining to my child. There are further rules such as within 5 days, etc. Most importantly, the district by law isn’t allowed to just tell parents that their student requests are too burdensome if the district has no processes in place to fulfill those requests without it being burdensome. Our district does not have processes in place to make fulfilling their duty to supply records under the law less burdensome. It is their own fault, and they do this on purpose so they can say it’s too burdensome. They say this to families over ordinary records requests. Sometimes. Often they just don’t fill the requests and leave a written record that they did, as they did to us more than once.

I made several legal student records requests in the course of two years, that were never fulfilled. I did receive lengthy letters acknowledging the requests or letters that went on to spool out a sludge of unrelated falsehoods intended to attack my family and intimidate us, but never answering the requests. Later, I received official responses saying they had fulfilled the requests when they had not. If I asked again, I was treated to more aggression. At some point, I had to give up.

One excuse they give for why they don’t comply with the law is that it’s “burdensome”. But legally, the district is supposed to develop processes to make it not burdensome. Supplying records to families and to the public is one of their functions. The district is all but admitting in their response to this article that they haven’t developed any processes to make responding to records requests less burdensome. It’s much more clear from how they “handle” student records requests that they can be deliberately deceptive and obstructionist.

Our district CLEARLY has avoided developing processes to make supplying records not burdensome, so until they do, they cannot use that as an excuse. It’s an outrage that they would spend more district legal money spooling out inapplicable case history. The last superintendent was apprised of the district’s duty to have such processes, and he claimed to have sent an email to the board reminding the district of this duty.

Our district cannot even comply with the most simple, direct student records requests. They are deliberately obstructive. I have proof of this and I know others who do, too. The administrators have shown a propensity for retaliating against people who ask. I have proof of this too.

I applaud Kathy Jordan for having the courage to ask for records necessary to hold our administrators accountable for egregious behavior that has yet to be brought to light. Our district administrators don’t want to supply records because it’s so much harder to keep their stories straight when people have the facts.

Kathy Jordan: which entity enforces the records request laws? There is actually a governmental agency, like the Sheriff, or the DA, who is legally responsible, only they don't even know it because the vast majority of districts, unlike ours, would never dream of persistently flaunting records laws. Ask the Department of Education who is responsible for enforcement. Then ask whomever they say is responsible. It's enlightening if nothing else.

I am incensed to see that district legal is once again taking money to support corruption, flaunting the law, and just avoiding the most basic requirements of their work for the public. This has got to stop.

Posted by School Bond Measure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2018 at 11:20 am

Will the new School Bond measure including funding for the new facilities needed for the new housing in Palo Alto and on the Stanford campus? Both Palo Alto and Stanford have proposed a housing boom like the one we had in the late 90s and early 2000s that caused school overcrowding. Crowding is now mostly in the high schools as the wave of new students passes through our schools. Enrollment is down only because few housing units have been built in the last ten years. But if Stanford and Palo Alto leaders have their way, we will have a new housing boom in the district that will dwarf our last one.

Posted by UnderTheMicroscope
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 19, 2018 at 12:26 pm

When the district spends a decade abusing students, neglecting students rights, and overworking them to the limits of exhaustion...yes, it invites scrutiny.

To turn around today and claim, “we can’t be bothered with transparency, just trust us”, is about as ludicrous a proposal as I’ve ever heard.

Makes me think they’re hiding something...

Posted by not very well thought through
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 19, 2018 at 12:45 pm

Seems like a self-defeating resolution.

- Resident issues a PRR for a 3 year period that results in 15,000 hits
- District asks resident to narrow the request
- Resident issues 3 PRRs for year 1, year 2 & year 3
- District responds to 3 individual requests that come in under the limit

End result? Lot of wasted time for everyone involved.

There is already a mechanism for overly broad/unreasonable requests. Limiting the results of reasonable requests is not the answer.

Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 19, 2018 at 2:38 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

Note that without the public records requests, the public would never find out about much of what goes on behind the scenes that they do not want the public to find out. Jordan's first Public Records request was May 8th, 2016, which led to the discovery/public knowledge of the October 2016 assault at Paly. PAUSD does not freely offer information unless it is makes them look good. The district would be more than happy to not have anyone to have discovered that a student (actually multiple students) were assaulted on campus. Paly administrators and the district did not even offer the required complaint procedures to the victims.

Through multiple requests, the public is now more aware of the depth of the district's secrecy, which is appalling given their constant claim of transparency

Don't blame Kathy Jordan for anything. When the district is not forthcoming, it is the public's duty to find out the truth on their own. When the district decides to be honest with us, the need to dig deeper will not exist.

Without the public keeping the district honest, they tend to go off the rails and make up their own rules. Look at the instructional minutes at Paly. They tried to put forth a schedule that doesn't even meet the minimum required minutes. That's absurd. Once they were forced to prove themselves, they came out and admitted they made a mistake.

If PAUSD wants to avoid excessive requests, they need to hold their employees accountable and be forthcoming in their communications with the public. It's ok to make a mistake, just admit the mistake without always having to be forced to admit it. It's not that difficult

Posted by Green Acres parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 19, 2018 at 2:51 pm

Given the district's poor track record on transparency, this makes it look like they're trying to hide something. Kathy Jordan's bravery should be commended: she's sticking up for the victims and their families. Perhaps the district could afford to respond to the public records requests if they didn't spend so much on lawyers to cover for their mistakes.

Posted by parent2
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2018 at 2:58 pm

"Parent from Gunn High" mentions retaliation and obstruction from the district office.

In the past I've heard comments of retaliation from the district office staff but never anything with details. In my case we had a concern over the behavior of the principle of our child's school. Our request to transfer to another school somehow was "lost" even though we were trying to track its progress thru the system. The problem is we don't have any evidence this was intentional rather than incompetence.
"Parent from Gunn High", you mention you and others you know have proof of the district is "deliberately obstructive". Has your group documented and collected this proof? Unfortunately if the administration is stonewalling we need to organize to fight.

Serious problems have existed at the school district for too many years. Problems lasting thru the tenure of several superintendents and different board members. There must be an institutional problem. We need the community to organize and force the school board to take action. We need to focus and keep a bright light on the administration. If the board doesn't act we need a community which will raise the political heat and deliver on a promise to make this an issue at election time.

I for one intend to vote against any bond measure of new funds for the school district. The administration and board need to heard loudly and clearly that they are losing community trust and support. Until the administration is accountable and operates in a clear and transparent way we won't back provide additional financial support.

We should not and cannot expect to agree on all issues. Can we at least agree to hold the board accountable to force the administration to identify problems and mistakes, document plans to fix the issues, and document/publish proof the plans were implemented along with the results. We need a process of continuous improvement instead of what seems like a culture of hiding, obstructing, and retaliating.

Do other readers feel this way?

Posted by Ceiling fan still ON
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2018 at 3:40 pm

Sounds like the school district and the board agreed to press the RESET button or at least trying to reach it! See my name for the comment.

Posted by Reset the Board
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 19, 2018 at 4:09 pm

Reset the Board is a registered user.

If the board approves this it will only show that they do want to keep information from the public. Would not be a good look. District should work with requestors on scope. But if there's an item with over 5000 pages of relevant data, then it should all be made available.
District can help eliminate many of these requests by "opening the kimono".

Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 19, 2018 at 5:32 pm

Their mentioning 5000 pages as being burdensome is also disingenuous, as they supply a lot of stuff on disk these days, it's just not that hard to search and copy/paste. If they don't have tools to help them cut and redact where that is necessary (I think they do, but...), they have a legal duty to get those tools. If they don't have tools to help them separate students from other students, again, this is eminently possible, other districts with far fewer resources do this just fine without complaining that it's too burdensome. My email program allows me to find all mentions of a given term or name with the press of a few keys. If this is difficult, the district could institute a policy of ensuring students' names are at the bottom of every message related to that student -- then it's child's play to comply with records requests. I think it already is, but they don't want to make it easy, even though it is their duty to come up with processes to allow them to supply the records easily. Again, 5,000 pages can mean a few files on a DVD. Not burdensome if they don't want it to be.

