Records Reveal MCAS Activists Making Heavy Use of FOIAs to Attack School District and Superintendent

There’s a new group in town – Montclair Kids First – that has apparently filed a bunch of public records requests with the schools. We’re interested in seeing what comes out of these – they’re fairly broad requests that cover a wide range of people. Over at MCAS they’re up in arms about this because it looks like their beloved Michelle Fine got one at the public university where she works. We’re sure she wouldn’t use any taxpayer resources to pursue her political agenda in our town, so it shouldn’t be a problem for her. Meanwhile, Teacher union operative Maia Davis is particularly shocked.

“Who’s paying for this and what are their designs on Montclair schools?”, she wants to know.

Apparently, the FOIAS are “deplorable”, a “witch hunt”, “McCarthyite” and “silly litigation which will end up being extremely costly to taxpayers.”

Last week, we received some information that adds some interesting context to this whole discussion, and – particularly – to the feigned outrage from the MCAS crowd. According to the records the source provided, which span between July of 2013 and November of 2014, Maia Davis, David Herron, Ira Shor, Marcella Simidaris, Scott White and Regina Tuma filed over 40 FOIA requests to the district. Many of the requests were multi-part, and the records show that they appear to have required hundreds of hours of staff time and cost tens of thousands of dollars to comply with. David Herron and Maia Davis herself filed the vast majority of the requests.

From the beginning, the records show that Davis and others waged an aggressive campaign to turn up any information that could possibly be harmful to the superintendent’s reputation or could be used to attack her, or to create other issues for the district. A lot of the documents requested are highly specific, and though we keep a fairly close eye on what’s happening in our schools, the reasons for Davis’s interest in them is unclear to us. In many cases, the documents requested are fairly specific management documents on labor related issues, raising questions about what Davis’s role in particular was, how closely she was working with the MEA, and whether she was simply serving as a proxy for them in filing these requests.

The raw documents we received contain a significant amount of deliberative material – assigning work to staff, allocating hours, etc., so we’re electing not to post them for the time being. Instead, we’ve compiled a chart below of the relevant requests included in the documents. It’s not clear to us whether the documents are comprehensive or not, but we were able to verify that they were created by district administrative staff. During the time period covered, there were 96 requests filed, according to the documents. At least 43 of those came from the MCAS crowd, and several as noted were large complex requests. Most of the normal requests were for small things like contractors requesting bid details, or local journalists requesting documents. We don’t know what the normal volume of these sorts of requests is for a district, but we’re sure that this is well above that level. MCAS was filing nearly a FOIA every single week, forcing the district to constantly respond to them. Indeed, according the documents, the requests just from 2013 – less than half of those included – cost the district 330 hours of staff time, or roughly 47 days of work. And they cost over $32,000 in legal fees. During that time, it appears they filed 34 of 51 requests – it’s impossible to sort out exactly what portion of the costs noted in the documents they were responsible for, but their requests are by far the most complex and significant that the district received during that time, so it is likely that they were responsible for the lion’s share of those costs and time spent.

That’s real money and staff time being gummed up by attacks from a political self-interested faction in our town. Given the wide range of documents they’ve requested, it’s unclear what they’ve been doing with all of this stuff. Certainly (and likely to their great disappointment), despite casting an extremely wide net, they don’t appear to have uncovered any particular scandals, or we feel sure we’d have heard about it. Instead, they seem to have just wasted a lot of time and money going after whatever they could think up that day. Given their recent protestations, it’s well worth keeping in mind their record of behavior over the past two years.

We’ll have more on this later, as we’re particularly interested in the questions raised about their intentions by some of the specific FOIAs that they filed.

Below is a chart listing the requests made by Davis et al. Davis filed two particularly lengthy requests, according to the documents, and the notes the documents included on those requests are included below the chart.

