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Thread: Is the website WaylandSchoolCommittee.org legal and appropriate?

  1. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    Jeff has this massive ambiguity going with the SC site. Its, by ICANN standards, his personal site. He wants to call it the SC site and tries to do that by asking the SC for money and getting the SC to agree to its content. So thats an ambiguity.
    While I don't see that it matters whether it's my "personal site" or not, if it is (in my opinion, it's not in any practical or meaningful way), it only is in the most technical of senses. What's more important: who registered the site, or who decides on its content? I see no ambiguity, massive or minute.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    Then what happens if a new SC member doesn't agree to this concept and won't pay? Then by the operational definition here it would no longer the be SC site because it would no longer be all of them and all of them are no longer paying. This is a problem and this is why I brought this angle up.
    I've already addressed the question of members who might choose to disassociate themselves from the WSC site. I'm not sure such a disassociation means that it's no longer the WSC site, in the same way that a non-unanimous decision on any topic doesn't mean that it's not a WSC decision.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    If it is a SC site then its a governmental site and its clearly under the ruling of Anderson. But Jeff said originally that he wanted it to be a private site so that he could advocate for overrides...
    Not quite. One reason (not the reason) that the Committee (not Jeff) opted for a privately-funded site was to avoid potential problems related to ballot question information/advocacy.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    now he's changed his mind to it being a public site and he's only doing this for convenience.
    Completely untrue. The site remains privately-funded. What I said that's new is that none of the uses of the privately-funded WSC site appear to violate any of the OCPF prohibitions, most notably the sending of unsolicited communications regarding ballot questions.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    This is a problem because the law has not changed on this. But Jeff has done quite a rapid metamorphosis on this position.
    I don't know whether it was a rapid metamorphosis or not, but it is true that I've learned more about the details of the OCPF rulings. That learning, however, has not resulted in any substantive changes to the WSC site and its uses other than the addition of several potentially unnecessary disclaimers.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    If it is a private site then being connected to the town and advocating and masquerading as the actual WSC site is a problem.
    In what way does the WSC site "masquerade" as the "actual" WSC site, whatever that even means? The WSC site *is* the WSC site, period. There is no other.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    If it is a private site then being connected to the town and collecting any number of emails including a link through to enews is a problem.
    On what do you base that assertion? Per an email from the OCPF, the link from the WPS site to the WSC site is allowable.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    If status quo stays and enews is connected to WSC.org then I think that this is wrong and equal time should be given to WVN as a hyperlink.
    No law that I'm aware of prohibits the WSC site from linking to any site that it chooses.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    If status quo stays then this leaves the door open for other ballot question groups to link right to the towns web launching page which also links to WSC.org... keep that in mind. This open pandoras box on an equal access theory.
    Not according to the email that the OCPF sent to me. That said, if equal access to ballot question committees was deemed appropriate, I would personally prefer that equal access rather than removing all links. Information wants to be free!

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    Jeff, I have to say that you really went out of your way to create a convoluted set of circumstances.
    The School Committee (again, not Jeff) has created nothing convoluted. The publicly-funded WPS site legally links to the privately-funded legal WSC site that the School Committee uses (perhaps in an overly-cautious manner) to do its job: advocate for the Wayland Public Schools. That's pretty straightforward.

    Alan, you and others keep repeating the same two basic assertions without any logical or legal support: (1) the WSC site is "wrong" (but in what way--no one will say?) and (2) the WPS link is "wrong" (but in what way--again, no one will say?). No one has suggested that it is inappropriate for the WSC to advocate for the schools, and no one with any legal authority has found anything improper about the WSC site or the WPS link. If such an authority does reach such a conclusion, my sense is that the WSC will act quickly to conform.

  2. #62
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    Jeff,
    I’ll leave the legal parts of this for you and Alan to hash out.

    To me, it just seems unseemly.

