Our Continuing Effort to Obtain Information From Madison Schools

The following letter was sent today, May 5, 2011

May 5, 2011

Matthew Bell
Associate General Counsel
Madison Metropolitan School District
545 West Dayton Street
Madison, WI 53703

Re: Public Records Request

Dear Mr. Bell:

This letter is in regards to our continued efforts to obtain public information from the Madison Metropolitan School District, some of which you have chosen to share with selected media outlets.

Having sorted through the circular logic and evasiveness included in your previous responses, I’m attempting to cut to the chase and obtain the public records that are currently, and obviously, in your possession.

On March 21, 2011 Bill Osmulski from the MacIver News Service began his search for information regarding the Madison teachers who fraudulently called in sick between February 16th and the 21st, which resulted in MMSD officials closing all the schools within the district for four of those days.

On March 23rd, you responded that “at this time the District does not possess such a list and thus a responsive document does not exist However, the District does anticipate that at some point in the future a list may be created fo the purposes of the District’s internal record keeping When that list is created, and if it is responsive to your request, the District will provide it to you” (Verbatim transcript, including punctuation)

On March 25th, WISC-TV3 and their website, Channel3000.com reported “District officials said that about 1,000 notes were turned in over the days of Feb. 18-21 and Feb. 24, and a couple hundred of them were deemed fake.” That report led us to conclude that indeed such information was available.

However, that same day you responded to our renewed inquiry thus: “At this time the District must deny your request as no responsive document exists The District also notes that the Attorney General has opined that “the public records law does not require an authority to provide the requested information if no record exists, or to simply answer questions about a topic of interest to the requestor.”

“The District also asserts,” you wrote at the time, “that your reliance on the recent news article is misplaced Indeed, the article itself notes that the “district has yet to finish tabulating the number of teachers who were absent Feb 16-18 and 21”

On April 29th, the Wisconsin State Journal reported that 1,769 of 2,655 teachers took time off, without an excuse, during the four days you were forced to close the schools.

Their reporting, based on data provided them by MMSD indicates that the information is now readily available. If you can tabulate the summary data, you must be doing so by adding up individual data.

So, again, we ask for that individual data.

Thanks to reports from other media outlets, who used data they obtained from the district, we can narrow our request to the specific information.

• Who were the 1,769 teachers who took time off, without a legitimate excuse during the four days in February that MMSD had to close the schools?
• Who are the 84 teachers who submitted fraudulent sick notes?
• Which 38 teachers received suspensions for failing to rescind the sick notes, after the District gave them the opportunity to retract their fraudulent notes?

The data is now readily available. It is a public record. It can be emailed to me, as early as this afternoon if you so choose, at bhealy@maciverinstitute.com.

Thank you for your compliance with Wisconsin’s open records law.


Brett Healy, President
The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy