Letter to the Editor: I believe that the citizens of Lake Forest High School District 115 should be aware of the District’s response to “Freedom of Information Act” (FOIA) requests I sent to the District on May 26 and 27. For context, the Illinois FOIA begins with this statement: “Pursuant to the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of government, it is declared to be the public policy of the State of Illinois that all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts and policies of those who represent them as public officials and public employees consistent with the terms of this Act.” The District does not dispute that it is subject to this law.
It has been widely reported that Ms. Chala Holland is the superintendent’s preferred candidate for principal, and that soon after her name became known, her website and some or all of her other Internet presence was scrubbed. Among other things, my FOIA requests asked the District to provide me with documents, including emails, indicating any involvement by District personnel in the process of scrubbing any candidate’s Internet presence. On June 2, I spoke with the District’s FOIA Officer. I understood him to say that he had an inch of printed emails in front of him and was working on responding to my FOIA requests. On June 4, he informed me that he had been reviewing emails, potentially among other documents, for disclosure and it was taking time because email replies often repeat prior emails in the chain. I expected to receive these emails by June 5, but the District abruptly changed course and declined to provide any emails prior to the June 9 board meeting. It provided no explanation.
The People are entitled to know whether District employees were involved in scrubbing Ms. Holland’s Internet presence, because their involvement would, at minimum, raise serious questions about the District’s commitment to openness and disclosure. I hope that the People will demand that the District provide the requested emails before the June 9 meeting or postpone consideration of Ms. Holland’s candidacy until after the emails are disclosed.
Second, my FOIA requests seek a grand total of 25 partially redacted, or blacked-out, candidate resumes taken from the finalist pool or randomly drawn from the applicant pool. The request asks the District to redact all personal identifying information from the resumes, including for example name, contact information, names of employers and names of schools attended. These redactions would take one person less than 2 hours to complete and would make it impossible for people reviewing the resumes to tell which state the candidate was from, much less the candidate’s name or current employer. This information would allow the People to compare Ms. Holland’s or any other candidate’s background with the candidate pool, but the District is, once again, refusing to provide this information before the June 9 board meeting.
The Illinois FOIA recognizes that “full and complete” disclosure of information by public entities like the District is “fundamental” to “the American constitutional form of government.” The District’s principal selection process has been unduly secretive, and the People should demand openness.
This Letter to the Editor is from Dale Miller of
Lake Forest. Letters to the Editor represent the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of Daily North Shore.