    Speaking as someone who has voted for every override since moving to Wayland, so I am decidedly NOT anti-override, to me it is crossing a line of professionalism and appropriateness for you or the SC to be “advocating for the schools” to the extent that you are personally maintaining a website for the purpose of advocating overrides, particularly when that website’s URL is waylandschoolcommittee.org, which sounds like it would provide unbiased information about our schools.

    You don’t see the chief of police of the fire chief pushing for overrides, which potentially impact their departments. Why? I don’t know, but I suppose among other things, they wouldn’t stoop to that level.

    Call me old fashioned. I wouldn’t want to see Jimmy Buffet’s face on a package of margarita mix or Ringo Starr’s image promoting a new chain of Yellow Submarine fast food joints, or a new line of Kurt Cobain jeans.

    It’s just not appropriate. Some things rise above the level of the almighty dollar.

    You tend to refer to our peer towns when you want to justify why we do certain things the way that we do, yet you dismiss them when it’s pointed out that every single one of our peer towns without exception has an SC website that is owned and operated by, and is a sublink of, their Public School site and NOT a privately owned site by one of its members.

    As for “advocating for our schools”, as you know, there are an awful lot of people in town who feel strongly that the current members of our SC did a remarkably poor job of that by closing Loker school on a gamble that it would help pass the override.
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
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  3. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    Speaking as someone who has voted for every override since moving to Wayland, so I am decidedly NOT anti-override, to me it is crossing a line of professionalism and appropriateness for you or the SC to be “advocating for the schools” to the extent that you are personally maintaining a website for the purpose of advocating overrides, particularly when that website’s URL is waylandschoolcommittee.org, which sounds like it would provide unbiased information about our schools.
    By this, do you mean to say that our advocacy would be okay if it were available on the publicly-funded Wayland Public Schools web site as allowed by the OCPF [IB-92-02, I.G.]? Or, are you saying that the School Committee shouldn't be advocating for overrides at all?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    Call me old fashioned. I wouldn’t want to see Jimmy Buffet’s face on a package of margarita mix
    I hate to break it to you, but see the attached image (which, admittedly, doesn't feature Jimmy Buffet's face, but is most assuredly his brand). For the record, I am decidedly NOT anti-Jimmy Buffet or anti-margarita.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  4. #64
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    Is that it?

    Those are the only parts of my post you're going to reply to?
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    Is that it?

    Those are the only parts of my post you're going to reply to?
    That was my plan, not having anything particularly new to add elsewhere. But, if you insist ...

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    You don’t see the chief of police of the fire chief pushing for overrides, which potentially impact their departments. Why? I don’t know, but I suppose among other things, they wouldn’t stoop to that level.
    I don't have any knowledge of any campaigning that either has done, or lack thereof. That said, I'm not sure what to make of your "margaritas to jeans" comparison of an elected board with department heads.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    You tend to refer to our peer towns when you want to justify why we do certain things the way that we do, yet you dismiss them when it’s pointed out that every single one of our peer towns without exception has an SC website that is owned and operated by, and is a sublink of, their Public School site and NOT a privately owned site by one of its members.
    Actually, I rarely refer to peer towns about "why" issues, as I generally don't know their rationale. Rather, I refer to them to show how we're doing with respect to "inputs" (per pupil expenditure or teacher salary, for instance) and "outputs" (MCAS scores, for instance). And I don't shy away from such comparisons when we don't stack up particularly well.

    Having been presented with and thought about the way that they organize their sites, I don't see any reason to change the way that we organize ours.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    As for “advocating for our schools”, as you know, there are an awful lot of people in town who feel strongly that the current members of our SC did a remarkably poor job of that by closing Loker school on a gamble that it would help pass the override.
    "Gamble" is your spin, but having raised it, I'll suggest that you appear to be saying that you would have made the other gamble and risked the override. As I've said many times, that's a reasonable position, just as the Committee's was. There's simply no way to know what the best course of action would have been. I'm pleased that Wayland voters saw fit to approve the override.