I'm sorry, but neither I nor anyone I know who has been affected will truly come forward until the district is run by people who want to make things right by understanding past wrongs, understanding cultural failings, with the desire to apologize and move forward in a spirit of reconciliation and collaboration.

If someone else complains, I might supply our own evidence to help. In the past, I used to tell myself that what we were doing was at least helping others, but the district always found a way to thwart efforts to do even that, and to punish us for trying. All the pain we endured did nothing. I am looking for evidence that things have changed. I will vote for Kathy Jordan, but I will believe she can do something when I see it - I thought Ken Dauber would be a champion to change these things but he's either been by himself when he has stood up, or he has perhaps chosen not to bother at other times.

Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 19, 2018 at 5:53 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

I also thought Dauber would stand up for students. Ironically, his wife led the recall Persky, yet Ken is president of a district where both high school principals were called out by an independent law firm for not protecting students and both received promotions.

Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 19, 2018 at 7:51 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

The PAUSD's complaint here is off-base and misleading. Responding to Public Records Act requests would not be "burdensome" if the PAUSD would simply just do what it is required to do: release the records. Instead, before releasing ANY document, no matter how banal, the District farms each and every page to expensive outside counsel, who charge the taxpayers literally millions of dollars to take a magic marker and cross off the vast majority of every page.

Notably, and clearly to anyone with legal knowledge, the vast majority of the law firm cross-outs do not relate to any conceivable privilege such as attorney-client privilege or student privacy. And, the district does not provide any explanation for what legal privilege justified the withholding of content, as the law requires them to do. When asked for the justification behind the pages and pages of block-outs, the district merely responds with "legal privilege" or "privacy" when it is clear from context that no such privilege exists -- say, for example, in a redacted email between the Superintendent and Principal regarding that Principal's own compensation and not relating to any student or legal matter.

One glaring recent example of this overreaching abuse pertains the 2nd Cozen O'Connor Report, which the District quietly released recently -- approximately 18 months past its due date. The District paid a million dollars for this Report -- ordered to do so by the United States Justice Department -- in order to reach findings about PAUSD misconduct regarding yet another Paly sexual assault -- similar to the first Cozen Report. Unlike the first Cozen Report, however, which redacted only identifying student information, and used words like STUDENT 1 and VICE PRINCIPAL 2 instead of names -- the 2nd report is completely illegible due to mass cross-outs, even in the fact sections. In other words, even though the District must have known how to redact appropriate information from this report which cost so much of the purportedly limited taxpayer funds, the District instead paid expensive outside lawyers to cross out complete paragraphs and pages, withholding invaluable public information from stakeholders who are entitled to know what exactly happened in response to a girl's rape.

Similarly, the District withholds or completely blocks out thousands of pages of documents on false grounds of attorney-client privilege when even those with the most casual understanding of law would no that no such privilege could exist. Even though is well established that attorney-client privilege applies only to situations where clients are seeking and receiving legal advice, and that the privilege is destroyed by the presence of or distribution to 3rd parties, the district uses this privilege to withhold everything from inter-staff memos to group text messages. Any objection to these practices results in the District paying their outside law firms to draft multi-page letters that cite irrelevant law that has no precedent value (somewhat like the non-governing, non-similar cases cited by this publication).

The end result is clear: in its counterproductive, ill-conceived drive to withhold information from the public -- as well as to withhold necessary and reasonable services to its stakeholders and students -- the PAUSD relentlessly spends literally millions of dollars of taxpayer money in order to deprive these very taxpayers of their own rights. We, as the people who pay their salaries, and whose money is squandered in this egregious manner, need to complain MORE, not less, until something changes!

I believe we all owe a large debt of gratitude to Kathy Jordan and the other parents, taxpayers, and residents who continue to demand transparency.

Posted by Tony Putulin
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2018 at 8:13 pm

If PAUSD can misappropriate thiusand of dollars, it can afford to hire more people to reduce the backlog. I used to work for the District and I am very familiar with how thousands upon thousands of dollars are being spent on unnecessary items. For example, one of the prior Superentendents mandated the use of jumbo golden plated paper clips.

Posted by No on Jordan
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 20, 2018 at 7:52 am

Every dollar spent on responding to public records requests is a dollar that doesn't go to education. That doesn't mean that no one should file these requests. It does mean that filing requests for hundreds of thousands of pages just to see what turns up is a waste of education money. Every one of those pages needs to be examined for student names.

Why would anyone vote for a school board candidate who shows such poor judgement about education priorities? Kathy Jordan needs to explain why she believes that it benefits students to spend money on a giant fishing expedition through random district files. I would rather see that money spent on teaching.

Posted by Yes on Jordan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 20, 2018 at 10:16 am

Yes on Jordan is a registered user.

Without Kathy Jordan's records requests, we will still have a convicted sexual predator roaming our school ground. Rape and assault will happen and we will never know about it. District will spend tens of millions of dollars on cover-ups instead of spending the money to educate our children and ensure their safety.

We do owe a large debt of gratitude to Kathy Jordan!

So definitely yes on Jordan!!!

Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 20, 2018 at 10:41 am

That's just an disingenuous argument. It costs no more to transfer hundreds of pages onto a DVD than it does to transfer one. Additionally, fulfilling records requests is an essential DUTY of the district. You may as well be arguing that every dollar spent on learning disabilities is dollar not spent on education. Providing records gives the public, which the district is formed to serve, the chance to ensure the district functions well. It gives parents the ability to protect their children and ensure they have their legally due access to their education. It gives everyone a chance to be the checks and balances that make everything work better.

Furthermore, the district is required to put in place PROCESSES to be able to fulfill its duties without it being burdensome. Let me say that in another way. The district can only legitimately deem a records request to be burdensome if they have made efforts to put in place processes to make fulfilling its duty to provide records under the law to NOT be burdensome. (They can't use that as a blanket excuse.) That's the law. Our district has NOT put in place any processes to make fulfilling records requests efficient and easy, in fact, there is considerable evidence for anyone who cares to look that they have overtly acted to thwart the fulfilling of student records requests, including claiming that they were burdensome.

If they never think about how to fulfill those requests, or if they treat each one like an affront and burden regardless, of course it's going to be expensive. If instead they simply got software that automatically redacts names, and instituted processes to make it easier to fulfill requests such as creating classifications for documents that can be made at the time every document is created, it doesn't cost anything at all to provide thousands of documents.
Having someone to read them for any further redactions after the software does most of it is also no big deal, if a good reader does it and they aren't trying to read them in a way to keep the behind-the-back-of-parents stories straight. It's not like we have thousands of people asking for the documents, and frankly, even if we did, when it's done once, then it doesn't have to be redone, the DVD could simply be copied.

If the district developed a culture of doing the right thing, and found legal help that wasn't just focused on drumming up more reasons to get paid, then the process of providing records would cease to be such a crisis for the top administrators, who feel they have to vet them for whether they can defend past misbehavior.

My mom always told me that telling the truth is so much easier because you never have to remember a story to keep straight if you lie. It would be so much easier at the leadership levels in our district if that were the modus operandi.

Posted by Also no on Jordan
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 20, 2018 at 10:47 am

Lots of magical thinking about fantastic benefits flowing from records requests (preventing a serial rapist?!) and the ease of redacting hundreds of thousands of pages of documents to protect student privacy. It takes a few seconds to move files to a DVD, and thousands of hours to actually read those files to make sure that they don't release personal information or break various privacy laws.

In fact, this is an extremely expensive fishing expedition with little to no public benefit. Why would getting all of a principal's email for a period of years be worth anything.

Why can't Kathy Jordan focus her requests? It's disqualifying for a school board candidate. What happens when she has to make priority decisions for all of us?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 20, 2018 at 10:55 am

@Also no,

Your opinions on the benefits of transparency notwithstanding, the district has a LEGAL DUTY to put in place processes that allow it to fulfill records requests without it being burdensome. Thousands of other districts across the country fulfill this essential duty of a public school district without this kind of complaining or creating expensive lawfirm bills.

