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.

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.