113 Keeping Community Survey Data Under Wraps

Administration continues to defend denial of FOIA requests for information.

Township High School District 113 has to a survey released in March that measured community interest and opinion in capital improvements to Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools.

, the District reached out to members of the community to seek input and guidance before developing a new plan.

Patch and at least three others made requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the raw data used to create the marketing committee's report on the survey. All were denied. Patch made its request May 7 and the District denied it May 14.

“A majority of the members on both the market research team and the leadership team decided that the raw data you requested should not be released,” District 113 Superintendent George Fornero wrote in a letter to Patch after the request was denied.

At least one member of the leadership team, because of the unwillingness of the administration and District 113 Board of Education to release the data.

Marci Cohen, the head of marketing committee and the author of the report, declined to discuss it with Patch this week.

Members of the community who were on opposite sides of the question a year ago both want the raw data released. They believe the Board and administration are not being sufficiently transparent after conducting the survey.

“The transparency of government is important,” Highland Park resident Lane Young said. Young voted in favor of the referendum. “There is lots of good data, which would be useful to understand what the community was feeling in that snapshot of time.”

Young was one of the people who filed a FOIA request for the information.

Fornero does not believe the release of the data is necessary and does not think the District has a legal responsibility to disclose it.

“It was the opinion of the community members on the Market Research Committee that releasing the data is not a common professional practice,” Fornero wrote. “Furthermore, the requested data is exempt from FOIA because it is predecisional material.”

Another community member, Frank Pirri of Deerfield, the head of Education First, has the same thirst for the raw data as Young. Education First was the major group campaigning against the referendum last year. He did not file a FOIA request.

“The community is entitled to know the responses to the questions,” Pirri said. “If you want community input you should share the information.”

Richard H Heineman Jr May 19, 2012 at 01:43 PM
More from the report Page 10: Open to a New Plan •The community is open to a new plan for improving the District 113 schools, and open to considering a referendum that would request funds for these improvements −73% of No Voters agree “I decided to wait for a better plan” −90% of all voters are undecided (55%) or are leaning in favor of approving (35%) a potential second referendum It seems that the primary concern with the old process was that the planning process was not good and that we needed a better plan. This is the main driver for the massive amount of time and resources that are now being devoted to the new long range plan. There have been over 100 formal study group meetings and many informal work sessions. Several thousand hours of work have provided by community members many of whom have specific expertise in the subject areas. For example the 1914/PE/Athletics committee has many architects and other experts on it. In many ways though, we are just getting started. On May 21 2012 the board will hire a new architect firm and it will be at least half a year of more work before their plan is ready for the next step. The community will be involved every step along the way.
Bringin' Down Briarwood May 19, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Thank you for clarifying, Richard and simplifying some of the details. But I'm sure more than 100 focus groups and more than 50 participants still won't satisfy some of the big mouths. I don't envy your position, but I appreciate all your work ... and patience.
Bringin' Down Briarwood May 19, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Nahhhhhh, you mean some of the people protesting the direction don't know what they're talking about!??!? IMPOSSIBLE!! Next thing you're going to tell me is that many people called for a new process and strong community involvement. Then, when they wwere invite to participate, they didn't show up and worked hard to discredit that process. Oh, wait ...
Average Joe May 20, 2012 at 12:07 AM
Since the planning process has been improved with more community involvement through study groups, which include subject matter experts, why was the survey conducted at all? Given that some members of these committees have said in this forum they made decisions without having seen the survey results, it would seem the survey was an unnecessary component of the new planning process.
Richard H Heineman Jr May 20, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Please review this document. This is one of the uses. http://www.dist113.org/communityaction/Market%20Research%20Minutes/D113%20Study%20Group%20Recos%20with%20Community%20Perspective%204-26-12.pdf We also plan to use the panel to get additional information as required.


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