I recently sent several open records requests to the Memphis City School system. Let me say that transparency in local government has improved significantly since the exit of Willie Herenton. Shelby County is the best, MLGW is next and the City of Memphis, since interim Mayor Lowery and now Mayor Wharton have taken over is much improved. Normally if something is available electronically, they will send it in that format. They recognize that is cheaper and easier on both parties.
And then there is the MCS system. I was required to go yesterday to the office on Avery to visit Kimberly Harris Johnson, the assistant to the legal counsel for the MCS. I was taken to a room and given the documents that were the subject of my open records request. I said that I wanted to make copies as I had brought a copy machine and a computer. She said that copies made by me were not allowed. I could have copies but only made by them at 25 cents per copy. I objected and told her that I wanted a letter from the general counsel setting out this outrageous policy. She said she would pass on my request. I said that concerning the new contract with the teachers union, the old one was posted on line and I asked when the new one would be online. She said that she did not know. I asked to receive an electronic copy of the new contract and she noted my request.
Then I sat down and spent 45 minutes looking at the documents. She sat in the room with me and read magazines, apparently to keep me from stealing paperclips. This reminded me of what the MLGW used to do when Joe Lee was in charge.
This whole exercise is outrageous and explains why the public has no faith in the Memphis City School system. Transparency and cooperation with legitimate requests builds public support. Obscuration and objections build distrust. I call on the School board to reverse these policies and remind the school system that they work for the taxpayers and we demand transparency and openness.