November 18, 2021WOLFEBORO — In a 5-1 decision, with one abstention, the Governor Wentworth Regional School District (GWRSD) Board voted on Nov. 1 to post Right to Know requests to its website (GWRSD.org). The move followed a report from Superintendent Kathy Cuddy Egbert of eleven requests received since the end of the last school year.
Some of the requests have been quite extensive, she said, "one of them involving thousands of electronic pages of curriculum and 23 boxes of curriculum documents and materials. Others have involved invoices, HVAC plans, architectural drawings, maintenance records, phone records and months of email correspondence." Their extensive nature has involved several people in the district, including teachers, the curriculum director, the business director, the IT person, and the superintendent and her assistant, amounting to around 40 to 50 hours of labor, according to Cuddy-Egbert.
In addition, attorneys fees have mounted as the documents have to be reviewed for the redaction of information that would violate the privacy of individual employees, parents, and children.
There is more accounting to come, she said, but so far "it may be around $11,000 - $15,000 for what has been requested so far." But it is not just about the cost, it also is about the fact that people are being taken away from their jobs running the district. "I do not want the daily operation of the school district to suffer," she stated.
To add insult to injury, the person who ordered the most extensive tranche of materials, available since Oct. 18, did not come in to examine them within the timeframe. Teachers needed their materials back. They were returned. And then the individual put in the same request after business hours on Nov. 1.
In light of the number of requests that continue to come in, Cuddy-Egbert introduced the idea of having a private company manage them. Discussion on whether they should be posted on the website followed. Wolfeboro's Charlene Seibel felt they should be part of the record, but New Durham member Stefanie King spoke for protecting requestors' privacy and against such a move, citing it might "attract negative consequences" and "legitimate requestors might be hesitant."
"I respectfully disagree," countered Effingham board member Jim Pittman. "It imposes a burden on the school system. It's difficult to know the motives. Anonymity does not do favors to any of us."
Seibel reminded the board that State Representative Glenn Cordelli at a previous board meeting, "called into question the transparency of this district...we had to get him to understand [the information he said was lacking was on the Web site." She felt it was an appropriate place for the information.
The majority agreed.