OGDEN -- The Weber County Democratic Party's educational caucus is seeking data from the Ogden School District on a wide range of topics, including end-of-level student test scores, how many teachers have left the district in recent years and the experience level of those who will teach this year.
"The whole reason we created this educational caucus is, we felt like there are some problems, not only in Ogden but in Utah as a whole," said Ben Pales, chairman of the Weber County Democratic Party. "Our immediate focus is on Ogden, because that's where the majority of our (caucus) members live, and we have concerns."
OSD Superintendent Brad Smith said he is trying to provide the information, although some of the requests are problematic and others ask for information that is already publicly available through the Utah State Office of Education website.
"It's interesting to me that for the past decade, when the Ogden School District was very low-performing, these voices have been very silent," Smith said. "Now that there has been significant improvement, they kick up the scrutiny. But they say they want to help, and I am taking them at face value."
Pales said the caucus originally contacted Smith and members of the school board through emails and letters in June. Smith said he never got the letter.
Smith said when he learned recently of the request from a board member, he scheduled a meeting with the caucus.
Informational requests made through the original letter or added as a result of last week's meeting include:
* End of level test scores for the 2012-2013 school year and for previous years.
The Utah Office of Education will release complete 2012-2013 numbers publicly early in September. At present, the numbers for each district have been shared only with that district, to allow the officials time to dispute any numbers they believe are wrong. Test scores for previous years can be found on the Utah Office of Education website, Smith said.
Go to the USOE site, www.schools.utah.gov, then click on "Data & Statistics," then on "Educational Data." Links to choose from, depending on data sought, will include "Accountability Reports," "Accountability/School Performance" and "Assessments/Student Achievement." Or, from the website's front page, click on the "psdGateway" link for information on specific schools.
Smith shared some preliminary 2012-2013 test scores, in limited categories, from the district's 14 elementary schools with the caucus in the private meeting, he said.
The caucus, at last Thursday's public board meeting, requested the release of elementary-level science test results and all test information regarding the district's junior high and high schools.
"It seems like he was kind of cherry-picking information to release," Pales said. "He wanted to release only the good news. We feel like, no, let's look at the entire picture and make sure there is a plan in place to improve things. We don't expect changes overnight, but we want to see a definite plan in place."
Smith said at the time of the private meeting, the data he shared was all he had analyzed.
"I don't know how they can say that is cherry-picking," Smith said.
* Contracts concerning development projects OSD has been involved in.
"With the budget crunch that happened last year with the district, we wanted to know if someone made mistakes by giving away too much money on the front end or back end," Pales said.
* PowerPoint projects shown at the public board meetings during May and June.
* Data on how many teachers have left the district in the past two years, and data regarding the experience levels of current educators.
Smith said compiling information on current teachers' experience levels would require compiling information from several data bases, and he also questions whether teacher-level data should be provided.
Pales said the caucus next will ask for information teachers may have provided on written forms concerning their reasons for leaving their jobs. Smith said he had concerns about at what point personnel information should be considered private.
As for compiling the information on current teacher expertise, Smith said, "I don't believe our duty of disclosure requires us to go back and create documents that don't exist."
Pales said the caucus' goal is to learn whether experienced teachers who leave are being replaced by teachers of much lesser experience.
* Access to information on mandatory curriculum, such as Springboard.
Pales said the educational caucus does "not want an adversarial relationship" with the district.
"This caucus was created because the public has voiced their concerns repeatedly, but we fear that the board is not listening."
Smith said he doesn't accept that statement.
"I don't think because 25 or 30 people speak at a board meeting, that doesn't qualify as 'public has spoken.' There are 80,000 residents of Ogden. It's not the same."
Smith said another measure of what the Ogden public wants is that voters re-elected incumbent Ogden School Board candidates last fall.
Pales said he would like the district to be more free in sharing information.
"We need to feel confidant that the Ogden City School Board's objectives are not only transparent, but also authentically focused on what is best for our children and students. The Democratic Party and education caucus are dedicated to increasing funding for education, but, on behalf of the public, we need answers to these very reasonable questions."