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

  1. #31
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    Default Question for Jeff Dieffenbach

    Jeff,

    Lets take a 'maybe not so hypothetical situation'. At some point in the future one or more of the SC members are replaced with new members and at least one of them says that they do not recognize the 'private' site as the SC site and they no longer want their name, email address, phone number listed on the 'private' site and they also want a disclaimer placed on the site and before the hyperlink to the site that they (at least) do not recognize the site as being the SC site. And/or that new member went so far as to say that they wanted all content moved to the town's launching site else they would want their name removed from the site altogether.

    How do you think the SC would handle this situation?
    I'd really like to know.

  2. #32
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    Jeff,

    Your responses above are sounding very much like the SC's reaction to the video tapes that surfaced about the windows deal - carefully crafted, detailed explanations that point out that because the word "deal" was never used, there was no deal. Getting off on a technicality. Ignoring the obvious.

    Meanwhile anybody with any degree of functioning grey matter who has viewed the video tapes would conclude that yes, there was a deal. Of course there was a deal. It's nearly impossible to conclude otherwise.

    What part of this video does not sound like a deal? (this is only one of 3 videos on which this was referenced.)

    "It depends on what the definition of "is" is".

    Spin it however you like - many, many people know.
    Last edited by John Flaherty; 07-08-2008 at 03:41 PM.
    John Flaherty

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

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Your "not implying anything insidious" assertion notwithstanding, the "average Wayland resident" whom you've constructed would be forgiven for inferring that you're implying exactly that.

    At risk of dragging up tired and unfounded charges again, I'm proud to state that my trustworthiness is fully intact. People may have reasonably disagreed with my decision-making and it's underlying process, but I've done nothing but be open, honest, and forthright in my School Committee service.
    Let's not put words in my mouth, Jeff. I never accused you of being dishonest and my qualifier was put in just in case there was any misconception. 'Nuff said.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Per his suggestion, I called Mr. Birne this morning to better understand his caveat. He told me that the "for a more political purpose" limitation did not apply to solicited (not unsolicited) communications. That is, the WSC site is not subject to governmental restrictions because it sends no unsolicited email.

    When I asked him if he could put this in writing as well, he suggested the Committee would be better served to precisely describe the situation and send it to the OCPF. He further informed me that they would most likely respond with an Advisory Opinion, which would likely take at least 4 weeks. I told him that this timing was fine given that we don't have a ballot question in front of us.
    If you get the opinion in writing, as I mentioned in a previous post, then that answers the question. I'm not the expert, just a positer of questions. That's all I asked, and I look forward to seeing the response posted here and/or elsewhere when you get it.

  4. #34
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    Questions for Jeff Dieffenbach and Jeff Baron:

    Jeff Dieffenbach:

    Jeff, do I understand your exchange with Greg Birne to mean that there is no difference between what you can post on a "governmental" or "private" site, if there is a link from the governmental site to the private one?

    If that is the case, then the only reasons to have the separate site, as I understand it, would be:

    (1) convenience, and
    (2) ability to send advocacy emails

    Or, are there things you can post on the site that you could not if it were on the town's website?

    If the requirements for the websites are the same, then I think Alan's question about a new member complaining about the separate site really becomes moot.

    Jeff Baron:

    You wanted to be on the School Committee. Two questions:

    (1) If you had won, would you have had the sort of objections that Alan hypothetically refers to in his post, and sought to have it discontinued? and,
    (2) Would you prefer that the School Committee not be able to advocate for the schools?

  5. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    You wanted to be on the School Committee. Two questions:

    (1) If you had won, would you have had the sort of objections that Alan hypothetically refers to in his post, and sought to have it discontinued? and,
    (2) Would you prefer that the School Committee not be able to advocate for the schools?
    Kim, your question #1 is too broad. Depends on what the issue is that the SC is advocating for on the site. If, for example, the private site was advocating for the closure of Loker, I would not have wanted to be a party to it and would have insisted that a disclaimer be placed on the page noting my opposition to such advocacy.

    As to #2, I have answered that question in multiple posts above. No problems with advocacy, just a problem with the quasi-tie to the publicly funded schools site and the appearances as such. I'm a huge believer in Amedment #1 of the US Constitution and would not look to limit free speech in the appropriate forum. De-link the sites and make it more clear that the private site is an advocacy site and not the official (e.g. - governmental, town-sponsored, insert adjective here...) one and have a ball.

