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

  1. #76
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    Quote Originally Posted by TracyScheidemantel View Post
    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.
    "Trust is the hardest thing to find and the easiest thing to lose..." - Unknown

    The point you're missing, Tracy, is that it is not about discrediting the SC. The SC did that for themselves. It is also not about whether these folks are neighbors, volunteers, nice people, etc. That is a given. In the end, however, the SC controls 70% of our town's budget, and they lost the faith of some portion of the public. All the questioning and criticism that comes along with that lost faith is to be expected.

    BTW, I could take your analogy into government all over the place. George Bush, for example, is hardly basking in adulation. Does that take away from his ability to run the nation? Congress is forced to run for re-election every two years. Does that take away from their ability to transact business? And so on, and so on...

  2. #77
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    Default The bottom line

    While I appreciate all the legal semantics of this discussion and the current WSC webiste might pass muster but the problem is the preception of the average person. Most people regardless of the quick disclaimer don't understand that this isn't a public government site. While this site might never do anythng that is inappropriate there's no guarantee.

    During the discussion and comparasion of Loker and HH there was incorrect information on the site for weeks. I didn't know that it was only Jeff's work, I thought it was a document of the school dept since I went to the school website and was directed to the WSC site.

    I think it would be fine to have this extra site for advocacy if there was another sight maintain by the school dept which gave only data and appropriate information. Our government is founded on a system of checks and balances and this site goes against that philosophy.

    I am curious also how much does the SC pay to maintain this private site?

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    Quote Originally Posted by TracyScheidemantel View Post
    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.
    My comments are not motivated by the school consolidation process, Tracy. We recently celebrated my youngest son's 27th birthday.

    Quote Originally Posted by TracyScheidemantel View Post
    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.
    You are incorrect. My concern is based simply on the facts, and on the continuing attempts to obfuscate them. I am a strong believer in education, but those who take the low road in the advancement of a cause inevitably do it harm, whatever their motives. I'd much rather have a worthy opponent than an ally of questionable integrity.

    Quote Originally Posted by TracyScheidemantel View Post
    I think continuing to look for ways to discredit the SC does not help any of us.
    Critique is the forge of democracy, Tracy. If the School Committee's actions cannot withstand public scrutiny, then the conclusion is obvious. Attempting to spin this as "continuing to look for ways to discredit the SC" is just more obfuscation.

    Dave

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    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.
    If you were not seeking a communications platform free of regulatory constraints, you would use the Town's web pages to "inform about and advocate for the Wayland Public Schools" rather than a privately-managed web site. Thats "way one".

    You repeatedly assert that the privately-managed web site is the official communications platform of the Wayland School Committee, and the Town's web page links to your privately-managed web site exclusively. That's "way two".

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    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.
    Your previous post makes the impropriety explicit: you have the ability to terminate the public official responsible for granting and maintaining preferential linkage from the town's web site to your privately-managed web site.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    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.
    And who decides what runs "counter to the interests of the schools"? A public official that you can choose to terminate.

    The obvious resolution to this matter would be for the School Committee members to establish a School Committe web page on the town site and utilize this to communicate and advocate for the schools within the bounds of the regulations governing this activity. If you also wish to maintain a private site to communicate and advocate in an unregulated environment, that's fine, but there should be no preferential linkage from the Town's web pages to your private site.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    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?
    Eliminating real or perceived misbehavior in the leadership of an organization is always in the interest of that organization. Leadership by example is a double-edged sword; a leader's poor example is amplified throughout the organization.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    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.
    The benefit to you is an unregulated private advocacy platform that carries the endorsement of the town's public school system. The potential for conflict-of-interest is flagrant, given that the official who approves the preferential linkage is under your administrative control.

    You can and should easily rectify this.

    Dave

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    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?
    Yes, I would still have this objection. In my earlier posts, I used the phrase "privately-funded" to distinguish the School Committee's private web site from the Town's web site. A better choice of words would have been "privately-managed". None of the points I have made are weakened by this substitution.

