LBUSD Eyes Return to Live Streaming Meetings


By Daniel Langhorne, Special to the Independent

The Laguna Beach Unified School District’s Board of Education signaled Tuesday that it was willing to spend up to $60,000 over the next year to live-stream its meetings with captions that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The School Board decided to stop live-streaming its meetings on May 14 after a member of the public complained the videos violated an ADA-requirement to assist hearing-impaired viewers. Archived videos of the board meetings were posted the day after to the district’s Youtube channel, which provides free captioning.

“I felt we needed to suspend when we found out we were out of compliance because being out of compliance with ADA is a big deal,” Board President Jan Vickers said.

Different components of the school board’s audiovisual recording system have been added on a piecemeal basis over the years, said Michael Morrison, chief technology officer for the district.

“It would be better to have a system that was built from the ground up for what we do here,” Morrison said.

District staffers will return with a proposal for wired microphones to cover board members, district staffers, and public comments; a backup onsite recording device; camera controls, rack system, and switcher. The updated hardware cost is estimated at nearly $50,000.

The potential cost for live stream captioning is estimated at between $10,000 to $20,000 per year.

In June, district staffers circulated a survey on live streaming to parents, staff, and community members. The 243 survey participants voiced support for live streaming and archiving the videos for those who can’t regularly attend board meetings.

Laguna Beach attorney Howard Hills, who unsuccessfully ran for school board in 2016, said many residents prefer to watch board meetings from home and communicate with each other in real-time. He added that this discussion shouldn’t have to wait after a video is posted the following day.

“People watch from home and communicate with people that are here,” Hills said. “We have the capability and we can afford the cost for you to become very transparent and interact with the community.”

There was also a consensus among the board members to continue holding their meetings at the district office rather than moving them across the street to the Laguna Beach High School Library. Board members Carol Normandin and Peggy Wolff said students often use the library at night for a variety of academic and extra-curricular activities that could conflict with regularly scheduled board meetings.

“I’m not willing to take students out of what they’re doing so we have a place to meet,” Normandin said.


Board Governance Training

In a separate matter, the Board voted against retaining Aspen Group International, a consultant team that advises public and nonprofit boards on governance protocols. The contract would have cost taxpayers $50,000 plus travel, lodging, and meal expenses for five days of board member training.

“This is a pretty big commitment,” Wolff said. “Timing-wise, I don’t think this is the right time to make this big of a commitment.”

Board member Dee Perry said she found other consultants that could provide similar training at a much cheaper cost.

Vickers added that the governance training would likely be a waste of time and money if certain community members successfully vote incumbents out of office in November 2020.

“I’ve often felt that we have capabilities to solve our own problems, so to speak,” she said. “Besides the cost, the timeliness with the issues that are going on, it would not be the right time to me.”


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