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    Kim, your question #1 is too broad. Depends on what the issue is that the SC is advocating for on the site. If, for example, the private site was advocating for the closure of Loker, I would not have wanted to be a party to it and would have insisted that a disclaimer be placed on the page noting my opposition to such advocacy.
    My question #1 was: If you had won, would you have had the sort of objections that Alan hypothetically refers to in his post, and sought to have it discontinued?

    So it can't "depend on the issue" - you can't realistically move the site back and forth. So you either have it on the town site, or you have it outside. The question of what goes on the site (regardless of where it is hosted) would be the decision of the School Committee. You might dislike a particular decision, but you wouldn't move the site because of it. I would assume that decisions about what goes on the site (regardless of where it is hosted) are the decision of the Committee as a whole (and I'd guess those decisions needed by unanimous).

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    As to #2, I have answered that question in multiple posts above. No problems with advocacy, just a problem with the quasi-tie to the publicly funded schools site and the appearances as such. I'm a huge believer in Amedment #1 of the US Constitution and would not look to limit free speech in the appropriate forum. De-link the sites and make it more clear that the private site is an advocacy site and not the official (e.g. - governmental, town-sponsored, insert adjective here...) one and have a ball.
    So you're really answering my question #1 here, and I don't mean to put any words in your mouth - so I assume I am correct to say that you do object to the external site?

  7. #37
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    Default For Clarity

    Kim,

    My hypothetical question was what would the school committee do if a newly elected member was to request that his/her name-email-phone number removed from the private site and have a disclaimer put in place that showed that the newly elected member did not agree with the existence of an external, private and privately funded site that also happened to have the name of the Wayland School Committee.

    In this hypothetical scenario, the newly elected member would request that his/her contact information only be recorded on the 'launching' page which actually was owned by the town and by the town's servers.

    Until such time that the OCPF requests that the private site be removed or a majority of the school committee votes it to be removed then, I would assume, that it would remain in place. However, it is my opinion that any given member should be free to determine whether they would agree with having their own personal information on a site that is not actually owned by the town.

    Having one's name on a site that was actually owned by the town as recorded as an official with appropriate contact information would be a prerequisite of being on that board or committee. Having one's name and contact information on a private site that was not actually owned by the town would not be a requirement of agreeing to run and ultimately be elected.

    My statement last night that this private-public linkage was a 'house of cards' was made because its only intact as long as either (1) the OCPF says is not or (2) a majority of the SC says its not or (3) any given member decides that its not for them. Which maybe the most likely scenario as we move into the future.

    So my question to Jeff D was what did he think the school committee would do if any given member, existing or new would make such a request and I'll be patient in awaiting his response to this.

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    My question #1 was: If you had won, would you have had the sort of objections that Alan hypothetically refers to in his post, and sought to have it discontinued?

    So it can't "depend on the issue" - you can't realistically move the site back and forth. So you either have it on the town site, or you have it outside. The question of what goes on the site (regardless of where it is hosted) would be the decision of the School Committee. You might dislike a particular decision, but you wouldn't move the site because of it. I would assume that decisions about what goes on the site (regardless of where it is hosted) are the decision of the Committee as a whole (and I'd guess those decisions needed by unanimous).
    I would only be comfortable being part of a private site if the qualification was that all members unanimously agreed on its content. My example was a case where I could not be in support of such content. Individuals are, of course, free to speak their own mind (i.e. - the Dieffenbach blog)

    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    So you're really answering my question #1 here, and I don't mean to put any words in your mouth - so I assume I am correct to say that you do object to the external site?
    I think I stated my position above. Let me know if you think I didn't.

  9. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    Jeff [D.],

    Lets take a 'maybe not so hypothetical situation'. At some point in the future one or more of the SC members are replaced with new members and at least one of them says that they do not recognize the 'private' site as the SC site and they no longer want their name, email address, phone number listed on the 'private' site and they also want a disclaimer placed on the site and before the hyperlink to the site that they (at least) do not recognize the site as being the SC site. And/or that new member went so far as to say that they wanted all content moved to the town's launching site else they would want their name removed from the site altogether.

