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Galatzan volunteers to lead panel on email retention policy

Vanessa Romo | October 15, 2014

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LA Unified board member Tamar Galatzan speaks at a board meeting on Jan. 14, 2014. (Credit: file photo)

Board member Tamar Galatzan volunteered yesterday to lead a task force examining LA Unified’s email deletion and retention policy, which is intended to eliminate unnecessary emails even as some some board members fear it could lead to the destruction of important records.

“It is critical that the public have confidence in the district’s commitment to transparency,” said Galatzan, who represents the most of the West San Fernando Valley and several East Valley neighborhoods, including Sherman Oaks and Studio City.

“We want to make sure we have a system that safeguards critical emails and lets us easily access them when and if they are needed,” she added. “We also want employees to be able to work efficiently, and to have clear guidelines for the types of emails they should be retaining.”

The current policy, established in 2012, mandates that all district emails be destroyed after one year or be automatically deleted. The only way to save emails for more than a calendar year is by saving or archiving them onto a hard drive.

The panel, which will include district administrators, representatives of district labor unions and members of open-government groups, will consider whether some types of communications should be automatically archived.

“At the September 9 board meeting, I raised concerns that the District’s records policy provided for the destruction of emails that could have value to the public as historical records,” said Monica Ratliff, who co-sponsored the resolution to form the task force alongside Bennett Kayser and Galatzan.

“I strongly believe the District should preserve any and all emails of board members, the superintendent, senior officers and their respective staffs,” Ratliff said.

The importance of retaining records became a contentious topic on the heels of the release of two-year old emails revealing previously unknown communications between Superintendent John Deasy, former district Deputy Jaime Aquino, and top officials with Apple and Pearson, leading to the district’s $500 million iPad deal.

The group will present its recommendations to the Committee of the Whole in January.

In other actions yesterday the board rejected a resolution by Ratliff and Kayser that would have forced the release of the Inspector General’s report on the district’s handling of the procurement process  of a report that resulted in Apple devices and Pearson curriculum being selected for the first phase of the district’s one-to-one program.

“I brought forward this resolution to put into practice one of the recommendations I made in the Chair’s Report on the Common Core Technology Project Ad Hoc Committee – that the District should release the report in order to lay to rest certain questions and avoid any suspicion generated by lack of transparency,” Ratliff said.

The inspector general’s report has been classified by the District as confidential. The measure died in a 4-3 vote after General Counsel David Holmquist recommended a delay in making the document public, saying it could expose the district in the case of potential litigation.

Kayser said, “The public has a lot of legitimate questions about the Superintendent’s iPad/Common Core procurement process and I believe they deserve answers sooner rather than later.”

Ratliff added that she is “disappointed” in her colleagues for voting down the resolution. Had it passed, the report would have been released on Oct. 28.

Finally, the board did approve a resolution sponsored by Kayser, Monica Garcia, and board president Richard Vladovic, supporting passage of Proposition 47, an initiative on the November ballot that would adjust mandatory sentencing guidelines.

“We have worked with our district stakeholders on restorative justice practices that maintain safe campuses and respect our students’ rights,” Garcia said in statement today. “If we can do this in LAUSD, we can absolutely commit to bold approaches across the state of California.”

Proposition 47, which will not apply to persons with prior convictions for serious or violent crime and registered sex offenders, has the potential to reduce prison costs by hundreds of millions of dollars – savings that would be redirected to schools, mental health and drug addiction services, and provide funds for victims of crimes.

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