--2 School Board: Were we too transparent?
       
Oct. 30, 2014

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Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez, left, SFPS Board President Barbara Gudwin and Board Vice President Glenn Wikle listen to discussion on a motion to “audit” student achievement data Gutierrez presented to the board.
Wren Abbott

School Board: Were we too transparent?

July 19, 2011, 11:45 am
By Wren Abbot

 The Santa Fe Public School Board of Education is set to consider whether it erred in making public a report on the SFPS superintendent that has become the subject of controversy.

BoE Vice President Glenn Wikle says an action item on the agenda for tonight's BoE meeting relates to questions that have come up regarding Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez' report from earlier this year. The report was generated the same day the previous BoE voted to extend Gutierrez' contract, and presented student achievement data in a misleading format—to put it politely. Since controversy erupted around the report, SFPS counsel Tony Ortiz has questioned repeatedly whether it should have been a public document in the first place, Wikle says. 

"[Ortiz] has made the statement that he feels perhaps it should have been confidential information," Wikle says. "He's made [that statement] twice—it might have been in executive session. I'm not sure, but I have no problem in bringing that particular point out, because it's important to me—it's about transparency."

Wikle says he believes the report was correctly considered a public document, as it was handed out at a BoE retreat which was an open meeting. The question is pertinent not only because of the questions that have been raised about the achievement numbers, but because Gutierrez is currently being evaluated by the board again. Part of why questions are swirling around the role of that report in Gutierrez' contract extension is because her February evaluation was done in a closed session, and thus remains mysterious to all but the previous board members.

Sarah Welsh, Executive Director of New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, says the report "is clearly a public document."

"It's true that the government can withhold 'matters of opinion in personnel files,' but that clearly does not apply to the page of the report which appears on sfreporter.com," Welsh writes SFR in an email. "That page does not contain any opinions about any employee's job performance. (It does not even contain any employee's name.) Instead, it is exactly the kind of document which would allow the public to evaluate, in the words of an old state Supreme Court decision, 'whether those who have been entrusted with the affairs of government are honestly, faithfully and competently performing their function as public servants.' These kinds of documents are why we have an Inspection of Public Records Act."

Wikle says there's an obvious reason why Gutierrez might wish the report had been deemed confidential and never released.

"Maybe the superintendent wouldn't want to make it public because it was kind of sloppy, and especially the achievement numbers weren't documented as to what they were supposed to be," Wikle says.

The regular session of the BoE meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30 tonight (Tuesday, July 19) at 610 Alta Vista Street.

 

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