    How do you think the SC would handle this situation?
    I'd really like to know.
    Interesting question that prompts three responses:

    1. So, are you planning to run for School Committee? [grin]

    2. I won't speak for the committee, but my preliminary thinking (in advance of the hypothetical Committee discussion, and subject to change based on that discussion) would be to allow the member's "disassociation disclaimer" on both the WPS and WSC sites.

    That disclaimer would need to carry their name, so I'm not sure what value there would be to removing their name from the list of members (as on the WSC home page). And, I don't think that they could reasonably expect their name to be removed from the WPS site, if that's what you are suggesting with your last point. As it currently stands, whenever a new member comes on board, I ask them if they want their phone number and email included, so that's already voluntary by practice.

    I'm not quite sure if you asked this, but one member's disagreement with the existence of the WSC site would not be sufficient to dismantle the site, in my opinion--that would require a majority of members.

    3. The question you pose is certainly hypothetical in that you don't suggest a reason why a member would wish to disassociate himself/herself from the WSC site. Is it the fact that it is linked to from the WPS site? Or is it the fact that it informs about and advocates for ballot questions, which the OCPF allows for even on publicly-funded sites as long as the informing/advocating isn't done via unsolicited communication (this second condition isn't my opinion--this is clearly stated by OCPF per my reference earlier in this thread).

    In either case, it appears to come down to a lack of comfort with advocating for school budgets when ballot questions are involved. The question that I'd ask the community, then, is whether it wants a School Committee member who won't advocate for the schools to the fullest extent allowed by law.

  10. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    Questions for Jeff Dieffenbach and Jeff Baron:

    Jeff Dieffenbach:

    Jeff, do I understand your exchange with Greg Birne to mean that there is no difference between what you can post on a "governmental" or "private" site, if there is a link from the governmental site to the private one?

    If that is the case, then the only reasons to have the separate site, as I understand it, would be:

    (1) convenience, and
    (2) ability to send advocacy emails

    Or, are there things you can post on the site that you could not if it were on the town's website?

    If the requirements for the websites are the same, then I think Alan's question about a new member complaining about the separate site really becomes moot.
    The OCPF will apparently need to issue an Advisory Opinion to answer this fully. However, they explicitly say that a publicly-funded web site may post "information and endorsements" regarding a ballot question as long as a reference to that information/endorsement is not sent out in an unsolicited communication. A privately-funded web site could send information/endorsement in an unsolicited communication--the open question is whether a publicly-funded site could link to that privately-funded site, and if so, what disclaimer, if any, was necessary on the publicly-funded site.

    That is, the difference between publicly-funded and privately-funded sites doesn't relate to posting, but may relate to sending.

  11. #41
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    Default To answer your question(s)

    1. I have no plans to run for school committee but if I did would you vote for me ? [ smile ]

    2. As for the final ruling of the OCPF and what is allowed or not allowed, its not over till its over... lets just hold judgement on that just a little while longer.

    3. I see no need for a private site calling itself a government committee site connected to the town's name, reputation and server equipment. The portal not only comes alive during ballot season with actions that would not be permissible if it were actually on the town's webserver (the actual reason why its not BTW) but it also silently collects email addresses using the town's resources. Who holds those lists Jeff... are you in control of that vast data base of email addresses? Because you shouldn't be, it belongs to the taxpayers ... you shouldn't even get to look at them. When I was in office, all email communication went to Fred Turkington and he delegated what paper copies went to the Selectmen. None of the selectmen had access to what you seem to have access to.

    Simply put, every page, every link, every item on www.Waylandschoolcommittee.org could be replicated onto the town's actual website. Why in the universe does Wayland need a private school committee site linked to the town's site?... (oh I've already answered that one)

    4. I could find no other town in Mass. that does this type of cyberspace acrobatics. My congratulations to you and your board... you guys are very unique in this manner ! [oh grin ]

    5. If a new school committee member gets onto that board of yours and says, take my name off of the private site and only keep it on the public launching page then I would strongly suggest that it be done. Can you just imagine what the OCPF would think if that person were to actually file a complaint because his/her name was forcibly kept onto that private site? I can see a real hornets nest if that wasn't done. So here's to you hoping that you don't have to be in that situation.

    And by the way, I think (5) is still true no matter what the OCPF eventually rules on this one. Your site is right on the edge of the letter of the law.
    You can't even sneeze and know where your going to end up.

    Jeff, thanks for answering my questions, I do appreciate it.