    I'm curious. Having addressed your points, do you have any intention of answering the questions that I posed, namely:

    Do you mean to say that our advocacy would be okay if it were available on the publicly-funded Wayland Public Schools web site as allowed by the OCPF [IB-92-02, I.G.]? Or, are you saying that the School Committee shouldn't be advocating for overrides at all?
    Last edited by Jeff Dieffenbach; 07-09-2008 at 11:37 PM. Reason: Addition of the "I'm curious" paragraph.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BTDowns View Post
    I may be the only one that is confused by this chain, so please excuse me if that is the case, but there appear to be a huge number of links from our town websites to other private and commercial websites. Some of these links are even to religious organizations - isn't that a huge no no? Isn't the town or the school the one who puts the links on their websites? If they should not be doing it why are you asking the people they "link to" to remove the links?
    You are exactly correct.

    Someone modified the town's web site to link to the private web site operated by private citizens who happen to be school board members. This modification required "modify" access rights to the town's web site -- presumably a limited privilege. Each time someone views the web page containing this link, more server resources and bandwidth are consumed than would be the case if the link were not present. This costs the town money, one way or another.

    Who approved this modification to the town's web site?

    Can anyone ask the town to insert hyperlinks from town web pages to private web sites?

    If the town only inserts hyperlinks from its school web pages to one private web site that addresses school issues, does that imply that the town endorses the positions expressed on the private web site?

    Dave

  7. #67
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    Default What about the links to

    The myriad religious websites, commercial websites and personal websites that you can find on the town and public school websites. If those are OK why is it that the school committees website is such an issue?

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    Quote Originally Posted by BTDowns View Post
    The myriad religious websites, commercial websites and personal websites that you can find on the town and public school websites. If those are OK why is it that the school committees website is such an issue?
    The page in question links to exactly one external site, and the link's text is "school committee".

    This is quite different than "here's a set of external links to religious organizations in our town".

    Dave

  9. #69
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    Default Really,

    Is that the issue. Well thanks for clarifying. Because the links to the Public School Foundation, The High School Building Committee and the Alumni page appear to do the same thing. Not to mention all the links on the curriculum pages or the various ones from the town site.

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    The town-managed web page in question,

    http://www.wayland.k12.ma.us/distric...ttee/index.htm

    contains exactly one external hyperlink, which targets

    www.waylandschoolcommittee.org

    Since I first posted on this issue, the town-managed web page has been significantly changed; it now says

    "The privately-funded School Committee Web site provides a platform through which the School Committee delivers information on and advocates for the Wayland Public Schools."

    This is certainly an improvement in terms of transparency, but questions and concerns remain:

    1. why is this one privately-funded site the only one accessible from this town-managed web page?

    2. who decides what hyperlinks are inserted into town-managed web pages?

    Even with the newly-added explanation, the single hyperlink still implies endorsement. This is in stark contrast to other town-managed web pages that provide a multiplicity of hyperlinks to organizations and services, clearly offering choice rather than endorsement.

    Dave

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bernstein View Post
    The town-managed web page in question,

    http://www.wayland.k12.ma.us/distric...ttee/index.htm

    contains exactly one external hyperlink, which targets

    www.waylandschoolcommittee.org
    I'm not sure that it's noteworthy that the School Committee page of the Wayland Public Schools (WPS) site might have a link to (and only to) the Wayland School Committee (WSC) web site.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bernstein View Post
    Since I first posted on this issue, the town-managed web page has been significantly changed; it now says

    "The privately-funded School Committee Web site provides a platform through which the School Committee delivers information on and advocates for the Wayland Public Schools."
    At its 7/7/2008 meeting, the WSC discussed the addition of the phrase "privately-funded" to the WPS School Committee page. (The sentence was otherwise reworked grammatically, but not substantively.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bernstein View Post
    This is certainly an improvement in terms of transparency, but questions and concerns remain:

    1. why is this one privately-funded site the only one accessible from this town-managed web page?
    As I noted above, this WPS web page has a sole topic: the Wayland School Committee. In my opinion, it's reasonable that this WPS web page might therefore only link to School Committee-related content.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bernstein View Post
    2. who decides what hyperlinks are inserted into town-managed web pages?
    Decisions about the WPS web site content are made by many people within the School Department. On occasion (such as the addition of the phrase "privately-funded" referenced above), the School Committee or Committee members might request additions/changes/deletions.

