FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

Martin Edgar and the Hartford

Federation of Substitute Teachers,

 
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2009-284

Principal, Breakthrough Academy II,

Hartford Public Schools; Principal,

Breakthrough Academy I, Hartford

Public Schools; and Hartford Public

Schools,

 
  Respondents November 18, 2009
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 2, 2009, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. 

 

After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:

 

1.  The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of 1-200(1), G.S.

 

2.  It is found that, by separate letters both dated May 2, 2009, the complainants sent a request for records to the respondents, in which they sought copies of the following records:

“the entire 2008-09 Teacher Absence Report for the Breakthrough Academy I [and Breakthrough Academy II].  This would include all Teacher absences, and the Substitute teachers that filled in for them, from per diem to long term assignments. . . The absence list should include the name of the teacher, the subject taught by him/her, the name of the substitute teacher that filled the position, along with dates of the substitution (or absence), and any unfilled teacher absences.  The report should span the entire school year from August 25, 2008 to now. . . .”

 

3.  By letter dated May 9, 2009 and filed May 12, 2009, the complainants appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by not complying with their request for records.

 

4.  Section 1-200(5), G.S., provides:

 

“Public records or files” means any recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, received or retained by a public agency, or to which a public agency is entitled to receive a copy by law or contract under section 1-218, whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.

 

5.  Section 1-210(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that:

 

Except as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency, whether or not such records are required by any law or by any rule or regulation, shall be public records and every person shall have the right to . . .  (3) receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212.

 

6.  Section 1-212(a)(1), G.S., provides in relevant part that:

 

Any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record.


            7.  It is found that, to the extent that the respondents maintain the records described in paragraph 2, above, such records are “public records” and must be disclosed promptly in accordance with 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., unless they are exempt from disclosure. 

 

8.  It is found that, after the complainants filed their complaint with the Commission, the respondents replied to the complainants, stating that there “was no Subfinder ‘Teacher Absence Report’ for either Breakthrough Academy I or Breakthrough Academy II for the 2008-2009 school year.” It is further found that the respondents informed the complainants that they had no records responsive to the complainants’ request, and if the complainants were looking for records other than the Subfinder Teacher Absence Report, they would “need to make an additional FOIA request.” 

 

9.  The respondents testified that the complainants made a previous request for records from the Hartford Public Schools, in which they requested the Teacher Absence Reports for each academic site within the Hartford Public School System.  The respondents further testified that Teacher Absence Reports are specific reports generated from a database within the central office of the Hartford Board of Education known as a “Subfinder System.” The respondents further testified that the “Subfinder System” is an automated system used to assign substitute teachers to schools to cover teacher absences district wide.  Finally, the respondents testified that the complainant received all of the Teacher Absence Reports for all of the schools within the Hartford Public School System, except for Breakthrough Academy I and Breakthrough Academy II. 

 

10.  It is found that, in response to the complainants’ first request for Teacher Absence Reports, the complainants were advised that Breakthrough Academy I and Breakthrough Academy II do not use the Subfinder System to cover their teachers’ absences and that therefore there were no records responsive to their request with respect to these two academies. 

 

11.  It is further found that, in response to learning that Breakthrough Academy I and Breakthrough Academy II do not use the Subfinder System, the complainants made the requests for records at issue in this case and forwarded such requests directly to the principals of Breakthrough Academy I and Breakthrough Academy II.

 

12.  It is further found that, upon receiving the request for records at issue in this case, the respondents forwarded the requests to a labor relations specialist within the central office of the Hartford Board of Education. 

 

13.  It is thereby found that, under the circumstances set forth above, a fair reading of the requests set forth in paragraph 2, above, evidences that the complainants were looking for records of teacher absences and substitute teacher coverage related to such absences from the respondent academies themselves, and were not (again) requesting the Teacher Absence Report generated through the Subfinder System. 

 

14.  It is further found that, because the central office of the Hartford Board of Education would only have access to substitute teacher records in the form of the Teacher Absence Report, which report is generated by the Subfinder System, and because the academies in this case do not participate in this system, it was not reasonable for the respondents to forward the requests in this case to the central office for processing. 

 

15.  However, it is found the complainants and the respondents could have avoided having to adjudicate this matter in front of the Commission if there had been better communication among all parties. 

 

16.  It is found that, at the time of the complainants’ request, the respondents were in possession of records, such as payroll and/or sign-in records, which would evidence teacher absences and substitute teacher coverage.  It is further found that the respondents did not provide the complainants with copies of such records.  

 

17.  It is therefore concluded that the respondents violated the disclosure provisions of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., by not providing the complainants with a copy of the responsive records in their possession.

 

The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:

1.  Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with the disclosure requirements of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S.

 

2.  The respondents shall forthwith make a thorough search for the requested records described in paragraph 2 of the findings, above, and shall provide the complainants with copies, at no cost, of all responsive records discovered as a result of their search. 

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of November 18, 2009.

 

 

____________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PURSUANT TO SECTION 4-180(c), G.S., THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION, OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.

 

THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:

 

Martin Edgar and the Hartford

Federation of Substitute Teachers

6 Berkshire Road

Rocky Hill, CT 06067

 

Principal, Breakthrough Academy II,

Hartford Public Schools; Principal,

Breakthrough Academy I, Hartford

Public Schools; and Hartford Public

Schools

c/o Melinda B. Kaufmann, Esq. and

Lori Mizerak, Esq.

Office of the Corporation Counsel

550 Main Street

Hartford, CT 06103

 

 

 

____________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIC/2009-284FD/paj/11/23/2009