    Dave

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bernstein View Post
    The benefit to you is an unregulated private advocacy platform that carries the endorsement of the town's public school system.
    But, Dave, this whole argument is completely invalid if the exact some regulatory requirements apply to the "private" site as to the "public" one. You've already said the funding isn't the issue. And so the issue is the applicability of regulation, which appears to be the same regardless of where the site is hosted. It's become increasingly clear through this exchange (to this non-lawyer anyway) that the whole issue is a red herring.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    But, Dave, this whole argument is completely invalid if the exact some regulatory requirements apply to the "private" site as to the "public" one. You've already said the funding isn't the issue. And so the issue is the applicability of regulation, which appears to be the same regardless of where the site is hosted. It's become increasingly clear through this exchange (to this non-lawyer anyway) that the whole issue is a red herring.
    If the exact same regulatory requirements apply to the "private" site as to the "public" one, then the School Board members would have had no reason to create a privately-managed site, nor would they have any reason to continue maintaining this privately-managed site. Clearly the School Board members believe that regulatory requirements apply to the town-managed site. The privately-managed site is clearly free of regulation.

    Your post boils down to "if the public site is not subject to regulations, then the whole issue is a red herring". The School Board members have demonstrated by their actions that they believe the public site to be subject to regulations.

    Dave

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bernstein View Post
    If the exact same regulatory requirements apply to the "private" site as to the "public" one, then the School Board members would have had no reason to create a privately-managed site, nor would they have any reason to continue maintaining this privately-managed site. Clearly the School Board members believe that regulatory requirements apply to the town-managed site. The privately-managed site is clearly free of regulation.

    Your post boils down to "if the public site is not subject to regulations, then the whole issue is a red herring". The School Board members have demonstrated by their actions that they believe the public site to be subject to regulations.

    Dave
    Dave, I believe Jeff has already said that he now understands the regulations to be the same, and that the School Committee site as it currently exists complies with those regulations (and would comply were it on the town website).

    If my understanding of Jeff's comments is correct, and if the OCPF agrees, then doesn't this whole argument become moot?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    [The point you're missing, Tracy, is that it is not about discrediting the SC. The SC did that for themselves.
    I'm not missing a point Jeff, I just disagree with you. I do not believe the SC discredited themselves. I do believe they made a difficult decision--one that could've played out many different ways, and they did the best they could, given the situation. I understand that your opinion differs and that is fine. Don't get me wrong, I certainly didn't agree with their process at every juncture, but just because they may not be here posting, there are many people who do not feel the faith loss that you are experiencing. And yes, questioning and criticism is expected with a contentious issue, but lately every decision, every process, every meeting, every discussion seems to be overly scrutinized to a level of minutia most seem to find confusing. It's great that it took such a contentious issue to spark involvement, but is this type of involvement helpful? Yes, necessary at times, but to this degree?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    BTW, I could take your analogy into government all over the place. George Bush, for example, is hardly basking in adulation. Does that take away from his ability to run the nation? Congress is forced to run for re-election every two years. Does that take away from their ability to transact business? And so on, and so on...
    I'm not sure what analogy you refer to, but I have to think that the efforts, time and resources of a local level volunteer, p/t committee member pale in comparison to those of a president or congress. I do think that time spent responding to such scrutiny could be time better spent. Our trust and confidence can be made very clear at the polls. Should the SC still conduct their business? Sure. It's just a choice of how we want them to spend their time....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    Dave, I believe Jeff has already said that he now understands the regulations to be the same, and that the School Committee site as it currently exists complies with those regulations (and would comply were it on the town website).

    If my understanding of Jeff's comments is correct, and if the OCPF agrees, then doesn't this whole argument become moot?
    If School Board members are willing to have their "communications and advocacy" web site comply with the regulations, then this site should be integrated within the school's web site. However, as long as School Board members insist on privately maintaining their "communications and advocacy" site, then they clearly believe the two environments to be different from a compliance perspective. As always, actions speak louder than words.

