The following email was sent to Harford County Public School officials. A copy was provided to The Dagger for publication:
Mr. Licata, members of the STAC, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Board:
Thank you for your response to my request for GIS shape files and data sets. I wish I could say that I understand your rationale for denying my request, but I cannot. I am sure you are well aware of the importance of the information requested and why it was requested in the specified format, but I will reiterate this for the members of the Board. Using a GIS application will allow communities the ability to review the entire plan using the exact same data used by the STAC. Furthermore, it will allow communities the ability to manipulate this data in real-time as it relates to locations on a map. In other words, when I move parcel XX from one proposed district to another, I can assess the direct impact, in terms of number of students by grade. This is a much better solution than trying to adjust numbers on a spreadsheet and guessing the number of students in a particular parcel.
Let me take a moment to address the each of Mr. Licata’s concerns regarding the data requested.
1. “…the information is contained in a proprietary product that was purchased by the school system. Therefore we cannot share that information or data with you.”
This is utter nonsense. Under this logic, information sharing around the globe would come to a grinding halt. Let me put this into perspective. On a daily basis, people create data using the proprietary software suite called Microsoft Office. This data is stored in various Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint file formats. Those files are free to exchange with anyone and everyone, even if they do not own the Microsoft Office Suite. In fact, you do not even need Microsoft Office to open, view and edit these files. Just because the data was created using a proprietary product does not make the data proprietary.
Since there is a limited selection of commercially available GIS applications, I am going to assume that you are using the industry standard ESRI ArcGIS application. That being said, I can find no restriction prohibiting the sharing of GIS shape files and data sets exported from that application. ESRI also provides a collection of free viewers you can download or use on the Internet. More information can be found at http://www.esri.com/products/index.html#free_viewers_panel In addition, several federal government agencies, such as the U.S. Census Bureau, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Agriculture have made GIS shape files and data sets available to the public. GeoData.Gov was created specifically to serve as a portal for the sharing and distribution of GIS data. Even the Harford County Government has made GIS data available in the format requested at http://www.harfordcountymd.gov/GIS/Index.cfm. I am sure you can see the trend. Your argument that you cannot share the requested information on the grounds that it is contained in proprietary product is implausible.
2. “…the data used along with the software application is our student database, which we cannot share publicly because it contains personal identifiable information that we cannot share.”
I do understand the need to protect Personally Identifiable Information (PII). I believe that when I made all three previous requests, I asked that the data be “…redacted, if possible or or summarized by parcel…” Perhaps my request was not very clear. I am not asking for data that includes names or addresses of students. If you cannot simply remove those data items, then please summarize the data by number of students per grade per parcel.
The Maryland Public Information Act states that “SG §10-612(a) provides that, “[a]ll persons are entitled to have access to information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees.” The right is made clear in SG §10-613(a)(1), which states that, “[e]xcept as otherwise provided by law, a custodian shall permit a person or governmental unit to inspect any public record at any reasonable time.” Inspection or copying of a public record may be denied only to the extent permitted under the PIA. SG §10-613(a)(2).” The Maryand PIA also states “To satisfy the statutory burden, an entity or official withholding a record must put forth evidence sufficient to justify the decision. In some circumstances, a court may require the agency to file a Vaughn index (named after the Vaughn v. Rosen, 484 F.2d 820 (D.C. Cir. 1973)) detailing each record withheld or redacted by author, date, and recipient, stating the particular exemption claimed, and providing enough information about the subject matter to permit the requester and court to test the justification of the withholding. See Blythe v. State, 161 Md. App. 492, 521, 870 A.2d 1246, cert. granted, 388 Md. 97, 879 A.2d 42 (2005).”
Please accept the attached letter as my formal Maryland Public Information Act request for all information pertaining to the proposed elementary redistricting plan. I look forward to your timely response.
Formal Maryland Public Information Act request:
David A. Porter says
It looks like he has your number HCPS. I wonder why the populace is disinclined to trust your judgments. I’ve only lived in this county for ten years and I can certainly vouch for my own distrust of your personal prerogatives masked as official policy. Someone please ask me about my exchange between Mr Benedetto and Nancy Reynolds regarding the way they handled my questions relating to my son’s awkward and uncoordinated dismissal on a snow day. I still remember Mr Benedetto advising me that my demeanor determines whether or not HCPS will assist me in finding my son. It was in writing, on HCPS stationary.
No one in this county should be surprised when a ridiculous argument or statement comes from the board of education. I had Mr. Bennedeto tell me that a ban on book bags was a safety issue, based mostly on tripping hazards and hallway congestion. But, could not back up any statements with actual facts that proved this need for the ban. Obviously, bookbacks are banned to keep all the gangbangers in Bel Air, Fallston, Patterson Mill, C. Milton and North Harford from concealing weapons. Of course Benedetto can never say this because girls can carry any size purse they please and as long as no large books are carried in the bag it is not considered a bookbag. Not sure what size gun makes a purse a bookbag! So we now have to trust these morons to fairly redistrict elementary schools!
