Sunshine Week — it sounds like a good time to hit the beach somewhere.
But in the eyes of news media all across the country, it’s a time to celebrate government transparency and the Freedom of Information/Right to Know laws that keep this information available to the public.
As part of this year’s Sunshine Week, the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association brought member newspapers together to carry out the TransPArency project. Newspapers were asked to select a sample of governments and school districts from the communities they serve and grade them utilizing a standard rubric that focuses on the availability and content of agendas and minutes.
From the sample selected by The Daily Review that included Towanda Borough, Troy Borough, Sayre Borough, Wyalusing Township, Northeast Bradford School District, Wyalusing Area School District, Athens Area School District and Towanda Area School District, there seemed to be plenty of transparency when it came to this level of information — especially through many of these agencies’ websites.
The school districts’ websites offered a plethora of meeting-related information and, although some information available via the web may have been limited for certain municipalities, officials were more than open when it came to public records.
The rubric’s scoring system ranged from 0 to 100 percent with corresponding letter grades. For example, a municipality scoring between 100 and 90 percent would receive an A, while one scoring between 89 and 80 percent would receive a B, and those 59 percent or below would receive an F. Points were taken off based on a number of criteria, including whether or not the materials were available online and how comprehensive they were.
Towanda Borough: Minutes — A; Agenda — B
Troy Borough: Minutes — A; Agenda — B
Sayre Borough: Minutes — A; Agenda — A
Wyalusing Township: Minutes — B; Agenda — B
Northeast Bradford SD: Minutes — A; Agenda — A
Athens Area SD: Minutes — A; Agenda — A
Towanda Area SD: Minutes — A; Agenda — A
Wyalusing Area SD: Minutes — A; Agenda — A
Sunshine Week was started in 2005 as an expansion of a day-long recognition first started by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors, according to the National Press Foundation. It is held around this time each year to coincide with the birthday of former president James Madison, who had been an early supporter of free speech and information.