Dear Governor Herbert,
When you begin considering new state board positions please consider tha amount of or lack of knowledge on behalf of the candidate in question. Right now our board members for the most part do not understand that they are there to serve the public, and most specifically their constituents. Currently, I do not know of even one board member who responds to emails, research’s constituent concerns, and believes that they are there to serve. Now, there are several who do one of those things, but not one of them have I seen that is capable of all of those things I listed above.
In order for the system to work properly and for the needs of Utah’s children to be met, we must have an impartial board, who is willing to listen and carry out their duties.
Information was presented to each board member, the superintendent and associate superintendent and several others in regards to rules that they would be violating in implementing laws that have been passed. In the info (sent via email by many parents) the board was so sure that they were doing the right thing, that they told constituents:
“Which proposed board action that we “will be voting on” are you referring to? I’m not aware of anything on our agenda about changing FERPA.” Tami Pyfer
“Thank you for your email. It appears that there has been some misunderstanding regarding possible action to be taken by the State Board of Education this Friday. The Board is not looking at any changes to FERPA – we do not have the power or authority to change FERPA law.
The Board members I’ve spoken with feel strongly about protecting students’ privacy. Unfortunately, the Legislature has passed legislation requiring classroom level student performance data be made public. As is always the case with bills passed by the Legislature, the State Board of Education is required to make “rules” that conform to the Legislature’s intent. The rule we are reviewing on Friday is our attempt to comply with legislation (as we are required to do) while still protecting student data. If you take the time to read through the rule I believe you’ll find we are earnest in the desire to protect students’ privacy.
If you have concerns about releasing student data, I would recommend that you contact your legislator.” Tami Pyfer
After realizing that they can copy/paste but cannot do their own research before voting on any one given agenda item, I and several others went to work on figuring out why we were not getting through to the board members and how we could help them understand that they were not protecting our children’s privacy nor did they clearly understand what they were voting for or against.
Once I knew that I was going to have to completely spell it out for them, I and a few others worked to get the board members a CLEAR and precise detail of what was wrong.
This is the letter I sent to them (as well as had Lorraine Austin enter into the record):
Dear Board Members,
I wrote to many of you in regards to my concerns about the changes you are making to Utah’s FERPA (I called it this because USOE employee’s have stated on numerous occasions that this is what it is known by). My concern is over the new wording that you have listed in lines 34-40.
I have done a great deal of research and from what I take away from the UERPA and from the federal FERPA is that we need to be more specific in the wording we use.
#1 – Explicitly define “Student Information” – What is the information?
#2 – Explicitly define “Education Records” -What is the record?
#3 – Be explicit about what is being protected.
#4 – Be explicit about how it is being protected.
“UERPA” uses the word “student information” and the federal FERPA uses the term “education record”. Essentially what we have now uses these terms interchangeably, when they should not be. There should be a differentiation between the two terms, i.e.: student information = directory information, education record = aggregate information. The issue I see here is that we need to be able to share aggregate information, allow parents to opt out of directory information, and keep students personally identifiable information private and protected.
I would be happy to discuss the issues that I see with making these two terms mean the same thing and how we can change them to better protect our children/students.
From this email I hoped they would understand what they clearly had not understood earlier.
I found out later, that they still did not understand and that Gayle Ruzicka in their work meeting had to explain state and federal FERPA laws to them and how they were in conflict.I watched from home the whole day, and after they decided not to move on that part, but rather to involve legislators I sent them a thank you email and yet again received ridiculous emails from two board members. See my thank you letter and their responses below.
Thank you very much Board and committee members! As parents we want to work with you and want you to know that although emotion gets in the way a fair amount, many of us really are doing our research and want to help. It is my goal to do what I can to help when I can, which I believe is the goal of local and state boards to involve the parents.
Thank you for taking the letters that we sent as parents and listening to our concerns. I want to personally thank you for taking the time to read the information and consider what I found was conflicting and concerning.
“I’m not sure I understand your reference–I don’t believe you fully understand the action we took but thanks for the compliment, anyway.” Leslie Castle
OR this comment,
“I don’t believe you understand the action taken by the Board today. It was not action on federal FERPA laws. I am hesitant to try and explain this action and pertinent issues to you further, given the fact that I took the time to email additional information to the first 3 or 4 dozen people who emailed me about this issue earlier this week, and was subsequently accused of “ trying to diminish the issue we raised” by someone on your group’s listserv. I am puzzled at how providing people references to state code containing conflicting mandates on providing/protecting student data could be considered “diminishing the issue,” when, in fact, it’s an area where I believe most parents would have grave concerns… if they better understood the issue.
Perhaps you can spend additional time reviewing the audio recording of today’s meeting (which will be posted in the next day or two) and get answers to your question – if desired – from someone on the Board who served on this subcommittee.” Tami Pyfer
Governor Herbert, this is just one instance where parents have tried to help the state board members and have been told that we were wrong. I know that these individuals (the board members) cannot be all knowing, however, they were put in these board positions to serve their constituents for the greater good. We need board members who will take the time to evaluate and research all the matters that are placed before them and to be transparent and look out for our children.
Please do YOUR PART and either allow Utah citizens to vote for our own board members or choose board members based on their educated wisdom and humility.