When will you guys get it right? Mr. Licata, Mr. Benedetto, and Ms. Reynolds are not BOE members. You keep lumping the two together and they are not. BOE members and HCPS staff serve different functions and have different responsibilities. Just because you have a bone to pick with certain employees of the HCPS system does not mean these particular people, other employees of the school system, or BOE members are morons and can’t be trusted to make reasonable decisions. Do not forget that Harford County has one of the better school systems in Maryland. It would seem that some members of HCPS must know what they are doing.
Colin: Obviously someone as learned as yourself would understand the difference between the School Board and HCPS executive staff. Surely the meetings that you have viewed or attended (to be an informed parent) would have cleared this up for you. Seeing how thick-skinned the School Board has to be on these matters I’m certain that they would graciously accept you heartfelt apology.
Of course in the case of Mr. Porter’s view; your “prerogatives” and lack of civil discourse could make someone “except” even the most righteous point of view.
I agree with your assessment of the book-bag issue and think that You MAY have a point, but I think your target and delivery is a little off. YOUR School Board is the safety net in these issues.
David A. Porter says
The issue is the competence and professionalism of certain high ranking employees of the HPCS. They are there to serve the community, and just like an errant police office, under the impression his position affords him rights beyond the average civilian, they must remain accountable to the community that provides them the privilege of employment.
That privilege is granted by the majority and in this case I believe they have spoken – opposite your opinion. And in some instances they do have rights, privileges, responsibilities, and legal protections beyond the average citizen by virtue of the positions they hold and the job descriptions under which they work.
I say give him all the information he wants. What could possibly be the harm. Numbers are numbers and it doesn’t matter how you try to manipulate them Youth’s Benefit is overcrowded it and all the other schools, except for Jarrettsville, are either at capacity or are going to be used to alleviate overcrowding from other schools. There is simply no room anywhere else.
It never fails to surprise and sadden me that parents are perfectly willing to uproot several times more kids and shuffle them around to the ends of the earth if it means their’s is left alone.
Meredith Parkinson says
I feel that you are venturing from the issue at hand. The Dagger is reporting on an important step towards the proper sharing of information that is vital in order to come up with an alternative plan for redistricting. Now whether there is corruption in the STAC committee or arrogance on the BOE, does not change the fact that the redistricting will move forward without the community getting involved and showing just cause why alternatives plans should be in place. Therefore, the meeting minutes from STAC and the GIS shape files and data sets are necessary to form a strong counterarguement for drawing different lines (or keeping them the same).
I urge all readers to go to the BOE meetings and state their viewpoints, as citizens of Harford County, this countywide redistricting affects us all!
The problem surrounding redistricting is that it is not done often enough in Harford Co. In other Maryland counties redistricting happens every year, thereby affecting only small numbers of students each year. Harford County should adopt a policy of examining redistricting and making the necessary adjustments on a biannual basis. This would alleviate capacity issues before they get out of control and prevent the large scale consternation being experienced over the current proposal.
I don’t believe I’m venturing from the issue at hand. The whole point for requesting the information is to devise a plan where the 150 students needed to be move from Youth’s Benefit do not include Mr. Curley’s children or neighborhood at the cost of other children or neighborhoods. In the end it doesn’t really matter how strong of a counter argument Mr. Curley can make because it will never be as strong as the argument that can be made my the parents of the children that Mr. Curley is trying to aliquot to other surrounding schools that are already at or near capacity, “Jarrettsville is simply the easiest and best solution to Youth’s Benefit’s overcrowding problem.”
If the GIS files contain personal identifiable information on each student then FERPA prohibits their release. TO scrub the data would have a cost that I believe the requestee would have to incur!
David A. Porter says
“And in some instances they do have rights, privileges, responsibilities, and legal protections beyond the average citizen by virtue of the positions they hold and the job descriptions under which they work. ”
An elitist overtone if there ever was one. I’m sure you manage to exercise your will over all your domain; including those that disagree with you.
So do you not believe a police officer in the line of duty has the privelage of breaking the speed limit? That is not elitist. That is the way things work. For every job there are privelages and immunities that go with them as part of the job.
