I’ve been getting a lot of apologies from Minneapolis Public Schools folks these days. After waiting for months for my data request about how contracts are awarded, I finally got the last group of data sent to me on June 23. There were still a few things missing – for example a copy of the actual contract awarded to Don Allen. (I received his proposal and an unsigned contract that he apparently drew up, but no official contract.)
Prior to receiving the last batch of data — which contained mostly emails referring to attachments, but sans attachments — I decided to call a few school members to see if they could be of aid. I spoke to board members Jill Davis and Alberto Monserrate, both to quote in my article and to ask if they could be of assistance in getting the rest of the data I requested. They were both surprised that I hadn’t yet received it.
“It shouldn’t have taken this long,” Monserrate said. As a reporter, he said he has had similar experiences, and believes MPS should be better about getting back to reporters.
When I spoke to Jill Davis, she was also apologetic. “People are doing their best,” she said.
“Well, that’s the problem,” I said. “It seems to me that it’s deliberate.”
I requested data in February. I was told my request was too large. I made a modified request in March. I set up a meeting with Dan Loewenson, who explained to me why it was taking so long. In April, I received some documents relating to Front Street Marketing, but none of the emails I requested. On May 24, Amy Moore, from the legal department, contacted me and said she was working on my request. I asked her, as a show of good faith, to send me what was sent to the Star Tribune months earlier. She said that was impossible, as they hadn’t made a copy, and that she would have to start all over. In June, there kept on being delays. She kept saying she was going to take it home over the weekend to work on it. There were emergencies, her daughter was sick. Was I supposed to feel guilty for being such an inconvenience?
Last week, I met with Steve Liss, Chief of Operations and Policy, and Stan Alleyne, Executive Director of Communications.
Before our meeting started, Alleyne apologized profusely. I believed him. He really did seem quite sorry. Steve Liss was also apologetic. “We are working hard to put in systems to be more responsive on data requests.”
Well that’s just fantastic. I hope the next time someone wants to write a story about the Minneapolis Public Schools, they won’t have to wait four months.