Local open government group back steps on data in recently released report

Local News

A local open government advocacy group is apologizing today after publishing a study with inaccurate information about local school districts.

The Buffalo Niagara Coalition for Open Government issued a report grading ten of the largest school districts in Erie and Niagara Counties on the information provided on their websites, then later announced a few inaccuracies in their data about several school districts.

At first only one of the districts, the Ken-Ton school district, received a passing mark, while all the others received a failing mark. Then later four districts Ken-Ton, Niagara Wheatfield, Buffalo and Williamsville were marked as passing.

One of the claims was that the Buffalo City School District neglected to post school board meeting minutes.

“So, I know they weren’t there when we did our review, but I think there was also an additional place where those minutes were posted that I think we just missed,” Paul Wolf president of the organization.

The Buffalo City School district acknowledged that they did make changes to the website making it easier for the public to navigate, but the board minutes were on the website the whole time.

The district released the following statement:

“As a large and complex organization, we continually work toward greater transparency to increase participation and input from the public we serve.  We appreciate the district’s updated status from Paul Wolf and the Buffalo Niagara Coalition for Open Government, as we too place high importance on the transparency of all public entities.”

– Chief of Staff Dr. Darren Brown-Hall

Wolf says that many of the sites were difficult to navigate, for the average person, a point they wanted to illustrate with their report.

“Part of the problem is these websites aren’t the most user friendly, which makes it difficult,” Wolf said. “But, I think we’re going to change our process and in the future. We’re going to send our reviews to folks being reviewed and asked for their feedback.”

The coalition released the following statement:

“Yesterday the Buffalo Niagara Coalition for Open Government released a report regarding the rating of school district websites.

Our organization consists of volunteers who are passionate about open government. We do the best we can to get our reviews correct but mistakes were made. We sincerely apologize and we did our best to provide corrections to the news media as soon as possible.

Part of the problem is that many of the websites reviewed are not the most user friendly as far as accessing information. We be changing how we do our reviews going forward. For future projects we will send our ratings to the municipality being  rated to obtain feedback and make any adjustments needed before making our reviews public.

The revised data

Niagara Wheatfield  89 / B+

Buffalo  88 / B+

Kenmore Town of Tonawanda  81 / B

Williamsville 68 / D

North Tonawanda 62 / F

Lancaster  60 / F

Lockport  54 / F

Niagara Falls     48 / F

Starpoint    47 / F

West Seneca   28 / F

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