School district makes good call by providing cell phone numbers
Hernando TodayThe issue: Keeping principals' cell phone numbers secret. Our opinion: After some prodding, school district officials make them public.
Published: May 29, 2010
Published: May 29, 2010
If taxpayers pay for cell phones for school district principals, their phone numbers should be made available to the public.
On Tuesday, that finally happened.
Prior to that, principals' cell phone numbers were kept secret unless the principal gave it out.
Hernando Today reporter Jeff Schmucker thought it a violation of the state's open records law to keep administrative cell phone numbers from the public's view. Like a lot of parents who complained to Hernando Today in the past, he'd often had difficulties contacting principals at their office phone numbers. He thought if he had their cell phone numbers, it would be easier to reach them.
Hernando Today's initial request was turned down because the district's safety coordinator said the cell phones are part of the school district's emergency plan and couldn't be released under a security exemption in the state's open records law.
Hogwash was the first word that came to mind.
While the school district would provide the phone bills, the names and phone numbers of the administrators were blacked out. It should be noted the school district has a tight policy on the personal use of its cell phones. Those using the phones for personal use are charged 40 cents a minute, which would almost guarantee that administrators have to carry personal cell phone as well as their district-issued ones.
Also, to the credit of newly install Superintendent Brian Blavatt, he thought the phone numbers should be made available to the public. He readily gave his district cell phone number to reporters when he first came on board. He wanted the school district's attorney to research the matter.
Paul Carland II, general counsel for the district, told Hernando Today that he couldn't find where the school board approved a security plan that included cell phones, which is required.
Also, Barbara Petersen, president of the Florida First Amendment foundation basically called the security exemption "total baloney." She said the exemption only applies to the physical security of a facility - not the cell phone number of a school principal. School districts can't enact policy that's more restrictive to open records, she noted.
Blavatt should be recognized for wanting to err on the side of openness. Transparency and administrator availability have notably improved since he came on board in April.
This is the latest example of improved leadership in the district, and we're confident patrons - as well as the media - appreciate it.