Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Audit Faults APS on Communication
By Andrea Schoellkopf
Journal Staff Writer
The Albuquerque school district has received low marks for communication from its own internal auditor.
The auditor, in a seven-page report, found the district's board office and instruction and accountability departments did not respond to its requests; information such as board meeting minutes, personnel directories and policies and procedures are not routinely updated on the Albuquerque Public Schools Web site; and the district does not handle requests for public records in a consistent manner.
School board president Marty Esquivel said APS is in compliance with open records laws, which do not require postings on the Internet.
"This is probably a case where open government laws have not caught up with the technology of today," said Esquivel, an attorney who works with the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government.
The auditor said APS was violating the state Open Meetings Act by failing to post updated board and committee meeting minutes on the Web site.
Esquivel said state law requires only that minutes be made available upon request.
He agrees, however, that there are inconsistencies in how public records requests are handled at the schools.
Board member Robert Lucero said he's been told that the $300,000 APS is spending for a new Web site and three employees should fix the problems.
"We'll see if APS fixes the problem of getting accurate information up," said Lucero, an editor for the Bernalillo County Web site who has concerns about the APS Internet plans.
APS spokesman Rigo Chavez said the audit of internal practices was initiated at the school board's request. As a result, minutes will be reported in a more timely manner and a committee of directors is evaluating the district's procedures to make sure they are current on the Web site.
The APS communications department disagrees with the auditor on how public requests should be handled through the district's public records custodian and says schools should take responsibility for providing some of the requests.
"If a parent goes to a school and asks to see information on the booster club, the school should provide it," Chavez said. "They shouldn't say you have to write a letter and wait 15 days" in compliance with state public records laws.