Proposal to Video Natomas School Board Meetings Squashed

BY BRANDY TUZON BOYD
THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

Updated with additional information June 14, 2013

Ryan Herche’s effort to make good on a campaign promise meant to improve public access to Natomas Unified school board proceedings was shot down last night.

“The sad truth is, I don’t believe the board is ready for transparency,” Herche said after last night’s regular school board meeting. “I’m very tired of the status quo. I think a lot of voters are, too.”

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School board members Scott Dosick, Susan Herredia and Ryan Herche (left to right) were sworn in by NUSD superintendent Chris Evans in December 2012. / Photo: C. Shannon

Both times Herche ran for school board prior to being elected in November 2012, his platform included introducing an action item to require video recordings of board meetings which would then be made available to the public in podcast form. Herche had asked that videotaping meetings be put on the school board agenda in December, shortly after being elected; the topic made the June 12 agenda as a discussion item.

At last night’s school board meeting, however, a majority of the five-member board made clear that videotaping meetings was not something they wanted to spend money – or employee time – on.

“I don’t want to take extra staff time and money to video ourselves,” board member Lisa Kaplan said. “This was your individual high priority, but it is not our high priority as a group.”

In lieu of the district videotaping meetings, Kaplan asked last night that the board’s policy on the public recordings at board meetings be reviewed. She said she was not opposed to members of the public setting up a camera and recording meetings, as long as it did not disrupt the proceedings.

Board president Susan Herredia, who went home ill but shared her opinion via a statement read by Superintendent Chris Evans, echoed Kaplan’s opposition to spending money videotaping meetings. Board member Teri Burns was absent.

Currently, school board meetings are tape recorded. Those tapes are referred to when meeting minutes are typed up and the recordings are destroyed after 30 days. The public may listen to the recording at the district office when available.

“The minutes are an incomplete record, they don’t capture tenor and mood,” Herche told THE NATOMAS BUZZ. “(Meeting minutes) represent the best effort, but they are vulnerable to human error.”

Herche added that videotaped recordings would give people the ability to easily review meeting proceedings. He said several school boards statewide, including Sacramento City Unified, record and make public meeting proceedings.

“People have access to city council meetings, the State Legislature is available on live feed, it doesn’t make sense to me can’t do at local level at a very low cost,” Herche said.

At the meeting Herche asked whether having equipment donated to the district for purposes of recording school board meetings would allay his peers’ concerns about cost. He also suggested phasing videotaping meetings in over a one- to two-year period.

“We’ve got nothing to hide – I can can certainly vouch what you see is what you get,” board member Scott Dosick said during the June 12 board meeting.

Dosick said he suspected the cost to video tape meetings would likely be inconsequential over time, but added that he worried the impact it could have on workers’ time.

Herche told THE NATOMAS BUZZ he believes videotaping school board meetings and making the recordings available to the public would go hand-in-hand with the school district’s customer service portal, and a long way toward improving relations with the community.

“The board is inflexible and not willing to compromise, but that’s okay,” he added. “I’m going going to continue to raise issue and work to build support in the community.”