Mystery Education Theater 3000

Month: October 2008

A Simple Question of Public Access

There are three documents that are associated with any school board meeting, the agenda, the packet, and the approved minutes. Before Superintendent Harter came to WCCUSD, all three were available as regular PDFs. Now none of them are available as regular PDFs. Now all three are printed out, scanned, and then PDFed as a sequence of page images. The packet is particularly a joke because it’s so huge, yet utterly useless. I actually started having the packet mailed to me out of frustration. This is particularly stupid for the agenda and minutes…or is it? One effect of this is that all the more recent proceedings of the board are off the Web radar (Google, etc.). Who knows?

I’ve been complaining about this off-and-on for at least a year. Now, I’m sending one last email before I pursue this outside of the district. Here it is addressed to Paul Ehara, copied to Dr. Harter:

I know I’ve been bringing this up for quite awhile, but it never seems
to be resolved. I’m referring to the mostly useless format of the PDFs
for the School Board agenda, minutes, and packets — printing them out,
scanning them as images, and converting the page “pictures” to PDFs that
are then made available to the public on the Web site. This type of PDF
is unnecessarily large, much harder to read through, and, most
importantly, non-searchable inside the file or through Web search
engines (including through the District Web site’s own search). I can
see some small reason for this, maybe, in the case of the packets
because of the wide variety of source documents for each packet
(although it was done before), but the agenda and minutes come from one
Word file each. Other offices in the district seem capable of creating
regular searchable direct PDFs. Why shouldn’t the most important
documents in the District be as accessible as possible?

Please start posting useable direct PDFs and work your way back to convert the previous minutes and agendas.

Charley Cowens

P.S. There are now even free online PDF conversion services
(<https://www.pdfonline.com/convert_pdf.asp>, <http://www.zamzar.com/>,
etc.), so you don’t even need PDF software on your desktop.

Information on WCCUSD 2008 Campaign Expenditures

There is some excellent analysis by Anton Jungherr of the October 6 campaign filings by the WCCUSD candidates. Go over to wccusdreform blog entry to see this.

"If They Don’t Both Win, We All Lose"

I thought this was a good quote from someone about the WCCUSD election, so I’m using it as the title for this posting.

I sent in my letter to the editor on Monday, but given my experience with the Contra Costa Times it’s not likely to be published. Here it is for what it’s worth:

LETTER TO EDITOR: Vote for Medrano and Thurmond for WCCUSD School Board

I hope voters in the West Contra Costa Unified School District do the
right thing and cast their votes for both Antonio Medrano and Tony
Thurmond to serve on the school board.

Compared to the other two candidates, Mr. Medrano and Mr. Thurmond have
the right kind of steady even temperament and open mindedness to help
guide our district through the difficult challenges ahead. Real positive
change requires the ability to build cooperation among a wide variety of
different groups inside West Contra Costa, an ability that Mr. Medrano
and Mr. Thurmond possess far more than their opponents. In the face of a
massive invasion of outside special-interest money (yet again) to
purchase the election of construction-expenditure-friendly “mavericks”
on the school board, we must all push back in this election to
strengthen our district in its capacity to educate all of our kids
within budget constraints and to restore integrity to the district as a
public body.

So, for the best school board, instead of the best school board money
can buy, please vote Medrano and Thurmond for WCCUSD School Board on
November 4th.

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