Cleveland newspaper wins release of superintendent evaluations after Open Records dispute

The Bradley County Board of Education released individual evaluation forms of its superintendent to the Cleveland Daily Banner late yesterday but continued to contend the public documents were exempt from the Tennessee Public Records Act.

After the board initially refused to disclose the superintendent evaluations, the newspaper contacted Office of Open Records Counsel Elisha Hodge who wrote that it was her opinion that the documents should be released and she was “unaware of any provision within the law that makes these particular records confidential.”

“In Tennessee, in order for the public to be denied access to a records that exists, the record has to be confidential pursuant to a provision within the law,” she wrote.

The school board’s assistant director had claimed the forms that were filled out by individual school board members were “working papers” and cited an Attorney General’s opinion.

After the newspaper persisted, however, the district decided to release the original evaluation forms, which the newspaper posted on its website.

“We try to stay as patient as possible,” said the newspaper’s associate editor Rick Norton. “We always give people the benefit of the doubt. But this one we stuck to our guns because we believed we were right.”

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