Thanks to the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), as citizens we all have the right to government records. Meaning the public has the ability to obtain a wide range of information and data including our public schools.
For example, did you know you can order the personnel file for a school principal or superintendent? Where are funds being allocated to? What took place at the last several board meetings and what communications took place behind the scenes? You can also request the school’s credit card statements and their budgetary expenditures. Sometimes video surveillance can be obtained. Interested in emails to and from a public school employee within a certain time and/or a certain keyword? You can access those records. It’s not always easy to do and oftentimes the school districts delay.
You should be able to obtain any of the following records (and more), either in whole, or in part, from the DOE’s FOIL Unit (which is part of the Office of the General Counsel). FOIL is the acronym for “Freedom of Information Law.” However be specific in terms of time frame and specific people you are requesting information about! (e.g.: All E-mails on servers that are accessible by personnel employed by DIIT and that either originated at, or were received by, the following account, from August 2012 to the present containing the name “_____” in the subject or body: email@example.com.)
- Principal’s Procurement Card (P-Card) statements
- Substantive OSI investigative memos and reports
- Emails from NYC DOE Outlook (about you or someone else)
- Audits of your school
- Expenditures from Title I, II, III, ELL grants, etc.
- Observation reports
- Screenshots from EIS or NYCAPS or Galaxy (colored or black-and-white)
- Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) forms
- Personnel files
When you have determine what precisely you want to receive, send an email to FOIL@schools.nyc.gov and JBaranello3@schools.nyc.gov with the specific item listed in the body of the email. You can use the following template email from the Committee for Open Government in crafting your letter:
Dear Mr. Baranello,
Pursuant to the New York Freedom of Information Law, please send me copies, by email, of the following records:
[detail the items you want]
If you have any questions about this request, or require any type of rephrasing or clarification, please contact me by email at _____________.
Please be advised that the manner in which you respond to FOIL requests is constrained not only by FOIL, but also by the Regulations of the NYS Committee on Open Government. I would appreciate a response within five business days of receipt as required by law. Thank you for your cooperation.
[sign your name]
Have questions? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org