I have a copy of a bunch of documents the district redacted in a way that was clearly intended to NOT protect my child's privacy, to put pressure on my family. What happened? Nothing to the district. My child was hurt and deprived of a legally due education and protections. Your argument is not a reason for the district to continue to avoid its legal DUTY to DEVELOP PROCESSES THAT MAKE PROVIDING THESE RECORDS NOT BURDENSOME. They cannot use a blanket excuse of dealing with paper being burdensome if they have made no attempt to streamline its duty. The district not only has failed to create such processes, it has been reminded of its duty all the way to the superintendent and board in recent years, and has only continued to act in a way to avoid fulfilling this duty.

It does not take thousands of hours to read such documents. It only takes longer if liars are trying to keep an illegitimate story straight.

I will be voting Yes to Kathy Jordan because we desperately need to break the kind of thinking that buys the kinds of bankrupt and wrong arguments you have just made that continue to keep our district from operating well and serving everyone to their potential.

Posted by Also no on Jordan
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 20, 2018 at 10:59 am

Actually, the article says that the district can ask requesters who file unduly burdensome requests to modify their request. It doesn't say the district has a duty to invent a system that magically makes it unburdensome.

Feel free to vote for Jordan. I want my tax dollars to go for education not redacting hundreds of thousands of pages of useless documents to satisfy someone's crusade.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 20, 2018 at 11:16 am

It can be very important to get all of the email over a period of time to get to the truth.

For example, the former head of student services did the following to us: forwarded a bunch of long emails from her address with no message at all, making it seem like they were generated by mistake from a phone. Then she forwarded another really long message that looked just like the other "mistakes" but attached a very small notice about the important parent-teacher 504 meeting at the bottom.

At the same exact time, she carried on an email conversation with us separately with a subject line that said something like "scheduling the 504 meeting" and continued to carry a back and forth about scheduling the meeting before during and after the meeting was held without us. She then placed a note in the record that parents had declined to attend and gave the OCR the email msg with her single unrelated notice at the bottom as evidence that she had given us notice.

We had been going to the school site every day, seeing people who knew they were going to that meeting, yet all the while the head of student services carried out this fake conversation with us by email about scheduling that meeting; they were planning on holding it without us.

I later saw in one of those records request by someone else that was made public, that the principal had told the head of student services that she had mentioned the meeting to us (she did, in a tentative way indicating it wasn't for sure) but that we indicated that wasn't the meeting, that we were still scheduling it. She asked the head of student services what to do. There was clear collusion going on to hold the 504 meeting without us, which is truly troubling (and probably illegal) that anyone would engage in that, but that is only clear to someone with the whole record. In that case, we are the only one with the whole record (well, and other people we've given copies to share what happened), but someone wanting to get public records would only understand the violation of the law if they had everything.

What happened in that instant wasn't even isolated in our own experience, we experienced other such scheming that is obvious with the whole record, but that is geared to create a misimpression if someone only has part. I know many other people who experienced the same, including others who experienced something we suspected but didn't have as much proof as they did, that DO employees may have even been keeping records at their own personal residences for their own CYA purposes but to thwart any consequences of student or public records requests.

It's not a "fishing" expedition in this district that has had such self-serving corruption at the top levels. We cannot solve this the problems if we continue to act as if covering them up and sweeping them under the rug might eventually make them go away on their own. The fact is that providing public and student records is an essential function of the district, and the district must make efforts to be able to fulfill that function in a way that isn't burdensome, specifically so they can't use that as an excuse to avoid fulfilling that duty.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 20, 2018 at 11:44 am

Also no,

I would really love to understand why you are trying to slime the essential duty of districts to provide records. The article may not have mentioned the districts duty under the law to have processes in place to comply with their duties under the law, but the LAW does. You are welcome to read it.

Our district regularly harasses parents trying to get their legally due student records or other public records, when there is a potentially "embarrassing" issue at stake for administrators. When parents try to straighten out falsehoods in the records, the district people complain that they are communicating too much. If they stop complaining, the district people say they can't solve problems if parents don't communicate. They have an excuse no matter the eventuality; they even make up the eventualities, claiming parents have sent too much email even if they stopped years prior because it made no difference. The truth can only be found in the whole record. You clearly have made up your mind on whether the truth is important in public agencies, but luckily, the law supports truth and transparency.

Posted by paly student
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 20, 2018 at 11:53 am

This district does not regard students at all; requests and complaints from both students and parents are seldom fulfilled, and often ignored. No matter the quantity of requests, they should always be fulfilled. Instead of capping the requests for documents, they should just be made public. By requiring review for every document before releasing them to the public is further conveying to the taxpayers that there is something to hide.

The school board is not a bottle of concealer, hiding the imperfections and undereye circles of the district. The focus of a SCHOOL board is the well being of students and their learning and preparation for the future. With an endless pile of cash, the district thinks that "committees" are the solution to everything, and wasting money while they are at it. It is evident that the school board is no longer focused on the well being of the students, and instead focused on small issues, such as renaming the middle schools and other petty issues. I have many complaints to the district that I would bring up, but I know even if I do, I would probably never get a response.

If they really want to improve the school district, they should be more focused on the needs of the student instead of the needs of parents and taxpayers, as well as find solutions to both alleviate the issues brought by everyone.

As for Jordan, children have a way of persuading their parents. If you want our parents' votes, I'd advise that you propose something eye catching to students.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 20, 2018 at 11:55 am

@Also no,

The law actually has a LOT to say about what you call "magic" processes, i.e., processes that allow the district to fulfill its duty easily rather than deliberately obstruct, like providing electronic records (that make providing the records less costly and burdensome).

Just a small peek into the law:
Web Link
"In enacting this chapter, the Legislature, mindful of the right of individuals to privacy, finds and declares that access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state."

School districts are defined as local agencies under this act.

"Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to permit an agency to delay or obstruct the inspection or copying of public records. "

In other words, even if a district can under very limited circumstances (i.e., not just because it's an extensive request) claim something is burdensome, they do not have a right to use that claim to obstruct a legitimate request, as this is. They have a duty to provide records, and a duty not to obstruct the proper exercise of that duty under the law. Just the act of providing a lot of records is a duty, and is not by definition burdensome. The law actually has a lot to say about that.

"Except as otherwise prohibited by law, a state or local agency may adopt requirements for itself that allow for faster, more efficient, or greater access to records than prescribed by the minimum standards set forth in this chapter. [i.e., the law sets forth minimum standards for local agencies to fulfill their legal duty to provide the records]"

By using district legal to avoid fulfilling its duty, the district has spent way more money than it would have just providing those records. They could have had administrators make the argument for free, but no, for some reason they had to spend lots of legal dollars trying to avoid their duty, that they could have fulfilled for less. How much money did they spend creating that response? That dollar amount right there is a floor on what constitutes NOT burdensome. Did they spend that trying to comply? (No.)

Ignorance (or deliberate avoidance) of the law is no excuse.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 20, 2018 at 12:24 pm

Given some of the sleazy actions of PAUSD principals and administrators in the last few years, it seems disingenuous to be making this proposal at this time. I think we need a few years of good behavior before we loosen the reporting requirements on PAUSD.

Posted by Left Out
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Jun 20, 2018 at 2:53 pm

Left Out is a registered user.

What the District left out from their report of 5,000 page e-mail requests is many of the "pages" the District provides are the same e-mail, over and over, included in a thread. You can see this by looking at record requests on PAUSD web site (the few that are posted). Also, the District's posts can have a lot of white space in-between e-mail posts, creating more pages.

These District practices creates two conditions:
1. We don't know the actual number of e-mails sent. A single e-mail only sent once by parent may be in the documents 5, 10, 15 times.
2. We can't know the actual number of pages because of the way the District formats them.

