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Voices: CORAgate needs no investigation

Dougco schools parent Beth Kerr says CORAgate needs no further investigation based upon what she’s uncovered about the email flap.

CORAgate.

Such an interesting word, it’s so small and yet has captured the attention of many. On July 3, Parent Led Reform submitted a Colorado Open Records Act request to the Douglas County School District, as follows:

All documents in your possession since October 1, 2010 regarding communication by the following: (prefer delivery electronically or on disc or drive): (Names removed, my name was listed). As used by me in this request, the term “documents” specifically includes all materials, notes, correspondence, calendar entries, telephone logs, electronic mail documents (including electronic mail located in a program “in folder”, “sent” folder, “draft” folder, “out” folder, and “deleted” folder), and any public record (as defined by C.R.S. 24-72-202(6)) in your possession or under your control.

It is my understanding that the district fulfilled the paperless request after three weeks of pulling data and redacting data from 25,000-plus emails.

Parent Led Reform Executive Director Karin Piper requested at the Sept. 5 school board meeting that the board investigate those listed in the records. She also posted a press release stating, “PLR is now calling for DCSD (the district) to investigate which unauthorized parties are currently abusing the district email system and hold such individuals and groups accountable for their actions.”

During my meeting on Sept. 25 with district legal counsel Rob Ross, IT Director Dwight Humphrey and board member Kevin Larsen, I asked if I was in fact being investigated. I was told, “No.”

Board member Justin Williams made the following statement in a Voices commentary on Oct. 5:

“I can assure the readers that our school district is investigating the matter.”

Due to his statement, I emailed the Douglas County board members on Oct. 11 asking if I was being investigated. Though I did not receive a response from any board member, I did receive the following via email from Ross:

“As we discussed in our meeting a few weeks ago with Director Larsen and Dwight Humphrey and in subsequent emails, the district did not “investigate” any individual outside the district, including you, regarding the allegation made by PLR.”

Therefore, I must ask how can board member Williams assure readers that the district is investigating the matter?

I would like to present a few items that may be of interest to readers about CORAgate. In the PLR press release, “groups” are mentioned but PLR only listed one group in their CORA request. The group in the request, which I am not a member of, formed in April 2012; therefore, it could not have sent any political propaganda during the November 2011 election as claimed by PLR.

Upon reviewing my emails from CORAgate, I quickly realized that the emails included in the results were but a small subset of the emails that should have been included. To confirm my suspicion, I printed all January 2012 emails sent from my email to anyone with a district email address. Imagine stack A on your left, half an inch thick, representing the email results from the CORA request. Then imagine stack B on your right, the same height, representing only my January 2012 emails which are not included in stack A.

Strange, how could the CORA request have been deemed fulfilled, when it should have provided all emails for 22 months, yet does not contain the emails that I had sent in January? This raises the question of the usefulness of these requests if results cannot be guaranteed accurate.

At the Dougco school board meeting Sept. 18, I asked if PLR was charged for the CORA request which cost the district three weeks of personnel hours to fulfill. “No” was the answer but the response was then tied, by board President John Carson, to the fact that the district had not charged the ACLU for a CORA request that cost the district $20,000.

Stop right there.

The board of education and district decided not to charge $20,000 when they could have. Dare I say “shame on them”? What a waste of district resources and mismanagement of district funds for not charging that amount. I would say that does not show sound fiduciary responsibility on the part of the board of education or the district.

As always, how is this benefiting the students?

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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