EdMedia Commons Archive

Seeking school e-mails for stories

Over the past month or so I found myself covering a school district dispute in which the district put its superintendent on paid administrative leave and hired its former superintendent - who a few years ago many of the board members despised – as interim superintendent.

While school board members will answer some basics, they are mum on many of the details as lawyers begin getting involved and telling them to shut up. So I had sent off an FOIA request for emails and ended up using the emails to recreate the chain of events leading up to the board’s action.

This is what I found. The school district had no problem – other than the time it took to sort through thousands of emails – to get me the emails I requested that had been sent to or from the superintendent or treasurer. I also hit a homerun when an “anonymous” resident (the superintendent’s dad picked them up) put in his own request for emails I didn’t think of requesting. The treasurer copied them all for me too.

But as far as emails from school board members I got zilch. I had one member keep telling me he was going to search through emails, but none gave me any other than one letter sent to the board.

I work at a small paper so this was a first for us. I am interested in hearing others’ experiences. Did you get the emails you expected? What problems did you face? How did you overcome them?

This post originally appeared on EWA’s now-defunct online community, EdMedia Commons. Old content from EMC will appear in the Ed Beat archives.