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How to OPRA
The greatest weapons you have in your arsenal
One of our top involved parents has graciously volunteered to help you on your OPRA Journey. Thank you so much Kathleene!
ATTENTION Parents, one of the greatest weapons you have in your arsenal is something called OPRA/FOIA. OPRA stands for the Open Public Records Act and FOIA is the Freedom of Information Act.
Since 1967, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has provided the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency. It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about the federal government.
If you would like to submit a FOIA for records from the federal government, I have found a great sample version on this site that you can copy and paste: New Jersey Sample FOIA Request – National Freedom of Information Coalition (nfoic.org)
HOWEVER, when you are looking for records from your school, your BOE, the NJDOE, or Governor Murphy, you are going to want to use an OPRA request which allows the public’s access to government records in New Jersey.
Many districts have (and require you to use) their own template available on their website, as mine does in Rutherford, Bergen County. Here is a link to my district site to see what we use: RPS-OPRARequestForm.pdf (dropbox.com). If you can’t find it on the website for our district, your school office will probably know where to find it with one simple call.
Here is a guide to filling out your form. They are all pretty much the same. I have some tips about the form on the graphic below.
The most important thing to keep in mind when filling out your request is to be VERY specific. If you are looking for approved curriculum, you must stipulate that. I tend to like to focus on the grade level of my son and the grade he will be advancing to. I also use date ranges to keep it simple and accurate. This year, I processed items from January 2020 – November 2021. More recently, I processed the same requests modifying the date ranges.
Below are some examples of what I have submitted that may give you ideas on what you are looking for. Remember to change the I have kept a list of all OPRAs I have submitted since November 2021 so I can simply modify for future years.
Correspondence form admin staff to Pierrepont Elem. re: SEL, LGTBQ, DEI [ period 8.1.2021-11.11.2021 ]
Instructional resources for SEL, LGTBQ, DEI for 6th grade [ period 6.1.2020 - 11.11.2021 ]
Approved curriculum for SEL, LGTBQ, DEI [ period 6.1.2020 - 11.11.2021 ]
All materials provided by ENVISION to RPS for approval per contract dated June 20,2020
All instructional materials provided to staff for professional development form ENVISION [ Dates: 6.1.2020 - 11.11.2021 ]
All email correspondence between ENVISION (Sharon McCarthy) & Joan Carrion [ Dates: 11.7.2021 - 11.11.2021 ]
All email correspondence between J.Carrion and Kristen Dolci / J. Carrion and J. Hurley / J. Carrion and Norah Peck regarding SEL activitiy requests by myself [ Dates: 10.18.2021 - 11.11.2021 ]
All emails from administrative staff (J.Hurley, J. Carrion and J. Saxon) to Pierrepont Teaching staff regarding BLACK LIVES MATTER [ period: 5.27.2020 - 11.11.2021 ]
All resources for instruction on BLACK LIVES MATTER [ period: 6.1.2020 - 11.12.2021 ]
SEL Activity Referenced Below
All email communication pertaining to SEL activity held in Mark Doty's Classroom between 11.1.2021 - 11.13.2021 - Involved parties: J. Hurley, J. Carrion, M.Doty and his co-teacher Neesa Jarrett
CASEL: Per Superintendent Jack Hurley's 10.28.2021 Roundtable PDF:" Assess our current SEL implementation, resources, and needs" - I would like to review the report / assessment. Please forward a copy of the report / asssessment. Preferably via email.
ESSER Fund (CARES ACT) - copy of completed application. ESSER II Fund - copy of completed application. ARP ESSER (ARP ACT) - copy of completed application. Allocation of funds per above mentioned Federal Grants to date.