This is concerning for these reasons:
1. District brings legal action against parents claiming the parents send too many e-mails.
2. District is not responding to parent request, or only partially responding, and forwards the e-mail multiple times to make it appear they have fully replied and complied, attempting to create the appearance the parent sent too many e-mails, and that they are confused by them.

FYI to parents and those reviewing PAUSD e-mail records, if the District thinks they are trouble, they will start a fresh new e-mail. They will not post in a thread because it will reveal their non-compliance.

Absent is if the District is taking action to improve their efficiency in the process. Palo Alto Online often requests the same e-mails as other requests. The District does not need to produce the same material twice. They need to keep copies of all information provided to use again in requests for the same information.

Also concerning from above article is:

"Parent Kathy Jordan, who is running for a seat on the school board in November, is behind the bulk of requests that cross the proposed 5,000-page threshold."

It appears targeted at a parent because they are vocal about problems and running the Board of Education.

Posted by Bad dog
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2018 at 3:09 pm

How about creating an ombudsperson position instead, and giving that person a clear mandate to serve the district's families instead of the administrators, and maybe making them accountable to someone else like the City.

That way, we could be paying someone whose job it is to resolve problems before they fester and become big CYA payouts.

Posted by Hoover parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jun 20, 2018 at 4:06 pm

Reporting that Kathy Jordan is generating a huge burden for the school district is not targeting her, it's reporting. The fact that she is running for office makes it more newsworthy, not less.

Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 20, 2018 at 4:25 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

Hoover Parent,
I believe "Left Out" meant that the policy is targeting Ms. Jordan. Palo Alto Online requests emails every month in the amount of around 1000 pages. Ms. Jordan's requests cover longer terms, so will generate more pages.

If Ms. Jordan makes a request for communications between, as an example, Kim Diorio and the school board during the time when a sexual assault occurred up until the time it became public and that request generates more than 5000 pages of documents, the public has a right to see all of those documents and not a narrowly construed subset of them.

There's a reason so much information about the district has come to light over the past year. Part of it is because the district and school sites continue to screw up, but those screw-ups are being discovered because someone is asking to see the information.

Also remember that the district and Paly, in particular, were called out for avoiding documenting conversations for the specific purpose that it not be able to be discovered by the Public Records Act. So, how much more information is out there that the district is careful not to put out on publicly available channels.

Posted by Board watcher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 20, 2018 at 4:37 pm

I would say that "someone asking" is the school board itself, which spent over a million dollars on lawyers to generate reports, hired a full time compliance person (also a lawyer), created and published the title ix log etc. Godfrey and Dauber deserve credit for the turn around.

Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 20, 2018 at 5:53 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

So, you believe that the district would have done all of this on its own volition had there not been the media scrutiny and parental pressure?

Posted by Board watcher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 20, 2018 at 6:19 pm

Media scrutiny mattered, particularly the TV news which went on air with the assault victim interview. Parent pressure, not much; once the story was out there, the board wanted to get after it. Parent PRA requests, formal complaints, and Kathy Jordan, not at all. A gadfly with no sting.

Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 20, 2018 at 7:25 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

Exactly! Once the story got out to the public then the district made an effort. Read the emails between Diorio and the PR guy, Jorge Rodriguez. It's all about how to spin the story and what bad timing it is. And what if the girl never came forward to the media? The school and the district knew it had occurred before the media coverage.

Posted by Board watcher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 20, 2018 at 7:44 pm

Umm, yes. The question isn't whether media attention matters. Most agree that it is critical to democracy. Huge PRA requests from gadflies, not so much.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 20, 2018 at 8:40 pm

If Jordan is a “gadfly with no sting” then someone should be fired for spending money having district legal prepare letters trying to avoid fulfilling a records request instead of just fulfilling the request for far less; records requests are just part of the district’s job. If you don’t like this duty of public agencies, you can always go inflict your nastiness on a private one.

“access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state." Even the ones you for some reason are hellbent on maligning.

I, for one, am grateful for Kathy Jordan’s courage, we need more like her and fewer who attack in nasty ways from an unspecified agenda.

Posted by Board watcher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 20, 2018 at 11:47 pm

Actually, looking at the volume of requests, it looks like fulfilling them would be WAY more expensive than trying to limit it. The cost is in redacting, which is slow work. The district added >$200,000 to PRA spending this year - that's a lot - and apparently there's still a ton more to do.

I'm not attacking Jordan. Getting up and talk at the board meetings is great - good for her, I support it too. But in terms of records requests, what she's doing is expensive to the district and is having no impact.

Posted by Board Watcher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 20, 2018 at 11:57 pm

"By requiring review for every document before releasing them to the public is further conveying to the taxpayers that there is something to hide. "

@paly student, the review and redacting (blacking out portions) is required by law to protect personal information, especially student related, as well as things like legal advice, etc. The district would be in big trouble if they released something by accident, which is of course a big risk with something like years-worth of emails from a principal. It probably does look bad, but there's no choice.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 21, 2018 at 12:21 am

@Board Watcher,
Site admins and employees already seem under strict instructions to avoid leaving any written trail of anything embarrassing. Unless they want to claim the parent is writing too many emails, in which case they tell you to write an email and then never respond.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 21, 2018 at 12:32 am

@Board Watcher,

The cost would be way less if the admins in the district office didn't have to try so hard to keep their stories straight. Transparency is cheaper. Districts all across the nation with way fewer resources manage to answer public records requests.

The district hired an expensive communications coordinator with the excuse, cited in the newspaper, that they needed that person to answer the records requests. Yet the communications coordinator has been a pretty chronically unbusy job. What happened to that person? That's a staff position, and costs nothing more to do a job we, the public, were told justified the hiring of that person.

Spending more money on district legal to dig up court cases to justify not fulfilling their duty to supply records was simply throwing our money away. That was an added expense.

The district has a duty to provide the records and could have done so with existing, underutilized staff instead of throwing more money at district legal. You don't know what's in there. I've witnessed enough scheming, unprofessional, petty retaliatory behavior, intimidation tactics that had to have come directly from legal (because they're classic), etc etc, that I don't think anyone is serving the public interest to encourage the district to make excuses when there is no evidence they have even attempted to do a good job supplying records as the law requires. There is plenty of evidence they overtly try to avoid filling records requests. Let them clean up their act and then, and only then, does it make sense to let them argue that fulfilling this essential duty of a public agency is burdensome. (And even then, they don't get a pass if they haven't put in place processes to make it easier.)

Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 21, 2018 at 12:39 am

@Board Watcher,
There is automatic redaction software. The output is a lot easier to review if the person reading it isn't engaged in CYA. Again, we have a person on staff who was ostensibly hired to fulfill records requests.

There are also things the district can do to ensure documents and emails have tags and descriptors and are archived on a regular basis to make it possible to automate the process. The former head of student services used to require all teachers to send every email exchanged related to someone she was trying to torment to her. Those were being reviewed as they went. There is no reason they couldn't have been basically prepared for redaction at the time they came across everyone's desks.

It is disturbing that after everything that has happened, the district office seems to be engaged in the same unprofessional coverup culture.

Posted by Common sense
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jun 21, 2018 at 7:57 am

There's no such thing as "automatic redaction software." Do you want to trust your child's privacy to that?

We could turn every school district employee into a part time redacter of their own emails, complete with training. Of course, they won't be educating while they are redacting.

Or Kathy Jordan could decide not to waste precious education dollars on vacuuming up a million pages of emails on a fishing expedition.

Posted by Green Acres parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 21, 2018 at 1:41 pm

What makes Palo Alto so special that they can't provide records while all the other school districts can?

If you want to call it a fishing expedition, you'll have to at least admit that it's fishing in a well stocked lake. There's plenty of malfeasance to be found.

Elections are expensive, but clearly worth it. The same goes for making records public. Transparency is essential in a democracy.