Requested by Date Received Description of Request
David Herron 4/25/14 Copy of Merit Goals for Dr. MacCormack , 2013-2014
Regina Tuma 4/28/14 Copy of Merit Goals for Dr. MacCormack , 2013-2014
David Herron 5/21/14 The RFP for the Healthcare employees in the district – For Review
Maia Davis 6/3/14 Copies of documentation on any MFEE grants received by the district since Sept 2012 that were designated for use in whole or partby CS or Dr. MacCormack. Show grant amouts, date received and purpose. List of complaints and/or lawsuits filed against MPS or MBOE by parents of Spec Ed children for 2012-present.List of all students in OOD programs (no names), including race, grade level, name of school or program OOD which the child attend tuition for 2012-14. List of all judgements paid by the District from 2011-14, show amount, date paid, name of person who won the judgement against the District and the type of case it was (spec ed, injury liability, etc).
David Herron 6/3/14 Provide a copy of the Resolution Concerning Group Medical, Benefits Vendor presented and voted on at the BOE meeting on May 19, 2014
David Herron 10/8/14 Provide copies of the Personnel Reports for 6/2/14, 6/16/14, 7/14/14
Maia Davis 10/22/14 all bills & bill lists presented to BOE for 7/1/13-10/20/14, all bill lists presented from 7/1/09-6/30/10;   list of all bonuses paid to any and all MPS employees from 4/1/13, 10/20/14 including date paid & employee to whom it was paid;-list of all employees who work either part or full time out of CS, including content supervisors for math and DLA and testing coordinators; list of all paraprofessionals who are permanent employees with their salaries, and all long-term substitute paraprofessionals with thie hourly wages or salaries and all per diem substitute, paraprofessionals who were on payroll as of September 30 and who were on payroll as of October 20.
Maia Davis 11/25/14 List of base salaries, longevities & stipends for all administrators in Central Office.
Maia Davis 11/25/14 Copy of all Board   Finance Committee minutes from September 2013 through November 2014
Maia Davis 07/24/13 See Worksheet #1 MD
Maia Davis 08/02/13 See Worksheet #2 MD
David Herron 08/26/13 Copies of 3 contracts:   Skyward, Cambridge Education, Effective School Solutions
Maia Davis 08/02/13 See Worksheet #2 MD
Maia Davis 09/04/13 Minutes Curriculum Cte, 2013-14 Budget Book, Cap Budget & Resolution
David Herron 09/06/13 7/15/13 Personnel Report
David Herron 09/06/13 Resolutions:   Nursing, Tech Consultant, Gen Supp, Food Svcs
David Herron 09/06/13 Resolutions: Prop Software, Extra Comp Positions, Therapy Source
David Herron 09/06/13 Bills & Claims July
David Herron 09/06/13 Bills & Claims August
David Herron 09/09/13 Copy –All Bills and Invoices for Vendor 19118, PON # 13G2443, 19210, PON # 13G2969
David Herron 09/26/13 Kulwin Complaints
Maia Davis 09/27/13 Student Enrollment Roster HS for 9/16/13
Student Enrollment Roster HS for 9/30/13
Student Enrollment Roster Middle & Elementary as of 9/30/13
List of staff, titles, and salaries at CO including all support staff as of 9/30/13
Maia Davis 09/27/13 List of names, titles, salaries, & hiring dates of CO staff for 9/30/13
Names, titles, hiring dates, salaries for all admin staff at all schools 9/30/13
Names, titles, hiring dates, salaries for all admin staff at all schools 9/30/12
Two copies of district’s 2012-13 Budget
Maia Davis 09/27/13 Copy of e-mails between Brian & Andrea
All purchase orders and bid docs for svcs purchased with the $625,000 for technology
All textbook orders placed since 11/1/12
Copies of all minutes for budget/finance committee since 6/1/12
David Herron 10/02/13 Copy of seniority list as of 10/1/13
David Herron 10/09/13 List of students NO,NI,HI,BU,ED,WA,BR,RN,GL,MH enrolled in supp instr in Math & LA
David Herron 10/23/13 Penny’s transcripts
David Herron 11/03/12 Invesitgation Resolution November 1, 2013
Ira Shor 10/13/13 Any and all communications and records of funds received from the Broad Foundation, the Broad Acacemy, Eli Broad, or any otherBroad agent of entity to Superintendent MacCromack, The Montclair Board of Education, its’ president, vice president, or any members, from 2012-2013
Ira Shor 11/27/13 Purchse orders and inventories of all disbursements rgarding all consultants, contingents, vendors, services, and materials for summer 2013 preparation of quarterly assessments and curriculum.
David Herron 01/09/14 1. Copies of all emails for the period of October 24, 2013 and January 8, 2014 for the following people. Penny MacCormack, Gail Clark, Alan Benezra, Robin Kulwin. 2. Copies of all personal emails for the period of October 24, 2013 and January 8, 2014 for the following people. Penny MacCormack, Gail Clark, Alan Benezra, Robin Kulwin. 3. Copies of all texts the period of October 24, 2013 and January 8, 2014 for the following people. Penny MacCormack, Gail Clark, Alan Benezra, Robin Kulwin.
David Herron 01/09/14 E-Mails
David Herron 01/10/14 Regarding investigation of leak of CC
David Herron 01/28/14 Enrollment Rpt & Achievement Gap Advisory Panel
Ira Shor 02/11/14 Marinus: Contracts, POs, Vouchers. Correspondence with Duddy
Ira Shor 02/11/14 Summit: Contracts, POs, Vouchers, Payments 10/1/13-2/14/14
Ira Shor 02/11/14 Bd Mtg minutes for 12/16/13 and 1/17/14.
Regina Tuma 02/19/14 Individual District and School Reports Regarding Technology Readiness for Online Assessments”
Maia Davis 02/25/14 All approved Bills & Claims lists since 7/1/13
Maia Davis 04/04/14 Current list of ALL CS staff, including subject area supers in buildings, # of years in district/position and salary. Job description for CTO and Inclusion Coordinator. List of sped ed (no names) out of district placement Sept ’13,and 2012-1 or earlier. # of job fairs attended by CTO in 2013-14 and candidates referred by CTO for hiring
Marcella Simadiris 11/25/13 1.Any paperwork indicating what pre-assesments teachers used as their baseline for their SGO’s.     2. Policy regarding home instruction.
Scott White 10/7/14 Name, Salary, Start date, Title of new Communications Director

