By Rita Robinson
Putting school board meetings online in real time videos was a campaign pitch by school board candidate Dee Perry. Within months of taking office, the newly elected school board member is pressing district staff to make that promise a reality.
“I really care about this,” Perry, a retired school teacher, said at a meeting two weeks ago. “The positive aspects of having a video of the school board meetings increase trust in government and transparency.”
At the recent meeting, board member Bill Landsiedel said he was “very negative” about the prospect. “There is a small group of people who will watch, God knows why,” he said. “I watch a city council meeting and I just want to shoot myself.” The most recent audio podcast of Laguna’s school board meeting was available online two weeks after the it occurred.
Landsiedel has since softened his resistance, but still objects to the potential expense and possible abuse by board members using the broader exposure to grandstand on issues. “The money in the school district shouldn’t be spent on the board,” he said. “It should be spent on kids.”
Board member Jan Vickers questioned if broadcasting would actually lengthen the meetings and asked for dollar figures. “I have watched the city council meetings for specific purposes and I’m glad it’s there,” she said. “I find it informative.”
The Laguna Beach City Council’s public meetings, available on cable television and online webcasts, were cited as a good example. “Look at the City Council system; it’s a perfect system,” resident Howard Hills suggested to the board. “The people in this community who fund these schools want to see what’s going on in this school board. Make this process more transparent.”
Cox Communications records the meetings from a manned booth and broadcasts live on a cable channel. The service is provided free as part of Cox’s exclusive cable-television franchise agreement with the city.
Cox lacks a similar arrangement with the school district, said Cox spokeswoman Ceanne Guerra. “We usually look at school districts as a business customer of ours,” she said. School board members asked Supt. Sherine Smith to find out if Cox can offer live-streaming for the school district.
While Cox televises city council meetings for free, the online real-time webcasts and meeting archives are provided under contract with Granicus company for $11,800 annually, said Gavin Curran, the city’s director of finance and information technology. Granicus specializes in webcasting government meetings and provides webcasts of other Laguna Beach city meetings, allowing residents to view the meetings, agendas, minutes and archives on their own computers or cellphones.
Perry said she has researched at least a dozen school districts in the state to determine if they televise or webcast their meetings. The larger nearby Capistrano district, which often serves as a model for Laguna Beach, only posts an audio feed from their meetings, Perry said.
Perry offered to research the costs incurred by other districts to record meetings for online viewing, but Smith said the district staff will do the groundwork. A report is expected at a later meeting, said a district spokesperson.
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