Illinois School District 300 Leads the Way for Bloggers

A school district that has had bad publicity for discussions that its board held behind closed doors is now poised to lead the way in treating bloggers like print and electronic reporters.

Northwest Herald reporter David Fitzgerald reporter tipped me off in an interview on Monday afternoon.

Some of those commenting under his Tuesday article were less than kind about McHenry County Blog’s having been at least part of the inspiration for the rule change.

I can only remember filing one or two Freedom of Information requests with District 300, so I asked District Communications Supervisor Allison Smith if there were any other bloggers who had filed FOI requests.

Smith wrote me back, “…no one has filed FOIAs with D300 but you that I KNOW is a blogger.”

Fitzgerald wrote that the proposal

got enthusiastic approval from board President Joe Stevens and member Anne Miller.

The reporter concluded,

The changes would put the district in the vanguard of Web-based information distribution among the state’s school districts.

The draft proposal, which was discussed by the board’s Education Policy Committee, points out the following information is already on the district web site:

  • Board meeting packets
  • Bills payable listings
  • Press releases
  • Staff Presentations to the school board
  • Projection of staffing needs, enrollment, etc.
  • Slideshows of construction projects
  • Faculty / staff directory

Compare that to what your school district posts online and I’ll bet District 300 provides more information.

Now, District 300’s administration is proposing to post all information released as a result of Freedom of Information requests, certainly not required by law.

Providing electronic copies would make District 300 “an Illinois leader in FOIA ‘customer service’,” the memo being considered says. It would also save money for those making the FOI requests, not to mention the trip to pick up the documents. Governments charge for making paper copies in FOIA requests.

Another benefit mentioned is that it would prevent “misinformation in the community on what information was/was not provided in response to a FOIA request.”

And the part about blogs, accurately labeled “a peripheral issue.”

Please consider what you would like the Board’s stand to be about blogs, specifically in terms of bloggers’ requests to be afforded the rights of the media in areas of

  • Waiving FOIA copy fees
  • Notifying the blogger of public meetings
  • Conveyance of press releases,

the latter two being “beyond their already being posted online.”

I do remember asking to be emailed copies of District 300 press releases.

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