Additional Davis Requests:

Davis Requests

Request #1

Copies of check stubs or receipts for all payments for trainings at UVA School Turnaround Conference in February, 2013

Receipt for payment or check stubs for training in teaching reading for 10 district employees as referred to in April 8, 2013 board minutes

If not evident from check stub or receipt, another document showing provider of training referred to in April 8, 2013 board minutes

Copy of training agenda or program or handout used to training of 10 district employees referred to in April 8, 2013 minutes

Request #2

Copies of all checks or receipts for payments made to district’s scheduling consultant

Copy of district’s NJ Smart submission or other document showing list of all district and school administrative positions as of June 30, 2012

Copy of district’s NJ Smart submission or other document showing list of all district and school administrative positions as of today, July 24, 2013 (including those advertised but not filled if these are listed now on this document)

Request #3

Copies of resumes or curriculum vitae for all new district employees hired since June 1, 2013

Copy of some document listing all classroom aides employed as of Sept 1, 2012

Copy of some document listing all classroom aides employed as of July 20, 2013

Copy of all contracts with Nick Puleio since November, 2012

Request #1

All receipts of monies paid since 2011 to the District Management Council

Document or printout of online submission to State or used in the district showing average class size for last 5 years (since 2008). If available also, average class size in these years by grade and school

Most recent Evaluation Marshall Plan rubric with timeline for Montclair teachers for 2013-2014, either approved rubric or latest draft

Document showing name, title, and affiliation of the mentor used for superintendent’s process of getting state certification

Request #2

Statement read by Leslie Larson re: hiring process for superintendent July 15, 2013, at board meeting

List of names or copy of signatures of all board members past and current who approved or signed onto Larson’s statement (referenced in #1 above)

Memo email or any other document from Frank Alvarez to the board in 2012 listing possible search firms board could use for finding a superintendent

Any document showing results of student survey (Tripod) administered in 2013 or explaining why results are unreliable or why they are not being released

Request #3

Copies of all job postings for all school district jobs except custodial since February 2013

Any documents which the district has or which it compiles for itself or the state showing average class size for the district and, if available, for the various schools or grade levels in the district for the last five years – 2012-2013, 2011-12, 2010-11, 09-10, 2008-09

Contract with Therapy Source

Copies of all job postings in the district except for custodial positions since February 2013

Receipts for any funds paid to The District Management Council

Any document, whether approved by the board or not, that shows the proposed or approved merit criteria for MacCormack for 2013-14 or for any period between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014.

Memo, letter, email or any other document from Frank Alvarez in 2012 listing possible search firms which the board could use to find his replacement

Copy of the statement read by Leslie Larson at the July 15, 2013, BOE meeting about the hiring process and contract of the superintendent

List of all present and former board members who signed onto this statement, either affixed to the statement or not affixed, per Larson’s statement that most but not all members of the current board and the board in 2012 approved the statement. If there is not list of signatures, then please provide a list of all the present and past members who gave verbal approval of her statement.

Copies of all resignation letters or emails submitted by any other district employees other than custodial staff since February 2013

Copy of the most recent Marshall Evaluation Plan rubric, whether approved by the board or in draft form, for the district’s teachers and principals including timeline showing when steps in the evaluation process will occur and what teachers can choose as their student growth objectives

Any document, letter or email showing the results of the Tripod student survey in the 2012-13 school year or explaining why these results have not been released.

Receipt or some other document showing who is the mentor being used for Superintendent MacCormack’s process of getting state certification in New Jersey.

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