Monday, December 31, 2012

The Connecticut superintendent salary project

By Viktoria Sundqvist

This past weekend, the New Haven Register, The Middletown Press and The Register Citizen published my stories on Connecticut's superintendents and their salaries, showing how much or how little each local superintendent makes in comparison to district size.

A sidebar explained other perks and benefits that some school superintendents get.

We also launched the Connecticut superintendent salary database, which is searchable by school district or superintendent name, and you can sort it by salary, size or amount of vacation time. It also shows each school district on a map with a popup window of information about each district. (This was created with the help of our data team at Thunderdome in New York City).

Originally, the project started out small - I was just gathering some of the local contracts because we had several new superintendents. Then the idea grew into "why don't we do the entire state?" As my editor said, "Connecticut is a pretty small state, so you can actually do that."

We asked for all the contracts under the state's Freedom of Information Act, and then reported on each district's response. We found that the majority of the 148 districts were pretty good at providing documents in a timely manner, and only two districts actually charged us. So, the total cost of the document gathering part came to about $15.50.

A big struggle was making sure all the numbers collected actually added up, because some of the contracts only reported salary (including tax-sheltered annuity), while others split this into several sections of a contract. In order to make it comparable across the state, all salaries had to include the annuity, so we added it to the base salaries for the towns who had them separate.

I enlisted Michelle Tuccitto Sullo, investigations editor at the New Haven Register, to not only help gather contracts and remind the districts that were slow in responding, but also to double-check all my data before we created the searchable database. Some local reporters at The Register Citizen, the Foothills Media Group and the Fairfield Minuteman also assisted in gathering correct contact information and some of the contracts.

Overall, the project took about three months, from start to finish. And all contracts were uploaded to Document Cloud, where anyone from the public can view them. You can also access them directly from the database.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Judge seals search warrants related to Newtown shooter Adam Lanza's home

By Michelle Tuccitto Sullo
Investigations Editor
A judge has sealed search warrant documents related to Newtown gunman Adam Lanza’s home and two family vehicles for an additional 90 days.
“The court finds that due to the nature and circumstances of this case and the ongoing investigation, the State’s interest in continuing nondisclosure substantially outweighs any right to public disclosure at this time,” Judge John Blawie wrote, in issuing the orders Thursday.

Read more here.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Database of Connecticut superintendent salaries

Our database of superintendent salaries is now ready. It can be viewed here:

Stories related to this database will be published at, and tomorrow and in the respective print publications in the next few days. You may also see localized versions pop up in our weekly newspapers across the state.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Gun permits and public information

The Journal News, a Gannett newspaper based in Westchester County, New York, last week posted a map of all gun permit holders in the area.The newspaper later had to hire armed security guards for protection.

While the map and related article were shared widely on social media, according to a New York Times blog post, the newspaper received some serious backlash from readers for publishing names, addresses and home phone numbers of seemingly law-abiding citizens.

In Connecticut, the names and addresses of people issued gun permits are confidential under state statute, so the records are not available under FOI. And it has been so since a special legislative session in the summer of 1994, when legislators had to give in to the pro-gun lobbyists in order to get some other things passed, like making it harder for convicted felons to own a gun.

But a state rep. from West Haven is arguing that this information should be made public in Connecticut, and he is taking some heat for it.

What's your take? Should people be able to find out who owns guns just like they can know who is a registered sex offender? Would it make you feel safer/less safe if you knew your neighbor owned a gun?