Responding to public records requests in a timely manner and without excessive redaction is the law in California and it's a law our district isn't following. It has nothing to do with the difficulty of the task and everything to do with CYA.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 21, 2018 at 2:19 pm

@Common sense,
"There's no such thing as "automatic redaction software." Do you want to trust your child's privacy to that?"

Ummm, did you even try to do an Internet search on just that term? There are many kinds of tools that significantly reduce the time it takes to redact documents, and some of them are even called "automatic redaction software". Just FYI.

Not that we even need it, since we have a full-time under-utilized human whose six-figure salary was sold to the public in large part to fill records requests. Using such tools, said human can significantly cut the time to redact AND CHECK documents that have been redacted. Not that it's necessary, since if said human can't handle providing 5,000 pages of public records (many of which or copies or don't remotely need redaction, we pretty much should let them go and hire someone who knows how to read.

The district office already turns teachers into part-time redactors of their communications, in fact, into outright censors. Any child with special needs is unable to develop normal relationships if there have been problems, the district already requires all communications to go through them, replete with the keeping down of replies taking precedence over children's educational needs. (You can imagine how voluminous it gets when 5 teachers have to forward messages including 'thank you' 'I got that', etc.)

The big issue here is that @Green Acres parent is right. Providing public records is part of the district's JOB. It is by law an essential aspect of their existence. It is also the law that they have to put some effort into ensuring they can fulfill this essential task without complaining at every turn that it's "burdensome". It is also a fact that our district regularly flaunts normal state and federal student records laws. I think the district has to deal with that first before they can legitimately even talk about records requests being even remotely outside the scope of what they are required to do as part of their work.

So now it's "millions" of documents? I thought 5,000 pages was 0.5% of a million, just a half of one percent of that. That's a difference of a few orders of magnitude. Calm down, you are only making it seem as if you are one of those administrators who will stop at nothing to avoid doing their lawful duties. That hasn't worked out well so far, how about we try truth and transparency for awhile, especially since it is required by law?

You clearly have an agenda on the side of district office administrators that is so strong, you can't even be bothered to search on a term before saying something that clearly exists doesn't exist -- so I think it's clear anything you have to say on that is pretty uninformed -- but in my experience, retaliating administrators are willing to use violating students' privacy against the children and their families. So, yes, I would trust well-designed software over a retaliatory unchecked administrator here any day. Not that it's necessary, since the district is paying someone with a college degree in communications a six figure salary in part to fill records requests.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 21, 2018 at 2:36 pm

@Greenacres parent,
Thank you. Well said!

Here is an article about how some counties in Florida are already using automatic redaction software for public records: Web Link
This is in the context of agencies that put reams of documents online on a regular basis, unlike our school district. There, we ARE talking about millions of documents. "As the application looks for candidates for redaction from among millions of document images, several thousand pages are culled and analyzed individually by a person who can verify that the information should be redacted. As the pool of documents is reviewed, the software automatically adjusts to redact the remaining records based on the choices made manually, Miller said."

So the software learns. Computer learning exists.

The only reason to be afraid of this is that the software probably can't easily understand scheming and backbiting and personal CYA. If it did, perhaps we could use it to make sure personnel using district legal for their own CYA stop doing it and pay for their own lawyers. That right there will save us millions over the years.

Posted by Engineer
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 21, 2018 at 3:38 pm

No sane person would trust documents about students to redaction software. Provide an example of a district that does.

The problem as I understand it is a few zealots maybe including people posting here that have an ax to grind and no trouble causing our district to waste money on their obsession.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 21, 2018 at 6:02 pm


You may not like the way democracy works, but if that's the way you feel, you can always use private schools. A public school district is an agency that must respond to public records requests, it doesn't matter how many names they call someone who is trying to hold them to account. And there is MUCH that still needs to be pulled out from under the rug. If only we had more people willing to do it, it would have protected a lot of kids.

Counties process way more documents and have way more exposure. They also put way more in the open. There are counties using automated redaction software. It doesn't eliminate the involvement of a human, it reduces the workload of the human, and uses the human's input for machine learning improvements to the automation. It also happens to not need to read things in order to keep its story straight if it lied to parents, so on balance, I think it's a good thing.

Again, you are attacking the sanity of people making public records requests that are not really unusual, and that other districts do without nearly the resources we have and without complaining. The district announced publicly that the justification for hiring a communications person was to answer public records requests, yet that person is chronically unbusy. The idea that it's "burdensome" just because someone asked is simply ludicrous. Most of those documents can just be transferred onto a disk. In fact, many have probably already been requested by the Weekly, and as such, have already been redacted.

If the district wasn't so perennially breaking the law in regards to students record requests, I might be more sympathetic. Your calling people names for exercising their right under the law doesn't make the law any less clear that everyone has a right to those records and the district needs to comply as part of their work as a public agency. They've got a person they hired to do this, they have no cause to say it's burdensome. It's only burdensome because they know how hard it is after time has passed to maintain past unprofessional behavior.

I frankly want the Board to look into the use of district legal to deflect public records requests without cause.

Posted by WunderingAbout
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 21, 2018 at 6:29 pm

Probably a silly question, but I'm just wondering ... what would be the argument against making public records public ... putting them on the web? Not personal stuff, although we have f-all idea how much of any of our personal data, including stuff on our own computers and cell phones are already out there in someone's hands? All present policies seem to do is protect and hide the powerful.

Why is there never any real reasoned discussion about all this stuff ... all that does it allow the status quo more power over all of us ... and we have seen how irresponsibly agents without oversight are.

Posted by Stop Whining
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Jun 22, 2018 at 12:59 am

Stop Whining is a registered user.

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 23, 2018 at 12:22 pm

"It is the District that generates the number of documents, not the requester. Having worked for local and federal agencies, I can't imagine any other government official complaining about being required to fill requests, or targeting individuals for requesting too many documents and still being in their jobs the next day. It shows immaturity, lack of leadership ability and poor management skills. Why are they generating documents if they are incapable of preparing them for public scrutiny? "

Well said.

We had the experience that the former head of student services would take months to provide the "notes" from meetings, and when they were provided, they were masterpieces of falsehoods, with almost nothing actually true in them. I think she needed the time to spin; when we realized we could legally record the meetings to ensure they weren't respun later, she stopped providing notes at all.

One thing the district really hated was when we would take the time to rebut the falsehoods. Being succinct, it would run into dozens of pages. So then they could complain you were generating too much communication.

This district really shouldn't be allowed to complain about these things until it cleans up its act.

Posted by Stop this
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 23, 2018 at 12:43 pm

I will be NOT be voting for Kathy Jordan - people like her are the reason money gets pulled away from kids and their education and wasted on over the top records request. Kim Diorio was an excellent Principal who looked out for my son during his darkest time. Kathy Jordan is a single issue person - she is not a champion of kids - all this is to raise her own profile for election and polarize our community. [Portion removed.] No on Kathy. Let’s set a better example for our kids and VOTE FOR SOMEONE WHO DOESNT JUST COMPLAIN BUT IS PART OF A SOLUTION!

Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 23, 2018 at 11:07 pm

As someone whose child was bullied and traumatized by adults in school, whose darkest times were caused by those adults, I really would like people who think criticism of the district and bringing problems into the open where they CAN be solved to STOP castigating those who try to bring truth and sunshine. I appreciate that Kathy Jordan has been willing to stand up and be a lightning rod, because our district really for the most part does not solve difficult problems unless it is forced to.

Kim Diorio learned the hard way, as so many of us parents have, that it's not enough (or even a good bet) to just trust the district office people to do the right thing. She asked repeatedly if she should do an investigation and they told her no. That cohort of district administrators told site admins a lot of wrong things. For the most part, the rest of staff seemed to feel that as long as they went along with what they were told, they could close their eyes to that nagging sense in their gut and ignore the harm they were doing.