    Dave

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    Originally Posted by TracyScheidemantel
    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.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bernstein View Post
    My comments are not motivated by the school consolidation process, Tracy. We recently celebrated my youngest son's 27th birthday.
    I used the term "there has been much expressed" b/c I was talking about those who have said that this was their original motivation--I understand that may not apply to everyone here. Since you mentioned it, I will say that your children's age, alone, is not indicative of your interest in the school consolidation process. Many empty nesters and folks without children in town were involved and outspoken for a variety of reasons.



    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bernstein View Post
    You are incorrect. My concern is based simply on the facts, and on the continuing attempts to obfuscate them. I am a strong believer in education, but those who take the low road in the advancement of a cause inevitably do it harm, whatever their motives. I'd much rather have a worthy opponent than an ally of questionable integrity
    I'm not sure how I can be incorrect in my opinion, but I do disagree with your statement about anyone taking "the low road in the advancement of a cause". Maybe it is a different road than you might choose?


    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bernstein View Post
    Critique is the forge of democracy, Tracy. If the School Committee's actions cannot withstand public scrutiny, then the conclusion is obvious. Attempting to spin this as "continuing to look for ways to discredit the SC" is just more obfuscation.
    I was not implying that the SC "cannot withstand public scrutiny". I was suggesting that it might not be such a valuable use of their time in serving us. Surely necessary at times, but in every instance? I don't think so. If you have an overall distrust of a SC member and have brought it to everyone's attention (be it OCPF, BOS, Admin., legal counsel, or whomever) then to continue scrutinizing their every move seems a waste of time. Take it up at the polls.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TracyScheidemantel View Post
    Originally Posted by TracyScheidemantel
    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 used the term "there has been much expressed" b/c I was talking about those who have said that this was their original motivation--I understand that may not apply to everyone here. Since you mentioned it, I will say that your children's age, alone, is not indicative of your interest in the school consolidation process. Many empty nesters and folks without children in town were involved and outspoken for a variety of reasons.

    I'm not sure how I can be incorrect in my opinion, but I do disagree with your statement about anyone taking "the low road in the advancement of a cause". Maybe it is a different road than you might choose?.
    The gist of your response to my post was this is really just sour grapes over the Loker closure. As I have pointed out, this is nonsense. Besides having no school-age children, I have no problem with the decision to close a school in the face of declining enrollment as long as the quality of the teaching does not suffer.

    Exploiting one's public position to circumvent regulations by establishing a private School Board web site with preferential linkage from the public school web site is unquestionably a low road. There are lower roads to be sure, but this one is below the bar.

    Quote Originally Posted by TracyScheidemantel View Post
    I was not implying that the SC "cannot withstand public scrutiny". I was suggesting that it might not be such a valuable use of their time in serving us. Surely necessary at times, but in every instance? I don't think so. If you have an overall distrust of a SC member and have brought it to everyone's attention (be it OCPF, BOS, Admin., legal counsel, or whomever) then to continue scrutinizing their every move seems a waste of time.
    It was the School Boards members' decision to set up this private-website-with-preferential-linkage-from-the-public-website arrangement. Surely they anticipated that this would generate controversy, the resolution of which would consume both time and goodwill. Whatever waste is occurring is the result of their poor judgment.

    Quote Originally Posted by TracyScheidemantel View Post
    Take it up at the polls.
    I certainly understand why you'd make that suggestion: at the polls, I have but one vote, while the discussion here influences many voters.

    The issue at hand is not policy; its judgment and integrity. Understanding the character of our community leaders is hardly a waste of time.

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    Dave, you've made a number of posts since my last response--in their separate form, I'm not sure that I can concisely tie them together for a response.

