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School District Releases Teacher Complaint Letters but in Redacted Form

AUSD has released redacted complaint forms against transferred teacher Brian Rodriguez. (File Photo)

AUSD has released redacted complaint forms against transferred teacher Brian Rodrigues. (File Photo)

In response to a public records request, the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) has released to Action Alameda News a number of Encinal High School teacher and staff complaints about a teacher involuntarily transferred to another school, but in a redacted form.

Previously, Action Alameda News reported that Encinal High School teacher Brian Rodriguez was to be transferred against his will from Encinal High School to the Alameda Science and Technology Institute.

Past and present students and members of the community wrote numerous letters of support for Rodriguez, hoping to stop the transfer.

However, he has detractors too, among the staff of Encinal High School.

On August 1st, after Michelle Ellson published excerpts of those letters on her blog, The Alamedan, Action Alameda News made a public records request to the school district for the same records provided to Ellson.

AUSD’s senior manager for community affairs, Susan Davis, provided documents today, but redacted identifying information for those letters from Encinal staff encouraging the district to transfer Rodriguez.

In particular, The Alamedan reported an excerpt from a letter “signed by 20 staffers” in support of the transfer.

A similar letter, appearing in the packet provided to Action Alameda News today, was redacted to remove the names of those who signed it, suggesting that the school district released different information to different publications.

There were no such letters in the packet provided to Action Alameda News that could be identified as having been signed by 20 Encinal High School staff members.

In providing the letters today, Davis told Action Alameda News, “We have redacted any information that could identify AUSD employees, as board policy dictates that information submitted as part of a uniform complaint process remain confidential.”

However, upon review of the district’s board policy on uniform complaint procedures, it’s not clear that procedure covers the letters from Encinal High School staff regarding Rodriguez. In any event, the letters were not on the district’s proscribed uniform complaint procedure form.

On making the original public records request, Action Alameda News asked Davis to cite any statutory exemptions under California public records law to justify any information withheld, but as of press time, no citations had been provided.

Rodriguez was to have an appeal of the transfer heard at the school board meeting tonight in closed session, but early in the day today, he sent an e-mail to supporters and the media saying that he had withdrawn the appeal.

The school district board announced tonight that the item had been removed from the agenda.

During the public comment portion of the school board meeting tonight, Alameda resident and Encinal High School graduate (1966) Andrew Huntoon addressed the board, citing a lack of transparency in the Rodriguez issue.

After the public comment period, Huntoon told Action Alameda News, “It doesn’t appear that there is any transparency. Everything’s behind closed doors, unsigned, anonymous, and it needs to be opened up, and these are the kinds of things that need to be discussed publicly. These are our children we’re dealing with, the environment for our children we’re talking about and it just can’t be held behind closed doors.”

Action Alameda News has asked the school district board and senior administration to review the process by which the records were redacted and respond with unredacted documents.

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