Wednesday, November 14, 2012

School District gets A- for transparency

New grade follows protest by communications director


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Heather Crocker

The Blaine County School District started out with a B- for transparency, but by late Monday afternoon Communications Director Heather Crocker had convinced the Sunshine Review that the district deserved a better grade.

Officially now, the transparency grade for the district is an A-.

The district was one of only three school districts in Idaho, out of 87 evaluated, to receive an A grade. The others were the Boise School District with an A+ and the Caldwell School District with an A-.

According to the Sunshine Review, a nonprofit government watchdog organization headquartered in Alexandria, Va., the average score for transparency for Idaho school districts was a C.

The Sunshine Review bases its evaluations and grading on the availability of information on a governmental entity’s website. Specifically, school district grades are based upon the availability of information on taxes, budgets, meetings, elected officials, administrative officials, contracts, audits, public records, academics and background checks.

In its original 2012 report released last week, the Sunshine Review gave the Blaine County School District a B- because the organization stated that the district did not have information on contracts, audits and public records on its website.

Asked to comment on the lower grade, Crocker advised the Idaho Mountain Express on Monday that contract, audit and public records information is indeed available on the district website and also sent an email to Kristin McMurray, Sunshine Review managing editor, advising her of the same.

Crocker pointed out that contracts and audits are available for public review on the finance page of the district website and that public records can be accessed on the Board of Trustees page.

Crocker received her response from McMurray later Monday, advising her that the grade had been changed to an A-.

“If you’d like to receive a perfect A+ website transparency grade, we would need you to have clearer information on how to file a public records request on the site instead of just the clerk’s contact information,” McMurray wrote.

In its evaluation, the School District was also criticized because the district website “appears to have a non-working search function.”

The district received high marks from the Sunshine Review for listing administration officials and providing their contact information, for listing school board members and providing bios and contact information and for publicizing meetings and providing meeting webcasts.

The district was also applauded for providing academic performance reports, financial and tax revenue information, audits and contracts and for explaining how criminal background checks are part of the hiring process.

 

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com

 




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