  12. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    3. I see no need for a private site calling itself a government committee site connected to the town's name, reputation and server equipment. The portal not only comes alive during ballot season with actions that would not be permissible if it were actually on the town's webserver (the actual reason why its not BTW)
    Having now dug into the relevant OCPF information, I'm not aware of any aspect of the privately-funded WSC site that couldn't be carried out on the publicly-funded WPS site, with the *possible* exception of providing a mechanism to sign up to receive email messages that may occasionally inform about and/or advocate for ballot questions. I've found nothing to suggest that this mechanism isn't allowed, nor have I found anything to suggest that it is.

    While adherence to campaign finance law was one of the reasons for starting the privately-funded WSC site, it appears that this caution *may* have been unnecessary, leaving convenience and public employee workload reduction as the primary benefits of the site.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    but it also silently collects
    While this collection may literally be silent, it's also fully transparent.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    email addresses using the town's resources.
    No town resources are used for this collection, not that the use of town resources would necessarily be prohibited, as I indicated above.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    Who holds those lists Jeff... are you in control of that vast data base of email addresses? Because you shouldn't be, it belongs to the taxpayers ... you shouldn't even get to look at them.
    Which lists? The School Committee controls the rather small list of subscribers to the WSC newsletter (on the order of 200 addresses). The School Committee has no control over or access to the list of subscribers to WPS communications (even the quantity is unknown to me).

  13. #43
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    Default Your up late tonight

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Having now dug into the relevant OCPF information, I'm not aware of any aspect of the privately-funded WSC site that couldn't be carried out on the publicly-funded WPS site, with the *possible* exception of providing a mechanism to sign up to receive email messages that may occasionally inform about and/or advocate for ballot questions. I've found nothing to suggest that this mechanism isn't allowed, nor have I found anything to suggest that it is.

    While adherence to campaign finance law was one of the reasons for starting the privately-funded WSC site, it appears that this caution *may* have been unnecessary, leaving convenience and public employee workload reduction as the primary benefits of the site.
    This is the $64K question.... lets hold off and find out for real.
    We both want the answer to the same question and we both will get it soon.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    While this collection may literally be silent, it's also fully transparent.
    Transparency is a relative term. Until I made some hay out of this private/public website stuff, well it was pretty much silent and sitting there doing it thing. So, no ... it was silent - yet in full view.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    No town resources are used for this collection, not that the use of town resources would necessarily be prohibited, as I indicated above.
    Again, the $64K question...
    But one big resource was used www.wayland.k12.ma.us the good name, reputation and taxpayer resources of the cyberspace asset of the town... it doesn't get bigger than this.



    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Which lists? The School Committee controls the rather small list of subscribers to the WSC newsletter (on the order of 200 addresses). The School Committee has no control over or access to the list of subscribers to WPS communications (even the quantity is unknown to me).
    Now this surprises me a lot. You have control of the URL. Its your host ISP and you control the newsletter and that site has been there for years. You don't know the quantity? Its only 200? The toothfairy will visit me tonight.

    And I can't figure out this embedded quoting stuff... maybe Kim you can help me. [KR: Alan, I fixed your quotes, I think - can you review and make sure I started and ended the quotes at the right spots? Sorry for leaving this note in the middle of your message, but you seem to have been looking for my help. I am not the toothfairy, but happy to assist when possible :-) I will remove this whole paragraph when you confirm I got it right]

    I going to sleep for now.
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 07-09-2008 at 07:35 AM. Reason: to fix embedded quotes

  14. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlanJReiss View Post
    Now this surprises me a lot. You have control of the URL. Its your host ISP and you control the newsletter and that site has been there for years. You don't know the quantity? Its only 200?
    If you are talking about the WSC newsletter list, that quantity is on the order of 200. Maybe it's 250. It's not 100 and it's not 500. It's possible to count the individual addresses with some effort, but I don't see what value precision adds to this conversation.

  15. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    The School Committee has no control over or access to the list of subscribers to WPS communications (even the quantity is unknown to me).
    Note that the June 16, 2008 Technology Report (just completed--I've requested that it be posted to the WPS site here) lists WPS list membership counts, ranging from 148 for pegasus_news to 1,473 for hs_news. The sum of the membership counts is 5,356 (some people are likely counted multiple times in this number; for instance, someone subscribing to hs_news and ms_news would be counted twice).

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