PHOENIX — State schools chief Diane Douglas is ignoring a demand to let state Board of Education investigators have electronic access to teacher certification records.
Department of Education spokesman Charles Tack said there is no reason for the investigators to have to access the files remotely.
He said they are available now — if only the investigators would recognize they belong in Douglas’ office, and not at the Capitol Tower where the board and its staff moved more than a week ago.
“We believe, of course, that these employees that moved are Education Department employees,” he said.
“So their work stations are open to them whenever they need them here in this building,” Tack continued. “And that includes all the access that they would need to do their jobs.”
Douglas contends all 11 board employees, including the investigators, are her employees, and subject to her oversight and control. She also contends the May 9 move, ordered by the Board of Education, is illegal.
Douglas filed suit Friday asking Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Patricia Starr to order the workers back to her office or be fired. Starr has scheduled a hearing for Thursday morning to consider the request.
On Monday, the board voted 7-1 to direct Douglas to grant full access to the files, including the ability to see them online and make copies, no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
Board President Greg Miller said the investigators need the information to be able to determine whether someone’s teaching certificate should be revoked or not renewed because of some issue, like a felony conviction. Miller said forcing investigators to go to Douglas’ office to review records — and not allow them to be taken from the building or copied — slows up that process.
Tack said Douglas is not concerned with the possibility the board might sue her over her refusal to grant full access. After all, he noted, the issue of her authority already is being litigated with the lawsuit she filed against the board on Friday.
“Hopefully, that will settle it and we can move on,” Tack said. “I know that she is hoping for a speedy answer.”
Tack said even if Starr rules the board employees do not answer to Douglas, that still does not mean they will get unlimited remote access to the records.
“We would need to take steps that would take more than a day to make sure that the data that would be shared back and forth between our system and them is protected,” he said. “We’re dealing with very confidential and personal data.”
For the same reason, Tack said, there are concerns about allowing copies to be made and taken from the Department of Education building.