Pol Asks for Ed Dept Emails After Learning City Lacks Preservation Plan

By James Fanelli on September 24, 2013 6:48am 

 Councilwoman Letitia James has asked the Department of Education for copies of all emails in which its employees discussed key policies. The request came three days after DNAinfo.com New York's story about the Bloomberg administration's plans for the retention of emails.
Councilwoman Letitia James has asked the Department of Education for copies of all emails in which its employees discussed key policies. The request came three days after DNAinfo.com New York's story about the Bloomberg administration's plans for the retention of emails.
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Facebook/Letitia James

CITY HALL — Councilwoman Letitia James wants copies of a colossal amount of Department of Education emails — to ensure they’re not deleted when Mayor Bloomberg exits office in January.

James has requested under the state’s Freedom of Information Law that the DOE provide her with all its employees’ emails that discuss key education policies.

The demand came just days after DNAinfo New York’s Sept. 17 story about the Bloomberg administration remaining undecided on an email-retention plan for various city agencies.

With a few months left in its final term, the administration is still mulling whether to preserve emails from the DOE, the NYPD, the mayor’s office and other major agencies or allow them to end up in a digital dumpster.

Barbara Sherman, an education policy analyst for James, said the councilwoman wants copies to help the next mayor understand the previous administration’s thinking.

“In order to move forward and have a smooth transition and understand how these transitions are made, they need this information,” Sherman told DNAinfo.

“I think for just the sake of continuity, there is something very strange for the [Bloomberg] administration to get rid of 12 years of correspondences,” she added.

James, a Democrat currently in a runoff election for Public Advocate, has asked for copies of all DOE emails discussing enrollment, testing, Common Core standards, audits and support services for students with disabilities.

She also wants emails in which Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and deputy chancellors discuss the truncation or closing of city schools. Her FOIL letter also requests emails in which they discuss school bus transportation, bus contracts and employer protection provisions for drivers and matrons.  

“Education is quite important to the councilwoman," Sherman said. "She has been a champion of families whose voices have not been heard. This is just another area where the Department of Education is eliminating — not just stifling, but eliminating — this voice."

When DNAinfo asked the DOE about James’ inquiry, department spokeswoman Erin Hughes said, “We will be responding to her request in accordance with the Freedom of Information Law.”

DNAinfo reported on Sept. 17 that the city Law Department gave a presentation to brass at city agencies late last year informing them some emails may not be retained.

The city has plans to save the emails of certain agencies like the Administration for Children’s Services and the Department of Buildings to protect itself against possible future litigation. But the emails of the DOE, the NYPD and the mayor’s office remain up in the air and could disappear.

The mayor’s office and the city Law Department told DNAinfo that an email retention plan had not been finalized.

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