Nearly a year after the San Diego Unified School District halted a policy to delete staff emails more than a year old, the policy will be now be going into effect.
“Now that employee prep is nearly complete the servers will not store email older than a year effective June 1,” Maureen Magee, a spokesperson for the San Diego Unified School District, told NBC 7 Investigates in an email Wednesday morning.
NBC 7 Investigates first reported on the policy last June when the District informed its employees that they would no longer be storing emails that are six months old unless employees requested they be archived. Employees were also told they would be responsible for retaining emails on a local computer drive as part of a long-term strategy to save money.
The policy, which was supposed to go into effect July 1, 2017, sparked pushback from the public, San Diegans for Open Government and the media, including the San Diego Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).
In the past, the release of emails has helped shed light on illegal activities, including the investigation into the actions of now-former SDUSD board member Marne Foster.
In December 2015, the district launched an investigation into Foster, who was accused of abuse of power. The San Diego County District Attorney’s office also investigated. Ultimately, Foster pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and, as part of the plea deal, resigned from the school board.
Last year, San Diego Unified School District’s Executive Director of Internet Technology, Greg Ottinger, told NBC 7 Investigates the district fields more than 60-million emails a year, adding this is considered “exceptional” for a district the size of San Diego Unified.
“Unless we make a change, we’re going to have to spend significantly more taxpayer dollars on bigger and bigger storage pieces versus redirecting those dollars toward the classroom,” Ottinger told NBC 7 Investigates last year.
Ottinger could not provide an exact number of what the cost savings would be but said he expects it to be in the millions.
For members of the public and journalists who have filed public records requests for San Diego Unified emails generated in the past year, Magee said those emails have already been saved.
“All requests received by the time the policy took effect last July have been run,” Magee said. “All requests received since then have also been run by the district’s IT department. The district will continue to run requests as they are received going forward.”
Last year, NBC 7 Investigates checked with other school districts about their email retention policies.
A spokesperson for Poway Unified said it retains emails for one year while the Oceanside School District said it would work on developing a specific retention policy regarding district email or correspondence, as the district did not have one in place.
NBC 7 Investigates reached out to Oceanside School District Wednesday afternoon for an update but have not heard back.
Disclosure: Tom Jones is a sitting board member of the San Diego Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.