All professional and instructional resources used by teacher, Kristen Dolci for: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Social Emotional Learning and LGTBQ
All professional and instructional resources used by teacher, Sarah Manocchio for: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Social Emotional Learning and LGTBQ
ACCESS TO THE GOOGLE CLASSROOM ESTABLISHED BY THE PLC TO SHARE RELEVANT ARTICLES, LESSON IDEAS, ETC WITH THE ENTIRE STAFF PER JOHN JACK HURLEY'S DISTRICT NOTE POSTED ON THE WEBSITE APRIL 2021
Principal Joan Carrion's Home Mailing Address and Phone Number
Superintendent Jack Hurley's Home Mailing Address and Phone Number
Teacher Kristin Dolci's Home Mailing Address and Phone Number
Letter from Abbey Novia sent to principals "to make equity a part of the discussion that day and going forward and whether there is an active curriculum committee". - Per Elain Chin's email dated 10.1.2021 "RARI Education Meeting Update"
Equity Committees emails regarding surveys [ January 2021 to Present ]
Equity Committees emails regarding curriculum [ January 2021 to Present ]
Email communication between J.Hurley, Administrators and Equity Committees regarding RARI participation [ January 2021 to Present ]
Report / Notes on meeting with RARI per J.Hurley's email dated January 26, 2021 "Committee"
Mark Bergen's "Equity Leadership Summit PD Access" from his email dated January 27, 2021
Denys Gardaezabal Equity Checklist PDF from email dated January 27, 2021
Notes from in-person meeting on June 22, 2021 between J.Hurley, M. Bergen and RARI member, Abbey Novia
Emails from Abbey Novia to M.Bergen & J.Hurley regarding RARI inclusion [ January 2021 to Present ]
Notes from meeting between J.Hurley and RARI from November 2020 [ noted in his email dated February 22, 2021 titled "Fwd" Social equity and anti-racism in Rutherford Schools" ]
All emails between Elaine Chin and Equity Committe and / or J. Hurley on behalf of RARI [ November 2020 to Present ]
Copy of contract with Care Plus for onsite clinicians as funded through ESSER Program
Jon description / Job Role of Courtney McGrath, PK-6 Pierrepont School
Information as it pertains to the Comprehensive School Based Program from Care Plus for the 2021-2022 School Year
Request for Pierrepont PTA IRS Form 990 for 2020 year
Request for all information pertaining to SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT GRANT received by Union School PTA from Pierrepont School PTA
Any and all email communication between Superintendent Jack Hurley and David Frazier, Health Dept Head regarding Comprehensive Health and the new state learning standards. Date Range: 3.1.2022 - PRESENT
Any and all communication between Superintendent Jack Hurley and/ or David Frazier to principals and teaching staff regarding Comprehensive Health and the new state learning standards. Date Range: 3.1.2022 - PRESENT
Equity Committees emails regarding curriculum Date Range: January 2022 to PRESENT
Correspondence form admin staff to Pierrepont Elem. re: SEL, LGTBQ, DEI Date Range: January 2022 to PRESENT
Equity Committee Emails Date Range: January 2022 to PRESENT
Equity Committees emails regarding curriculum Date Range: January 2022 to PRESENT
Approved curriculum for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Date Range: 11.12.2021 to PRESENT
Approved instructional and professional resources for Diversity, Equity and Resources Date Range: 1.1.2022 - PRESENT
Meeting Minutes from the EQUITY COMMITTEE Date Range: 1.1.2022 - PRESENT
Obviously you will have to change the school name and other names to reflect your district.
Another fact most parents are not aware of is you CAN request email correspondence between staff at your district. I like to request emails between our Superintendent and staff to see if instruction was given to them to carry out certain curriculum. I also like to request emails regarding topics I have directly emailed them about to see what they were saying about the situation and more importantly, about ME the “annoying parent”. Anything done on district email is open for public review and I assure you, it is very eye opening to see what they say about inquiring parents.
If you need more help with completing these forms, please, feel free to reach out to me and I will be happy to offer my guidance. My email is StandWithCampbell@gmail.com
Good luck everyone!
Parent in the Rutherford, Bergen County, NJ school district
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