    Instead, let me ask you a string of questions (and in the interest of openness/transparency, give you my answers as a point of comparison). Maybe we can figure out where we agree and where we don't. I'll need to make some assertions along the way. I'm not asking you to agree that they are true (they are), but for the sake of this conversation, please answer as if so.

    Q01: You say that you are a strong believer in education. Did that belief carry over to support for the override this past April?
    A01: It did for me. I ask this only to get a sense for your support for the Wayland Public Schools. If you prefer not to answer this question, I respect that and take no issue with your skipping ahead to the next one.

    Q02: In carrying out its mission, is it appropriate for the Wayland School Committee (WSC) to advocate--perhaps with limitations--on behalf of the Wayland Public Schools (WPS)?
    A02: I say yes.

    Q03: One element of the WSC's mission is the hiring and oversight of the Superintendent. While the relationship between a school committee and a superintendent is akin to that between corporate board of directors and a chief executive officer, and is different from that of a superior to his or her subordinate(s), the school committee in effect provides direction to the superintendent. Do you agree that this captures the nature of the working relationship?
    A03: I do.

    Q04: Do you agree that, through its oversight of the Superintendent, the WSC has direct or indirect responsibility for tasks under the Superintendent's control including the content of the publicly-funded WPS web site?
    A04: I do.

    Q05: Do you agree that the WSC has direct responsibility for the privately-funded WSC web site?
    A05: I do. Note that I'm not saying anything about whether the site should exist, just the nature of its current existence.

    Q06: The essence of the relevant legal interpretations by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) is that public funds may not be used to send unsolicited communications informing about or advocating for or against ballot questions (see this document for a general treatment, and this Interpretive Bulletin, p.3, 2nd full paragraph, with respect to solicitation). Do you agree with this read of the OCPF materials?
    A06: I do, and in phone conversation with the OCPF General Counsel, my understanding has been supported.

    Q07: Do you agree that section I.G. of the Interpretive Bulletin referenced in Q06, above, allows publicly-funded web sites to host "information and endorsements" as long as they avoid a "more political purpose, such as unsolicited e-mails to voters asking for their support?"
    A07: I agree--for the time being, you'll have to take my word for it when I say that the OCPF's General Counsel told me in a phone conversation that solicited email messages (in the form of the WSC's newsletter) did not constitute a "more political purpose."

    Q08: Is the privately-funded WSC web site used to send unsolicited communications?
    A08: It is not. Again, you will have to take my word for it, but we only send our email newsletter to those who have subscribed to it.

    Q09: Does the privately-funded WSC web site do anything that would not be allowed on the publicly-funded WPS web site?
    A09: It does not.

    As I've said earlier in this thread, the initial reason for creating a separate, privately-funded WSC web site was to comply with our understanding of the law at the time. Note that a relevant explanatory OCPF Interpretive Bulletin, OCPF-IB-04-04 (Use of the Internet and E-mail for Political Campaign Purposes), was not published until after the WSC web site was created. Over time, it became obvious that there were additional benefits to the WSC site, including the ability to rapidly post information and the lack of burdening our public employees with additional work. In the last week or so, I learned that advocating done by the WSC on its privately-funded web site might not in fact be at odds with the OCPF since the WSC sends no unsolicited communications. That said, moving the content isn't trivial, and there's been no formal ruling from the OCPF indicating that such a move would in fact pass muster. If someone else is interested in asking them, they are of course free to do so. I don't intend to ask that question (I have asked the question about whether the link from the publicly-funded WPS web site to the privately-funded WSC web site is allowed; their preliminary written answer was yes--I'm awaiting some clarification and will post it when I have it).

    Now, I'll draw on the Q&A above to make a few observations.

    A. The WSC has essentially the same control over the content of the publicly-funded WPS web site as it does the privately-funded WSC web site (Q&A 04/05).

    B. The functions of the privately-funded WSC web site would be just as allowable on the publicly-funded WPS web site (Q&A 08).