    Technically, I would say that the Superintendent has the final authority on the content of the WPS web site; if the School Committee were to disagree, it might hypothetically choose to exercise its right to terminate the Superintendent's contract. I'm not aware of any occasion when the Superintendent and the Committee have disagreed about WPS web site content, nor could I imagine the Committee taking such a drastic action should such disagreement arise.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I'm not sure that it's noteworthy that the School Committee page of the Wayland Public Schools (WPS) site might have a link to (and only to) the Wayland School Committee (WSC) web site.
    The hyperlink is to a private-funded web site. While those operating this privately-funded web site may indeed be members of the Wayland School Committee, it is a private-funded web site none-the-less -- and thus no different than any other privately-funded web site.

    You seek to have it both ways: You want a private web site on which you can say whatever you like without being subject to regulations, and you want the impact of a town-endorsed "Official School Board Web Site".

    Why don't you just play it straight? Is this the right example for you and the other School Board members to be setting?


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    At its 7/7/2008 meeting, the WSC discussed the addition of the phrase "privately-funded" to the WPS School Committee page. (The sentence was otherwise reworked grammatically, but not substantively.).
    This change is a step in the right direction -- it acknowledges that the previous formulation was problematic. However, it still retains a privileged position for one privately-funded web site -- a site that just happens to be managed by members of the School Board. To eliminate any whiff of impropriety, the town should either remove this link, or provide links to any privately-funded web site taking a position on Wayland's educational system.



    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    As I noted above, this WPS web page has a sole topic: the Wayland School Committee. In my opinion, it's reasonable that this WPS web page might therefore only link to School Committee-related content.
    Its a privately-funded web site, over which the town has no control or influence. Or is it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Decisions about the WPS web site content are made by many people within the School Department. On occasion (such as the addition of the phrase "privately-funded" referenced above), the School Committee or Committee members might request additions/changes/deletions.
    Exactly. The fact that School Committee members can influence the Town to give preference to a web site that those same School Committee members fund privately is highly inappropriate. As I've said before, this may all be well-intentioned and innocent, but it shows exceedingly poor judgement. If the School Board wishes to communicate in its official capacity, it should do so on a town-managed web site, subject to the same restrictions endured by all such sites. If you as a private citizen wish to advocate certain positions, that's fine -- but do so a site does not any way appear to receive special consideration from the town or school system, over which you hold undue influence given your public position.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Technically, I would say that the Superintendent has the final authority on the content of the WPS web site; if the School Committee were to disagree, it might hypothetically choose to exercise its right to terminate the Superintendent's contract. I'm not aware of any occasion when the Superintendent and the Committee have disagreed about WPS web site content, nor could I imagine the Committee taking such a drastic action should such disagreement arise.
    You have here explicitly acknowledged the conflict-of-interest: as a public official, you hold extraordinary influence over the town official responsible for granting preferential linkage to your privately-funded web site.

    Dave

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    There has been much expressed on this thread (and elsewhere) which sounds to be a continued reaction to the school consolidation process and/or decision. I don't think the passion, time and argument here really has alot to do with websites, links or OCPF regs. I'm sure people are expressing real opinions, but it has been said a number of times that these discussions would not be occurring had it not been for the school consolidation.

    I think continuing to look for ways to discredit the SC does not help any of us. They are volunteers and our neighbors and I don't see that they have any personal gain in this. I completely understand there are some who will disagree with their decision forever, but spending so much time and energy finding other fault seems counterproductive. I'm not saying that people shouldn't speak up if they see a problem or better yet, have a suggestion---and I'm sure no committee is perfect, but if the SC is continually forced to defend everything, are they really able to work on what we elected them for? I understand the loss or gain of confidence, but I think that is where our vote matters most.

