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School District Holds Firm on Redaction of Information in Public Records Request

The Alameda Unified School District is holding firm on redacting the identities of Encinal High School Staff who complained about a teacher there. (Google Street View)

The Alameda Unified School District is holding firm on redacting the identities of Encinal High School Staff who complained about a teacher there. (Google Street View)

The Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) is holding firm on the redaction of information in documents released pursuant to a public records request for complaint letters against a controversial teacher transfer at Encinal High School.

Brian Rodriquez, a teacher at Encinal High School was dealt an “involuntary transfer” by the school district earlier this summer, moving him from Encinal to the Alameda Science and Technology Institute (ASTI).

The move sparked a letter writing campaign to the district by both supporters and his detractors at Encinal.

Action Alameda News made a public records request for copies of letters from AUSD staffers supporting the move; we were provided documents with identifying information removed.

At the time, Susan Davis, senior manager for community affairs said that the information was redacted in compliance with district policy on confidentially under the uniform complaint process.

However, when asked, Ms. Davis could produce only one formal complaint form about Mr. Rodriguez, despite letters from apparently several different staffers supporting the transfer.

In early August, The Alamedan blog reported an excerpt from a letter “signed by 20 [Encinal High School] staffers” in support of the transfer. The letter in question appears to have been provided to Action Alameda News with the names removed, so we are unable to count them. In any event, it does not appear that all staffers writing letters supporting the transfer were backed by formal complaints under the uniform complaint process.

We appealed to the school board and incoming Interim Superintendent Sean McPhetridge.

McPhetridge declined to comment for this article, and referred the matter to Chad Pimentel, general counsel for the school district.

Pimentel wrote, “The redactions to the letters sought in your first request were made consistent with both the Public Records Act’s exemption for ‘personnel’ documents (as set out in Government Code § 6254(c)), and the Act’s general grant of authority allowing an agency to withhold documents when the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosing the record. As noted above, each of the letters you requested dealt with a proposed personnel move which would affect the employees who wrote in. As a result, the personnel exemption applies. In addition, preserving the anonymity of those employees who wrote in serves the public interest of encouraging District staff to express their unfiltered opinions to the Board.”

However, the district’s redaction effort was incomplete. Action Alameda News was able to identify one e-mail that was apparently authored by Alexis Ogdie, a Social Science teacher at Encinal High School.

Ogdie apparently wrote, in part, “[redacted] was marked by tension and divisions much of which were generated by Mr. Rodriquez’s methods of interacting with his colleagues. Those methods included addressing belittling and disrespectful comments to his fellow teachers, leveling accusations of bigotry and racial bias when faced with opposing points of view or criticism, and threatening civil lawsuits and or union and administrative complaints as a technique for controlling decision making at Encinal.”

Rodriquez, for his part, has previously stated that, “the truth is that I was sometimes hard to work with when faced with racism, oppression or mismanagement,” and, “I also have a low tolerance for mediocrity, or teachers slumming it because they thought no parents would notice, and encouraged my colleagues by setting high standards and modeling best practices – liberally sharing ideas and lesson plans.”

Ogdie declined to comment on Rodriquez’s remarks about teachers “slumming it” or the mood at Encinal now that the school year has begun and Rodriquez has been transferred.

2 comments to School District Holds Firm on Redaction of Information in Public Records Request

  • karen zimmerman

    I’m having a hard time figuring out what the truth is here, but I do find Rodriguez’s remarks disturbing, and reminds me of people I have worked with who thought they did a better job than others and spent time criticizing and overstepping their authority. It’s all in the delivery. His remarks make him seem a bit elitist and perhaps his fellow teachers resented it. Who is he to judge? And if belittling remarks were indeed made, that’s not a very professional approach. If such is the case, he’s probably not going to get along anywhere.

    But, again, I find this whole thing confusing and would love to know the real story… As would everyone else, I imagine.

  • There may have been 19 or 20 staffers at Encinal who signed letters encouraging the transfer. There were many, many, more letters of support for Rodriguez. Maybe both sides are ‘right’ – he’s a hard-ass that produced results.

    I find it interesting though that Bram Briggance, son of Brooke, who was (still is?) active in the Alameda Education Foundation, wrote a negative letter about Rodriguez, as his former student, and is leading the ‘yes on i’ campaign for the tax bond measure. The school tax proponent groups are typically comprised entirely of close allies of the school district.

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