Superintendent contracts tricky to find on school districts' websites, despite new Indiana law

Law meant to make info more accessible

INDIANAPOLIS - A new law requires school districts to post superintendent contracts online, but the Call 6 Investigators had trouble finding the documents on some websites.

A new law went into effect July 1 requiring Indiana school districts to post superintendent contracts online, as well as those of any other administrator with a contract.

Lawmakers passed the legislation last session after Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney exposed former Wayne Township Schools superintendent Terry Thompson's $1 million retirement payout.
           
When Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White announced his retirement on Jan. 15, Kenney looked for White's contract on the district's website but was unable to find the document.
           
IPS spokeswoman Kim Hooper told RTV6 that the district had just redesigned its website the week before, which could explain why it wasn't there.

"If anything, it's just human error," Hooper said.
           
As of Wednesday, RTV6 was able to find White's contract using the search feature on the website.

The Call 6 Investigators wanted to find out if other school districts in Marion County are following the law.
           
Kenney was easily able to find superintendent contracts on the websites of Beech Grove Schools, Wayne Township Schools, Decatur Township Schools and Perry Township Schools.
           
But RTV6 had to ask for help in finding contracts on other district websites.
           
For example, Kenney had to contact officials with Washington Township Schools, who said the contract was available in the Human Resources section of the website.
           
The website reads, "The Human Resource Department is also responsible for complying with certain provisions of the Indiana code that are HR specific in nature. (IC 20-26-5)," with no link indicated.
           
The page makes no mention of the superintendent contract, but the link is hidden in the "(IC 20-26-6)" mention.
           
RTV6 asked Indiana Public Access Counselor Joe Hoage if he could find the link.

"I don't see where it would be on the website," Hoage said. "You can't tell by looking at this that it's a link. It just looks like a continuation of the paragraph."
           
Like the Call 6 team, Hoage did his own test of school district websites and said he had a tough time with some, including Pike Township Schools.

Officials with that district told RTV6 that the superintendent's contract was accidentally deleted from the site during the switch to a new site in December.

"Thanks to you catching this, it was added back this morning," Human Resources Director Joe Lampert wrote in a email Tuesday to RTV6.
           
Hoage said some school districts need to do a better job and follow the intent of the law.
           
"It should be something they should be readily able to access and not have to search through the nooks and crannies of the website in order to find it," Hoage said. "I'm not saying they need to be in bold on the first page of the home page, but it has to be something where it can be easily found if the person's intent was to go on the website and find a copy of the contract."
           
RTV6 shared its findings with the author of the law, Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, who said the law is difficult to enforce.
           
"It's very frustrating," Behning said, who added it was the intent of the law to make the contracts easy for the public to find.
           
Hoage said there is no punishment in place for districts who do not comply.

"They would just have to answer the embarrassing question of why they're not following the clear mandate of the General Assembly," Hoage said.
           
RTV6 found most superintendent contracts not in the administration section of the websites, but in the human resources or school board pages.
           
If you can't find your school superintendent's contract on the district's website, email Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney at kara.kenney@wrtv.com .

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