Nevada school district websites earn overall grade of “D” for transparency, two largest districts fare better

By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Nevada’s 17 school districts earned an overall “D” grade for information they provide to the public on their websites, according to an analysis by Sunshine Review, a pro-transparency group based in Washington, DC.

The state’s two largest districts fared better, with the Washoe County School District earning the best grade with a “B” and the Clark County School District earning a “C” grade, based on the availability of 10 types of information on each district’s website.

Kristin McMurray, senior editor at Sunshine Review, said the school districts reviewed in about 10 states so far have generally fared equally poorly despite the fact that most of the information can be made available without any great difficulty.

“Most of the information we’re asking for is already in a digital format; all we’re asking is that they post it online,” she said.

One exception is the contracts negotiated with teachers and other employee groups because sometimes the documents have clauses that prohibit such posting, McMurray said.

In the Clark County School District, six of the 10 categories of information are considered fully available, from the budget and meeting information to public records and academic information. Three types of information, including taxes, contracts and audits, were identified as being partially provided. Only one, information on background checks of employees, was entirely absent.

The Washoe County School District had seven of 10 areas fully available, and the other three: taxes, contracts and background checks, partially available.

Three rural districts, Esmeralda, Eureka and Humboldt, failed to provide information in six categories, the most of any of the Nevada school districts identified in the review.

Michael Rodriguez, public information officer and media manager for the Clark County School District, welcomed the review and said it will provide assistance in improving the district’s website to make it more useful to the public.

“We’re always looking at ways to make that better,” he said. “I don’t think we ever look at the website and assume it is a finished product. There are always new things we can put out there.”

One example is keeping the public up-to-date on the search for a new superintendent, Rodriguez said.

A challenge is to not overwhelm the visitor to the website with too much information, he said.

The district is also using different tools to communicate with parents, students, taxpayers and the community, including the creation of a Facebook page, Rodriguez said.

But the district will continue to work with Sunshine Review in an effort to improve its grade, he said.

Sunshine Review is a nonprofit organization dedicated to state and local government transparency. Sunshine Review collaborates with individuals and organizations throughout the country in the cause of an informed citizenry and a transparent government. Since its inception in 2008, Sunshine Review has analyzed the websites of all 50 states, more than 3,140 counties, 805 cities, and 1,560 school districts.

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Audio clips:

Sunshine Review’s McMurray says websites should provide more information:

Sunshine’s McMurray says she hopes districts will use websites to convey important information:

Clark County School District’s Rodriguez says Sunshine analysis was helpful

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