David A. Porter says
There are police officers and then there are “Cowboys”. One does the job with regard to the community he serves, the other does the job for the personal perks he gets to soothe his ego. And when ego enters into the equation to the exclusion of all else, abuse occurs and resentment follows. And then there is a general decay in what the average person expects from people who are paid for their integrity. When someone feels the need to treat you with contempt because of your inferior station to them, in their eyes, you are not obligated to respond with unyielding respect. When you are told by an officer that he has you doing 48mph in a 30mph school zone and you question whether or not his device was calibrated… his ludicrous response should not be “It’s laser, it doesn’t need calibration”. All measuring devices require periodic calibration and operation from properly trained personnel. And yes, I received a warning – for my apparent 48 mph in a 30mph school zone. As did the other three cars they pulled over that morning. Even though I knew I was driving no faster than 40mph… and how did I know this? Because I use those stationary radar setups to periodically calibrate my speedometer, and I am never off by more than 3 mph.
First Mr. Porter. you did an excellent job at dogding the question. In general do Police officers recieve privelages and immunities as part of their job?
Next you where still speeding. I do not care if it was 40 or 48 when the speed limit is 30 you are still breaking the law! You are lucky you got a warning. BTW the appropriate way to handle a traffic stop is to ask these questions in court not on the spot in what I infer to be a rude and condecending manner.
If you have questions about the calibration of a particular radar or lidar instrument then the place for it is in court, not on the side of the road. If you want to see the calibration records then file a subpoena and request that they be presented in court. If things aren’t in order then the judge will probably toss the ticket if one was issued.
If an officer says he clocked you doing 48 mph with a lidar, then I’m inclined to believe the officer over you. Driving by one of those speed signs and claiming that’s calibrating your speedometer is one of the stupider things I’ve heard. You don’t know when specifically the officer got you with the lidar (which targets a specific vehicle with a laser and displays speed and distance unlike radar which just displays the strongest signal return and does not measure distance.) It’s likely that he targeted your car before you even saw him and that once you did see him you took your foot off the gas and started slowing down.
CDEV was astute enough to pick up on what I was getting at. You obviously have a chip on your shoulder and it shows. As such your arguments (even if valid) are likely to fall on deaf ears. You are your own worst enemy.
Your comments on this thread are only proving to make you look more and more like an ego-centric [edited] and possibly explain why those you encounter take issue with your “demeanor”.
David A. Porter says
Perhaps that is better than being led unsuspecting to a livestock car for relocation by other people serving the greater good and just doing the best they can.
1. It will be a mess if everyone wants to present their special school borders as alternatives.
2. That said the data should be made available. HCPS is notorius for trying to delay, deny and deter data to information seekers on some trumped up grounds of law.
3. The employees assigned to this task have a difficult job, but they set a less that adequately designed process in motion.
4. It needs to be done more frequently. At least every 4 years for high schools, every 3 years for middle schools and every five years for elementary schools.
This redistricting is always going to be a mess. As a retired teacher, retired prez of HCEA, and a parent of a Harford County Public School alum, I must point out my annoyance at the pervasive attitudes of parents in certain attendance district who have the misinformed idea that their nearby schools are their community schools.
Having worked in all parts of the county, I must remind you that HCPS is a COUNTY school system and redistricting has to consider the entire county. Sure, the BOE and the upper echelon of the HCPS staff often are boneheaded fools when it comes to dealing with constituencies.
But come on.. Fallston ain’t Beverly Hills. And Edgewood is not South Central LA. Neither neighborhood’s schools belong to the neighborhood. They belong to all Harford Countians.
Apologies for the missing s at the end of “district” in my post. My fingers outpaced my brain. Or was it the other way around?
I recently received a waring for going 38 in a 30 zone. I appreciated the WARNING and thanked the officer. However at the next red light I was shocked to notice the warning was given for going 45 mph in a 30 mph zone. As there was another adult in the vehicle that clearly heard the officer say “…38 mph in a 30 mph zone”, why I wonder, is the truth so hard to come by.
Again you where speeding. As it was not a ticket and merely a warning, did it have the desired effect of getting you to slow down?
Ocean King says
Speeding is speeding. For example, when I’m headed back to clock out at the end of my shift you better get out of my way, because I’m speeding! If you were pulled over for less than the 10mph over then you must have looked like you were up to something. Consider yourself lucky that your car did’t get pulled apart and impounded. It’s my job to be intimidating and impose my righteousness on you “lesser citizens” then I, the GREAT public servant.
…I don’t think so. The posts here may be less than gracious but you have to know what’s part of the job. In public service you encounter people that are impolite, uninformed, or sharp in tone because they are dealing with a stressful situation for which they have little training or previous experience. As a public servant you should hold yourself to a much higher standard. There are no special rights or privileges only added responsibility. Those who choose to take advantage of their position will eventually get what they deserve. If you’re a cashier you can’t grab a hand full of cash because your manager spoke rudely to you and if you work for the school system you can’t let a jerk on the phone make you keep information about their child from them. Hopefully all the others around a bad employee will see how their co-workers actions take down a whole organization and make everyone look bad. There’s so many of us out there doing our best, and no one is doing any of us a favor by excusing unprofessionalism.