    C. Keeping WSC content on the privately-funded WSC web site is more efficient than keeping that content on the publicly-funded WPS web site (Q&A 09).

    In short (I know, it's far too late for that), there is no logical, legal, or ethical (a) problem with the current arrangement or (b) reason to make a change.

    It's interesting that you contend that the WSC anticipated that its privately-funded web site would generate controversy. I cannot speak for my colleagues at the time, but I certainly had no such anticipation. For roughly six years, including a number with contentious budget campaigns in which individuals were not shy about challenging the WSC, no one to my knowledge questioned the existence or use of the site.

    I've attempted to engage in an open, honest, and respectful conversation about this topic. Your response in kind? The careless (or worse, careful) denigration of the WSC in which you charge--without foundation--such offenses as obfuscation, taking the low road, lack of integrity, misbehavior, circumvention, and poor judgment.

    Rest easy, though, in knowing that these insults fall far short of hitting the mark. As my many comments on this and other issues attest, I certainly don't shy from public scrutiny.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Dave, you've made a number of posts since my last response--in their separate form, I'm not sure that I can concisely tie them together for a response.
    Spirited discussions on vBulletin are generally fractal and chaotic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Instead, let me ask you a string of questions (and in the interest of openness/transparency, give you my answers as a point of comparison). Maybe we can figure out where we agree and where we don't. I'll need to make some assertions along the way. I'm not asking you to agree that they are true (they are), but for the sake of this conversation, please answer as if so.
    Q01:You say that you are a strong believer in education. Did that belief carry over to support for the override this past April?
    Yes. I have voted in favor of every override since moving to Wayland. I believe that educated human minds are the most valuable resource on this planet; it follows that I consider education a worthwhile investment.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    A01: It did for me. I ask this only to get a sense for your support for the Wayland Public Schools. If you prefer not to answer this question, I respect that and take no issue with your skipping ahead to the next one.
    Q02:In carrying out its mission, is it appropriate for the Wayland School Committee (WSC) to advocate--perhaps with limitations--on behalf of the Wayland Public Schools (WPS)?
    A02: I say yes.
    I believe that it is appropriate for the School Committee as an entity to advocate (within the law) for WPS, and I believe that it is appropriate for individual members of the School Committee to advocate for WPS as can any other private citizen.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Q03: One element of the WSC's mission is the hiring and oversight of the Superintendent. While the relationship between a school committee and a superintendent is akin to that between corporate board of directors and a chief executive officer, and is different from that of a superior to his or her subordinate(s), the school committee in effect provides direction to the superintendent. Do you agree that this captures the nature of the working relationship?
    A03: I do.
    I have never served on a school committee, but your metaphor seems reasonable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    [Q04: Do you agree that, through its oversight of the Superintendent, the WSC has direct or indirect responsibility for tasks under the Superintendent's control including the content of the publicly-funded WPS web site?
    A04: I do.
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Q05: Do you agree that the WSC has direct responsibility for the privately-funded WSC web site?
    A05: I do. Note that I'm not saying anything about whether the site should exist, just the nature of its current existence.
    No. The Wayland School Committee as an entity is distinct from the members of that same School Committee acting as private citizens. The WSC is an element of the Wayland Public School System; it is not responsible for the content of private web sites operated by some or all of its members acting as private citizens, nor can it legally exert control over the content of these sites. When acting as private citizens, members of the School Board are entitled to communicate to the world as they see fit, including via their own web site(s); Section II.B of the Interpretive Bulletin you cite below substantiates this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Q06: The essence of the relevant legal interpretations by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) is that public funds may not be used to send unsolicited communications informing about or advocating for or against ballot questions (see this document for a general treatment, and this Interpretive Bulletin, p.3, 2nd full paragraph, with respect to solicitation). Do you agree with this read of the OCPF materials?
    A06: I do, and in phone conversation with the OCPF General Counsel, my understanding has been supported.
    I am not an attorney, but based on a first reading of these documents, I agree. In particular, the Interpretive Bulletin precludes any use of the WPS web site for informing about or advocating for or against ballot questions. Do you agree?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Q07: Do you agree that section I.G. of the Interpretive Bulletin referenced in Q06, above, allows publicly-funded web sites to host "information and endorsements" as long as they avoid a "more political purpose, such as unsolicited e-mails to voters asking for their support?"
    A07: I agree--for the time being, you'll have to take my word for it when I say that the OCPF's General Counsel told me in a phone conversation that solicited email messages (in the form of the WSC's newsletter) did not constitute a "more political purpose."
    No, I do not agree, and neither would anyone else reading the text of section I.G, which I have provided here (with my emphasis):

