Where we stand on our open records requests with the Shawnee Mission School District

first_imgDeb Zila has represented the SM South area on the Shawnee Mission Board of Education since 2007. CBIZ, a district contractor, hired her daughter for an on-site job with the district last year.We’ve gotten a handful of questions from readers about the status of the Kansas Open Records Act requests we submitted last month seeking communications regarding the hiring of Board of Education member Deb Zila’s daughter Mallory for an in-district job with CBIZ, the district’s health insurance broker.As a reminder, those requests sought the following:All electronic mail records on district administration servers referencing Mallory Zila sent or received between April 1, 2016 and August 30, 2016All electronic mail correspondence between Deb Zila and Jim Hinson from Jan. 1, 2016 to Dec. 31, 2016Copies of all electronic mail correspondence sent or received by Deb Zila between the dates Feb. 1, 2016 and Aug. 15, 2016 that include the word “Mallory”Copies of all text messages sent between Jim Hinson and Deb Zila from 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 7 through noon Monday, March 13.Copies of all electronic mail correspondence sent by members of the Board of Education between 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, March 7 and 11:30 a.m. Monday, March 13.As we wrote last month, pursuant to Kansas law, the district requested pre-payment before proceeding with efforts to pull the email records for the requests above. Before we decided whether or not to pay the fees of more than $1,000, we wanted to know more about the district’s policies on which channels are used for correspondence regarding district business, and what kinds of electronic mail records the district keeps on its servers and for how long.We learned that:1.) There are no laws that compel a school district to keep correspondence on file for any specific amount of time. “There are no state or federal laws that apply directly to school districts that dictate which email or other communications we save,” wrote a district spokesperson. “In accordance with the Kansas general records retention schedule – which is not applicable to school districts – but which we use as a guideline (K.S.A. 45-404(b)) – any email or correspondence reflecting decisions regarding Board policy should be and are preserved.”2.) There is no written policy in effect mandating that board members and administrators use their official district email accounts to conduct district business.Because an administrator’s personal email account would not be searchable without that person’s consent and there is no guarantee that anyone would preserve all correspondence on a personal account, we had no way to know whether the documents we would receive through the open records act requests would provide a full account of the correspondence we sought.We also had questions about whether the time estimates the district provided for staff time needed to comply with the requests were reasonable. To address those concerns, we asked whether we would be permitted to have an observer on site while the work to pull the emails was under way to confirm that it would take as long as the estimates suggested. We were told that “due to confidentiality/privacy concerns” the district could not grant that request.Given the above, we chose only to make a pre-payment for the request that sought the board of education’s emails in the week following our publication of the story on Mallory Zila’s hiring. The district has informed us it will deliver those records by April 28.In an unrelated matter, we also put in a KORA request seeking administrator contracts for the current school year and for the final year of Superintendent Gene Johnson’s tenure with the district. The district initially indicated it would take eight hours to pull those files and that they would charge us $10 an hour for the work. We received word a few days after making the pre-payment for the documents that it had taken just three hours, and the district cut the price by $50. We’re currently analyzing those documents, and will be publishing a story on what we find in the coming days.last_img

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