What happened to Diorio was at least direct, she wasn't smeared behind her back for years by those DO admins, there was no gaslighting the way certain DO people did with parents they didn't like. I don't think what happened to her will be enough of a wake up call to get staff to become upstanders for families running afoul of the district office, but Diorio did have that opportunity and failed, and now she is facing the consequences. It's too bad, but it's not the fault of anyone expecting our district to protect ALL students (not just your child) and follow its own procedures and the law. Diorio unfortunately learned the hard way that trusting the district office rather than being an upstander has downsides to staff, too, not just the students who are left traumatized. I would frankly trade what she experienced for what we experienced because of those same district administrators.

I'll take someone willing to stand up like Kathy Jordan any day. Blame the administrators who used Diorio badly, blame Diorio for not doing going to the board when her superiors repeatedly told her not to follow the law, I don't blame people trying to clean out the rot.

I will be voting for Kathy Jordon BECAUSE she has been willing to stand up and take unreasonable attacks like yours. Another person's normal participation in democracy that is SUPPOSED to happen from local citizens is the kind of thing that keeps public organizations functioning well. If anything, we don't have nearly enough of that.

Posted by Osre
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 24, 2018 at 5:12 am

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Board watcher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 24, 2018 at 7:25 am

Diorio got a reprimand letter for her shortfalls as publicly detailed in Cozen's report. That doesn't carry any change in pay, status, role, etc. Is this the dire consequence you refer to that she "suffered?" She later chose to resign, which seems to be completely her decision.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 24, 2018 at 8:05 am

I wonder at what point in this district do people at the top receive criticism and instead of 1) denying it (risking the "embarrassment" of being proven liars if the evidence of the lie comes out) or 2) folding/resigning/leaving, they sincerely apologize to those who were harmed and to the public for not doing the right thing, and work hard to ensure there is restitution and that things are fixed and working better. At what point is there an administrative culture that supports reconciliation and taking responsibility instead of revenge against students and families who have already been wronged? The adults in a school district should be leading by example, and it is simply not healthy to teach students that you tell young people to be upstanders but for the adults, it's CYA all the way. It's not healthy to show students that you never apologize for or fix problems, you just talk a big game and cover things up.

I for one wish Diorio hadn't resigned. Being criticized shouldn't be a reason to resign. I was really sorry that her letter seemed to express a kind of shock at having the rug pulled out from under her from above, when this is what parents of special needs families have been dealing with in spades, and she could have been a voice to protect them once she herself got a small taste of how selfish and destructive the CYA culture from the DO could be. IMHO, there were some really pernicious influences by two people in particular who are now finally gone, but there are stillI wonder at what point in this district do people at the top receive criticism and instead of 1) denying it (risking the "embarrassment" of being proven liars if the evidence of the lie comes out) or 2) folding/resigning/leaving, they apologize to those who were harmed and to the public for not doing the right thing, and work hard to ensure things are fixed and working better. At what point is there an administrative culture that supports reconciliation and taking responsibility instead of revenge against students and families who have already been wronged? The adults in a school district should be leading by example, and it is simply not healthy to teach students that you tell them to be upstanders but for the adults, it's CYA all the way. It's not healthy to show students that you never apologize for or fix problems, you just talk a big game and cover them up.

I for one wish Diorio hadn't resigned. Being criticized shouldn't be a reason to resign. I was really sorry that her letter seemed to express a kind of shock at having the rug pulled out from under her from above, when this is what parents of special needs families have been dealing with in spades, and she could have been a voice to protect them once she herself got a small taste of how selfish and destructive the CYA culture from the DO could be plenty of protegees to keep the destructiveness going.

Posted by Truth Here
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 24, 2018 at 8:48 am

If an administrator anywhere in CA “resigns”, it means they were fired but given the option to leave on their own accord (so as not have to click a box on EDJOIN that they were fired and also to save face from those who don’t know how school districts works - which is 99% of the people out there.)

Posted by Board watcher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 24, 2018 at 10:07 am

Based on what was disclosed, there was no basis for "firing" Diorio. A reprimand is a step in a discipline process, and not sufficient basis by itself. She was a tenured staff member, which means due process would need to be followed per Education Code. It appears she resigned on her own accord.

Posted by Bertoli my foot
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2018 at 11:54 am

Bertoli v. City of Sebastopol is support for PAUSD restricting Kathy Jordan's access to public information.

Not even close.

In that case, a resident asked for records from 62 different sources covering 15 years that were on the City and personal hard drives and devices of past and present officials and employees. The City provided the information it had within the required 14 days. The court said that the rest of THIS PARTICULAR request was "too ambiguous or overbroad for a response."

It did NOT say that anything over 5,000 pages is too burdensome and does not merit a reply.

It also does NOT explain why PAUSD has NOT filled Kathy Jordan's requests within the required 14 days, or 14 months for that matter, that would have taken it an hour max like her September 2017 request for the August 2017 OCR interim monitoring report (6 pages) or her May 2017 request for 6 weeks from someone's appointment calendar (29 pages)
Web Link

I don't know if Kathy Jordan is focused on a single issue like some posts above claim but what if she is? That one issue is Title IX. With "me too" she's in good company and what she's doing is commendable.

What isn't commendable is that our school board leadership, Ken Dauber and Jennifer DiBrienza, OKed turning an already approved $200,000 budget item that is a fraction of a fraction of the budget into a pressing public issue whose impact, if passed, will be to deny all of us access to how PAUSD's leaders - including the board - have handled sexual assaults in our schools.

Title IX retaliation anyone?

Posted by You doth protest too much
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2018 at 12:55 pm

Board watcher,

You doth protest too much.

You say that the documents given to Kathy Jordan are having "no impact." Is that in the law that school districts only need to share documents that will have an "impact" if released? I doubt it.

The biggest "impact" may be lurking in the huge backlog of records that have not been released to Kathy Jordan yet. It sure as heck seems that there is something in those emails that the board does not want released. Why else would staff let her requests languish for over a year and allow so many others to move ahead of her in line?

Others get 1000+ pages released every month. Kathy Jordan is still waiting to get responses to requests she submitted over a year ago for < 30 pages.

Washington DC reporter Jason Cherkis, whose request yielded 29,000 pages, gets his records released in stages. Jordan, a PAUSD parent running for school board, sees her large requests get zip.

Your focus on the $200k cost is about priorities. How about instead of the board adopting a policy that risks upping PAUSD's legal fees when those denied records sue the district to get them, the board re-directs a bit from its multi-million dollar legal budget to honor these requests? To save money, it can better train employees how to be more responsive to girls who are sexually assaulted so they won't sue.

I doubt Palo Alto voters will go for this but the board could ask them how they feel about limiting transparency. When California legislators tried that a few years ago, a firestorm of protest erupted which ended with voters revising the Constitution to make it absolutely clear that the entire records act applies to school districts too. Web Link.

Posted by Board watcher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 24, 2018 at 1:27 pm

Undue burden is an established concept in PRA compliance, judged on a case by case basis vs public interest. The district needs to make this judgment; if the requester disagrees, a judge can rule on it.

I don't know what you think Jordan and her requests have accomplished. I don't see any result except expense. I don't know what she thinks she will find in years of a now former principal's email. But it is hard to see what public interest would be served, given the extensive investigations that have already taken place.

BTW, the Board has nothing to do with how these requests get fulfilled, aside from approving the budget increases, which they've done every time. They talked about PRAs once this year in January (I think) and took no action. It's never been a closed session topic that I saw.

I like Jordan standing up and drawing attention to issues, good for her. The PRA requests on the other hand seem like just an expensive folly or ego trip.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 24, 2018 at 2:44 pm

@Board Watch,
That's just it, your opinion on whether Public Records are valuable or not is beside the point, the law says the public has a right to those records, period. It does not say that some members of the public are more valuable than others. Jordan has a right to those records, whether you think they will bear fruit or not.

I could cite numerous examples of our district turning to legal to make completely false points in an attempt to intimidate people asking for records (whether student or public), and where they clearly believe the askers don't already have enough evidence to sue them into the dirt (so they make it worse by covering up).

