Jul 30, 2014

113 Keeping Community Survey Data Under Wraps

Administration continues to defend denial of FOIA requests for information.

113 Keeping Community Survey Data Under Wraps

Township High School District 113 has to a survey released in March that measured community interest and opinion in capital improvements to Deerfield and Highland Park High Schools.

, the District reached out to members of the community to seek input and guidance before developing a new plan.

Patch and at least three others made requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the raw data used to create the marketing committee's report on the survey. All were denied. Patch made its request May 7 and the District denied it May 14.

“A majority of the members on both the market research team and the leadership team decided that the raw data you requested should not be released,” District 113 Superintendent George Fornero wrote in a letter to Patch after the request was denied.

At least one member of the leadership team, because of the unwillingness of the administration and District 113 Board of Education to release the data.

Marci Cohen, the head of marketing committee and the author of the report, declined to discuss it with Patch this week.

Members of the community who were on opposite sides of the question a year ago both want the raw data released. They believe the Board and administration are not being sufficiently transparent after conducting the survey.

“The transparency of government is important,” Highland Park resident Lane Young said. Young voted in favor of the referendum. “There is lots of good data, which would be useful to understand what the community was feeling in that snapshot of time.”

Young was one of the people who filed a FOIA request for the information.

Fornero does not believe the release of the data is necessary and does not think the District has a legal responsibility to disclose it.

“It was the opinion of the community members on the Market Research Committee that releasing the data is not a common professional practice,” Fornero wrote. “Furthermore, the requested data is exempt from FOIA because it is predecisional material.”

Another community member, Frank Pirri of Deerfield, the head of Education First, has the same thirst for the raw data as Young. Education First was the major group campaigning against the referendum last year. He did not file a FOIA request.

“The community is entitled to know the responses to the questions,” Pirri said. “If you want community input you should share the information.”

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