    "Information or endorsements by governmental entities or other information regarding a ballot question that are public records may be posted on a town’s Web site or bulletin board. See AO-00-12. Further use of the governmental web site or the Internet for a more political purpose, such as unsolicited e-mails to voters asking for their support, should be avoided."

    Only information or endorsements that are public records may be posted on a town’s Web site. Thus one may post the school’s budget and enrollment data on a town’s web site, but one may not post a paragraph exhorting readers to support an override because without it pupil-to-teacher ratios would reach unacceptable levels.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Q08: Is the privately-funded WSC web site used to send unsolicited communications?
    A08: It is not. Again, you will have to take my word for it, but we only send our email newsletter to those who have subscribed to it.
    I am not familiar with the email newsletter to which you refer. In particular, I do not know whether it is an official communication vehicle of the Wayland School Committee as a part of the Wayland Public School system, or a vehicle used by a group of private citizens, some of whom are members of WSC.

    But you asked me to take your word for it, so I will.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Q09: Does the privately-funded WSC web site do anything that would not be allowed on the publicly-funded WPS web site?
    A09: It does not.
    But it could, and were that to happen, no law would be broken. Section II.B of the Interpretive Bulletin you cite above makes it clear that public officials can take advocacy positions on private web sites. No one will check private web sites for compliance because there are no rules with which such sites must comply.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    As I've said earlier in this thread, the initial reason for creating a separate, privately-funded WSC web site was to comply with our understanding of the law at the time. Note that a relevant explanatory OCPF Interpretive Bulletin, OCPF-IB-04-04 (Use of the Internet and E-mail for Political Campaign Purposes), was not published until after the WSC web site was created. Over time, it became obvious that there were additional benefits to the WSC site, including the ability to rapidly post information and the lack of burdening our public employees with additional work. In the last week or so, I learned that advocating done by the WSC on its privately-funded web site might not in fact be at odds with the OCPF since the WSC sends no unsolicited communications.
    Nothing you post on a private web site can be at odds with OCPF, as is clear from Section II.B of the Interpretive Bulletin.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    That said, moving the content isn't trivial, and there's been no formal ruling from the OCPF indicating that such a move would in fact pass muster. If someone else is interested in asking them, they are of course free to do so. I don't intend to ask that question (I have asked the question about whether the link from the publicly-funded WPS web site to the privately-funded WSC web site is allowed; their preliminary written answer was yes--I'm awaiting some clarification and will post it when I have it).
    A WSC web site integrated into the WPS site would be subject to Section I.G of the Interpretive Bulletin; paraphrasing, no advocacy on ballot issues beyond the reproduction of public records.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Now, I'll draw on the Q&A above to make a few observations.