Our opinions about what Jordan has accomplished do not change the right of the public to obtain the records. Jordan is a member of the public. The district has been engaging in schemes to avoid providing even comprehensive records to students, especially special needs students who have had problems. They are not a trustworthy arbiter to say any request, especially such a normal request, is above and beyond when they aren't engaging in providing what is normal and expected part of their job in the first place.

Posted by what your mother told you
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 24, 2018 at 3:23 pm

Interesting discussion.

In the OCR Agreement PAUSD signed, Ken Dauber and the rest of the school board OKed paying lawyers to go back 5 years to investigate staff and students who aren't here any more so someone can learn from their mistakes. The district is probably paying its lawyers $500+ an hour for this "look back" and none of what the district sends to the OCR or the OCR sends back is shared with the public. None of it.

So it will be hard for them to say with a straight face that Kathy Jordan's request for some historic documents is without merit.

It's sad.

Kathy Jordan tries to get this information to the public and she gets targeted by the public agency with a public agenda item for what you say is embarking on "an expensive folly or ego trip."

Apart from Board Watcher's sexism (did he say that when Ken Dauber fished with records requests before he became a board member?), no one should deny anyone information about board members and district employees unless it is clear that the law forbids it.

Ken Dauber and Jennifer DiBrienza, as board leadership, choose what they want to trust staff to do and what the board opines on. As Board Watcher says, the records act department has been honoring and denying requests without board help for years.

But now, after Jordan says she's going to be running in the same election Dauber is in, Dauber and DiBrienza put this on the agenda with Jordan's name all over it.

Dirty politics? Let's just say that it's no surprise that what followed were pejorative reader comments like Board Watcher's.

Since Dauber and DiBrienza escalated this, they probably are the ones who want to impose a "first you must prove a future impact" overlay on records requests. It'll cost PAUSD a lot more if they do that because it'll pay its own and the requesters' legal fees.

Remember what your mother told you --- only people who have stuff to hide want to hide stuff.

Posted by Agenda Committee
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Jun 24, 2018 at 8:41 pm

Agenda Committee is a registered user.

The Board is Education has an Agenda setting committee which decides what gets on the Board Meeting Agenda and when.

Membership in this committe is one of the most powerful positions in PAUSD.

Here is an example. From Palo Alto Online’s information request, we learned Committe had been planning to reorganize and promote Holly Wade for months. This showed Administrator’s claim’s Wade had to be promoted because she was the only applicant wete not accurate, they had been planning it for months. The Board told Administrator’s to give Wade the job before they had approved the position. The Board had known of plans and the public did not. The promotion was then presented at the last minute in the last meeting of the school year so parents would not know or protest,. Same situation with this year’s plan to prevent FOIA requests.

Ms. Baten Caswell and then Board Trustee Heidi Emberling ignored attacked parents who requested oversight of Wade’s now near total power via a change of law firm and board liaison, it was because they did what Wade told them to do. The Board had a single information source, Wade.

Even when Dauber obtained all the emails the law firm sent and he reported they were not acting in District or community interest, almost all the other Trustees attacked him and the parents of bullied kids. They voted to give Wade the same lawyer who ran up such high expenses because Wade said she could not do her new job without her own lawyer. None of this turned out well long term.

My fear is Baten Caswell will again be in this secretive committee and really hurt the District like before. I am more afraid of that than her public Board votes.

Are their meetings open to the public? Are minutes published?

Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 25, 2018 at 12:31 am

Samuel L. is a registered user.

Not surprisingly, Agenda Committee is Pres (Dauber), VP (DiBrienza) and Superintendent (Hendricks).

Posted by Agenda Committee
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Jun 25, 2018 at 1:09 am

Agenda Committee is a registered user.

It is usually the Board President and Vice President at the time.

The rotating leadership of this committee was my greatest fear when Ms. Baten Caswell ran for office again. She will soon control this committee again, and there will be more secrets and attacks on families as she listens only to the Administrators who control her information flow.

She fell into this behavior again when she criticized the Chinese community for not volunteering for the school re-naming committee, saying she heard a past Superintendent who doesn't work here anymore used a Chinese language App to recruit members. That is not an effective recruitment mechanism for a sensitive committee. What busy parent in the world fail to respond to a text from a strange man who doesn't speak your language and clearly does not respect your culture enough to speak to you personally? How dare the entire Chinese community fail to step up, as she said. As the leader with many years of Board experience, the responsibility was on Ms. Baten Caswell to ensure all stakeholders were effectively recruited and included in a respectful manner. (I am not Chinese, and I felt the disrespect she had for the Chinese community, just as she expressed for the disabled and the bullied children of PAUSD.)

I do not think Mr. Dauber fears competition in an election from Ms. Jordan. He is the incumbent, and incumbents almost always win. More candidates have entered the race, and Ms. Jordan is less experienced, reducing her chances.

What I felt from the meeting was the strong sense District employees were using this to attack Ms. Jordan, and try to instill fear in any other parent who invokes rights District employees do not like. It also fits with the long standing Board practice of creating an Us Vs. Them environment and blaming parents and kids when there is a situation they don't like, instead of examining employee statements to see if a problem is actually true, and then using leadership to solve it.

I wonder if this proposal was even legal. I am surprised Dauber let this on the Agenda. He may have had no choice. He may be required to accept staff demands for Agenda items. He may have been outvoted 2 to 1. Or staff could have pressured him so much he decided to allow them to put it on the Agenda and let them look silly to the public so they would stop demanding it.

Posted by buck stops with Dauber
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 25, 2018 at 7:34 am

Agenda Committee,

You may be right that PAUSD staff is leaning on the board to reject Jordan's document requests.

Last August, Kathy Jordan submitted a request for the Paly principal's secretary's communications. There is no general records exception for secretaries' emails, yet, over 11 months, NOTHING, NOT A PAGE, has been provided to Jordan.

The secretary objected to her emails being shared at Tuesday's meeting. Making the same points as Board Watcher, this public employee also spoke disparagingly about the records requester and told the board that honoring her request is "irresponsible," "shameful" and "does not support any of our district goals."

Message to Paly staff (again): the district's goals include following the law and not maligning parents when arguing that the law does not apply to you.

Given her strong language and objections, the subtext she left the public with is clear: the secretary's emails have intentionally been kept from Jordan going on a year now because something quite unsettling is contained in them.

The optics for Board President Ken Dauber on this just keeps getting worse.

In addition to this completely avoidable mounting legal problem for the district under Dauber's watch, Dauber decides to put an ANTI-disclosure "fix" on the board's agenda rather than a "fix" that would have staff tighten up compliance.

Dauber can say the lawyers, staff, or Superintendent Hendricks "made me do it" if he wants but the buck stops with him as Board President.

Hopefully the new Superintendent will own this and get Kathy Jordan the records she's been waiting for.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 25, 2018 at 9:12 am

Kathy Jordan,
There are several non-profit organizations with lawyers that will help you get your records requests filled, even specific to California. The district is asking you to use a lawyer by answering your ordinary request with their lawyers.

Posted by Showing the need
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 25, 2018 at 9:54 am

Showing the need is a registered user.

Listening to Carolyn Benfield, the Paly principal's admin, at the board meeting was pretty enlightening. She was admonishing the fact that "one community member" had most of the records request. She then went on to say how unfair it was and how it was a waste of resources, all an expected tactic instead of trying to work with the public to be transparent.

But then she said something that showed why the requests are being made and the need to fulfill them. She said that it is, "unclear what we're in pursuit of with these requests other than showing just how terrible everyone is here" As someone who has been at Paly for many years and has been privy to many difficult topics of conversation as the principal's admin, she is probably keenly aware of how "terrible" some of those people really are/have been.

Maybe the focus should be on cleaning up their own act so that there isn't a need to uncover the untold truths that lie under the protection of the school system.

Posted by note to Kathy Jordan
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2018 at 11:26 am

Kathy Jordan,

If you are reading this, consider putting in two more requests. One for records on this proposal to deny large records requests to see whose idea denying your requests was and another one for the lawyer's advice on that person's proposal.