  14. #74
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    Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach
    I'm not sure that it's noteworthy that the School Committee page of the Wayland Public Schools (WPS) site might have a link to (and only to) the Wayland School Committee (WSC) web site.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bernstein View Post
    The hyperlink is to a private-funded web site. While those operating this privately-funded web site may indeed be members of the Wayland School Committee, it is a private-funded web site none-the-less -- and thus no different than any other privately-funded web site.

    You seek to have it both ways: You want a private web site on which you can say whatever you like without being subject to regulations, and you want the impact of a town-endorsed "Official School Board Web Site".

    Why don't you just play it straight? Is this the right example for you and the other School Board members to be setting?
    You haven't provided any evidence of a "both ways." One important role of the Wayland School Committee (WSC) is to inform about and advocate for the Wayland Public Schools. The WSC web site is consistent with this role.

    The WSC's original decision to privately-fund its web site was a cautious one with respect to campaign finance law. My recent and more detailed read of that law, some of which the OCPF has interpreted after the WSC's web site was created, suggests to me that all actions of the WSC web site could be (but certainly aren't required to be) performed on the publicly-funded web site. I've asked the OCPF to provide an opinion on this, and will post that opinion when received.

    --------------------------------------
    Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach
    At its 7/7/2008 meeting, the WSC discussed the addition of the phrase "privately-funded" to the WPS School Committee page. (The sentence was otherwise reworked grammatically, but not substantively.).

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bernstein View Post
    This change is a step in the right direction -- it acknowledges that the previous formulation was problematic. However, it still retains a privileged position for one privately-funded web site -- a site that just happens to be managed by members of the School Board. To eliminate any whiff of impropriety, the town should either remove this link, or provide links to any privately-funded web site taking a position on Wayland's educational system.
    The change to the WPS web site was not an acknowledgment of anything problematic, but rather a simple step to provide additional clarity. But more importantly, where is the impropriety? Several people on this thread have suggested that the WPS link to the WSC site is improper, but not one of them has given either a logical or legal reason why this is so.

    For instance, let's say that you take the position that other links should be allowed on the School Committee page on the publicly-funded WPS web site. If these links aren't related to the School Committee, then the really don't fit the topic of the page. If these links are related, but run counter to the interests of the schools, why would the schools put them there? Note, by the way, that the WPS web page contains no links to other pro-school entities.

    Alternately, let's say that you take the position that the link to the WSC web site should be removed. How would that be in the interest of the schools?

    --------------------------------------
    Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach
    Technically, I would say that the Superintendent has the final authority on the content of the WPS web site; if the School Committee were to disagree, it might hypothetically choose to exercise its right to terminate the Superintendent's contract. I'm not aware of any occasion when the Superintendent and the Committee have disagreed about WPS web site content, nor could I imagine the Committee taking such a drastic action should such disagreement arise.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bernstein View Post
    You have here explicitly acknowledged the conflict-of-interest: as a public official, you hold extraordinary influence over the town official responsible for granting preferential linkage to your privately-funded web site.
    I fail to see how this is a conflict of interest. In particular, see this definition from Wikipedia: "More generally, conflict of interest can be defined as any situation in which an individual or corporation (either private or governmental) is in a position to exploit a professional or official capacity in some way for their personal or corporate benefit."

    The situation is in fact quite the opposite. There is not exploiting. It is the responsibility of the School Committee to both inform about/advocate for the WPS and to hire/oversee the Superintendent.

    You might as well be saying that a board of directors has a conflict of interest if it (legally) does whatever it can to maximize revenue, profit, or shareholder value.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bernstein View Post
    The hyperlink is to a private-funded web site. While those operating this privately-funded web site may indeed be members of the Wayland School Committee, it is a private-funded web site none-the-less -- and thus no different than any other privately-funded web site.
    Dave, I'm curious... waylandschoolcommittee.org is privately-funded, but they could have chosen to host it as a Google Site or a Wordpress Blogspot (as the Franklin School Committee has done), both of which are free. If the School Committee members were not "funding" this site, but merely running it outside the wayland.ma.us domain, would you still have this objection?

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