    A. The WSC has essentially the same control over the content of the publicly-funded WPS web site as it does the privately-funded WSC web site (Q&A 04/05).
    The WSC has no control over the content of any private web site, as stated in Section II.B of the Interpretive Bulletin. The WSC has influence over the content of the publicly funded WPS web site, as we have agreed in our answers to your question #4. Thus your answer here is incorrect.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    B. The functions of the privately-funded WSC web site would be just as allowable on the publicly-funded WPS web site (Q&A 08).
    This is absolutely not true. The content of a privately-managed web site is unregulated, as per Section II.B of the Interpretive Bulletin. The content of the public-funded WPS web site is regulated by Section I.G of the Interpretive Bulletin. Advocacy that is permissible on the a privately-managed web site would not be permitted on a publicly-funded web site. Thus your answer is incorrect.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    C. Keeping WSC content on the privately-funded WSC web site is more efficient than keeping that content on the publicly-funded WPS web site (Q&A 09).
    You have provided nothing quantitative to substantiate any significant benefit. Simple changes in workflow and/or tools might accomplish the same improvements in efficiency.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    In short (I know, it's far too late for that), there is no logical, legal, or ethical (a) problem with the current arrangement or (b) reason to make a change.
    I strongly disagree: there is a compelling reason to make a change. At present, a public web page under the constraints of Interpretive Bulletin section I.G contains an exclusive and therefore preferential hyperlink to a private web page not under those same constraints. A viewer of the public web page will with one click see a web page operated by a group referring to itself as the “Wayland School Committee” that is free to advocate for ballot questions, and is free of any scrutiny because it is entitled to so advocate.

    Is this hyperlink legal? I don't know. But I do know that it violates the intent of the Interpretive Bulletin, which clearly precludes ballot question advocacy on public web sites. When a Wayland Public Schools web page contains exactly one hyperlink, the destination of which says Welcome to the Wayland School Committee (WSC) web site, most viewers will assume that they are continuing to see information provided by the Wayland Public Schools web site. But they aren’t; the information presented is unconstrained by Interpretive Bulletin section I.G.

    This preferential hyperlink to a private web site operated by WSC members is a part of the publicly-funded WPS web site; as you state in question 4, WSC has direct or indirect responsibility for tasks under the Superintendent's control including the content of the publicly-funded WPS web site. Thus WSC members are vulnerable to the charge that they used their public authority to obtain preferential treatment for a web site they are operating as private citizens.

    I have not made that charge. I have stated that whatever the intent, this arrangement looks and smells bad, implies poor judgment on the part of its creators, and ought to be eliminated.

    Yes, you could add a ton of explanation to the source and destination pages explaining that there’s an official Wayland School Committee, and that its members have banded together to create a private web site, and that this web site isn’t constrained from ballot question advocacy, and here’s a link to that site. Best case, you’ll still confuse some viewers, and you’ll turn away others who were seeking information.

    A far better alternative would be to create a WSC site within the public WPS site. The WSC as an element of WPS should utilize this site to communicate and advocate for WPS in a manner consistent with Interpretive Bulletin section I.G. If you and your fellow members wish to advocate as private citizens using your own unconstrained private web site(s), by all means do so. But either there should be no hyperlinks from any part of the public WPS site to your private web site(s), or an appropriately explanatory page on the WPS site should be created that provides links to any other private web site that contains content relevant to education in Wayland and meets community standards.

    Dave

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I have asked the question about whether the link from the publicly-funded WPS web site to the privately-funded WSC web site is allowed; their preliminary written answer was yes--I'm awaiting some clarification and will post it when I have it).
    The above-mentioned "preliminary written answer" contains the question you posed to the OCPF regarding the hyperlink from the public WPS site to your private web site:

    "My question for you was as follows: does a link from a publicly-funded school DEPARTMENT web site to a privately-funded school BOARD web site trigger the same equal access provision? As I indicated, a small fraction of the privately-funded school board web site provides information about and advocates for ballot questions, but only on a periodic basis."

    I suspect you would receive a different response to this question:

    "I am a member of the Wayland School Board. I and other members of this Board manage a private web site. Exercising our rights as private citizens, we use this web site to advocate for ballot questions. Would a hyperlink from the public Wayland Public School web site to our private web site require that the Wayland Public School web site provide equal access to other private web sites that advocate for ballot questions?"

    Dave

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