Maybe PAUSD will turn it around quickly since it is recent and probably doesn't have students' names in it.

If PAUSD squawks about giving you the lawyer's letter, ask a lawyer if the district lost its right to keep it private when it published the legal advice that it got:

"California courts have begun to apply this limitation in the context of the burden placed on agencies responding to broad requests for records.

For example, where an agency indicated it would take several full workweeks for an employee to review and disclose the requested records, the court noted that the CPRA may not require disclosure given the fiscal and workload burden being imposed upon the agency by the request. (Fredericks v. Superior Court (2015) 233 Cal.App.4th 209.)

In another case, a court explained that while an agency is obliged to disclose public records that can be located with reasonable effort and it cannot be subjected to a 'limitless' obligation. (Bertoli v. City of Sebastopol (2015) 233 Cal.App.4th 353.) Specifically, the court explained that expense or inconvenience to an agency should be reviewed when determining if disclosure of otherwise responsive public records may be excused as overly burdensome under Government Code section 6255." Web Link

Posted by odd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2018 at 12:50 pm

Dauber and DiBrienza didn't bring this proposal to the Board Policy Review Committee to give it the normal vetting by the public and staff first.

Not only did they skip this step to rush it to the full board before it left for the summer, imposing a page limit wasn't on that committee's "to do" list and wasn't a change that Dauber and DiBrienza discussed when that committee took up revising PAUSD's public records rules last month.

Web Link

Web Link

Posted by Trumsputin
a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2018 at 3:08 pm

Yeah ... why don't we get rid of this burdensome democracy while we are at it ... it is so 'unduly burdensome' And journalists and the news media ... so ... burdensome. ;-)

The private sector could do things so much better, especially the very rich and powerful super-secret private sector that doesn't need any oversight. Get rid of that burdensome public sector, what do we need that for anyway?

Posted by Agenda Committee
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Jun 26, 2018 at 9:09 pm

Agenda Committee is a registered user.

The proposed letter in the article's link above is such poor communications, it will confound anyone trying to read it. Who drafted this letter? Administrator? Their attorney? Not only is it guaranteed to create bad feelings, it borders on insulting the recipient, who is a District parent, stakeholder or taxpayer.
Web Link

The tone is dismissive, to show the requester they need to go away because they are dealing with endless bureaucracy.

The beginning is horrible, "I write on behalf of the Palo Alto Unified School District". NO, YOU write writing on behalf of YOU. Your name is on the letter, you are responsible for every word in it, no matter who wrote it or blindly sent it out as a form letter.

It starts early on with what is close to an attack on the requester, implying they are asking for something that is "limitless", and that they are thus unreasonable.

Instead of telling the writer its purpose straight out, the letter launches into a discussion of California courts and how other agencies responding to records requests. Dear letter writer, What is your point?
If your point is that you do not want to fulfill this request, so just say so.
Then there is a court citation, guaranteed to tell the reader this is so major, you had to get the law on your side, so don't even try to ask for help.

Next it tells the reader how wonderful the District is, with "The District seeks to provide complete responses to CPRA requests where possible." (Just not for this recipient.)

It continues with an assumption and criticism of the requester, implying they made an over broad request - which is based on the number of pages. If there is lots of white space and repeated pages in e-mail threads, too bad. It's copy, not content, that matters.

Then comes the real kick in the teeth to the poor requester:
"Overly broad requests, however, impose financial and other burdens on the District and inhibit it from responding to CPRA requests from other requesters in a timely manner."

WOW! What a horrible person you are writing to! Not only did they make an "overly broad request", (as determined by the District employee sending the form letter, who may have no knowledge of the subject matter). It also accuse them of also imposing a financial burden on the whole District.
What is more, it also implies this horrible person is hurting other families because their request "inhibits" you from responding to other requester whom, it is implied, really need the information and not you.
All that, just from requesting a document.

And then: "Ultimately, where requests are unduly burdensome, the District does not have the resources, and is not required, to respond to such requests."
Finally! You get to your point.
Which is to say:
We don't want to do it.
And we don't have to.
Wasted all your time reading this letter to say that.
Ha Ha Ha.

Strangely, the letter then continues with a vague description, about District procedures filling requests which it does not have to fill:
"In an effort to comply with the CPRA, minimize the burden on the District, and provide timely responses to all requesters making CPRA requests, the District will prioritize these requests,..."
Nice to know. How diligent, but what does this have to do with my reqeust, asks the reader?
Are you asking a question of your neighborhood school District, or seeking an Act of Congress?

"Given this approach, the District provides the following update regarding your outstanding
request: [Choose applicable response]..."
Uhm. Okay. So, I guess the purpose of your letter is to send them a check off form.

Check Mark 1
"- The District will determine the number of responsive pages/records (if any) for the
following requests and notify you following this determination:"
Didn't the District determine do that before it wrote this letter?
What do they mean by "number of pages (if any)." What if it is 0? Didn't you check that yet?

Check Mark 2
"- The District asks that you focus/narrow the scope of the following Tickets:
Absent focusing/narrowing, the public’s interest in nondisclosure clearly outweighs
the public’s interest in further processing these requests. (Gov. Code, § 6255, subd.
Do you want the reader to focus/narrow the scope..."? Is that what you are really asking?
Or, did you want to tell the requester they are unfocused?
Or are you saying the requester must submit a smaller request, or you will ignore it? Why didn't you say that in the first place?

You continue with "Absent focusing/narrowing, the public’s interest in nondisclosure clearly outweighs the public’s interest in further processing these requests. (Gov. Code, § 6255, subd.(a).)"
What you are saying is - We will not respond to the request. Is that your point?
What if the requester does not know how to narrow the request?
What if the reader does narrow it, but you again decide, in your opinion, it is too broad?
It sounds like you are are saying you decided if the requester doesn't do something, which it is not clear you are requiring them to do, that there will be 'no public interest' in responding to the request? How do you do that? A judge should do that. What we've got here is your opinion.

And what about Check Mark 1 and Check Mark 3? They seem to contradict your Check Mark 2. Or are you doing those?

Check Mark 3
"- The District will continue to process the following requests, one at a time, in the order
they were received:"
Thank you for telling the reader you work one at a time, in order. Such diligence.
But didn't you just say you wouldn't process this request, or you wouldn't process it if you don't like the way the reader tries to focus it?
What 'following requests' are you processing 'one at a time'? The one you just punted in this letter? A response sent in response to Check Mark 2, which you may or may not decide is still too unfocused?
Or are you saying you saying you are processing someone else's more important, less burdensome 'following request?'

The closing line says it all:

"Please contact me if you have any questions."

Great to know. Because anyone reading this is likely to have questions.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 30, 2018 at 8:47 am

@Agenda Committee, the link does not work. I would like to see the letter. Kathy Jordan, can you tell us if the letter arrived at the end of the day on Friday or just before a holiday, signed receipt?

“the District does not have the resources,” HaHa. They justified hiring a communications person to do the records requests, how is this even a legitimate statement, much less in a district that can pay its administrators $750/month car allowance, and higher salaries by a lot that the governor of the whole state?

What they hope to do in asking for the narrowing of an already reasonable request, is to get cover for selectively not providing the records they know will show they did something wrong. Hilariously, they seem to think this prevents lawsuits. (I can speak from personal experience of having more than enough proof already to sue them into the dirt and having to sit on my hands NOT to sue them over the idiotic ways their CYA makes things worse. They do unnecessary things that impede educational needs in order to do things that they only think are CYA but are actually in reasing their exposure. Putty in the hands of district legal and their boat payments. Maybe now that Young and Carrillo are gone, things will get better, but some of their foot soldiers remain in the district office.)

Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 30, 2018 at 11:00 am

Samuel L. is a registered user.

Try this link for the letter. The letter, as far as I know, has not been sent out as the board has not approved the policy.

Web Link

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