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.”

Comments

  1. Ulysses4033 says:

    You know, “trust us” just doesn’t cut it as a governing philosophy. Too many government leaders see the voters as pesky nuisances that get in the way of their doing business their way. This voter wants to see and choose for himself. Can’t wait for next year’s election so we can add board members who understand that they work for the voters, and not the other way around.

    • I completely agree. What is wrong with videotaping the democratic process for those that cannot be there in person? Makes me question the motives of those that opposed this measure.

  2. This was a simple measure that should have had unanimous support. What a shame.

  3. summerchic89 says:

    What a shame. Local government leaders acting without transparency. Nothing good can come of this.

  4. Josh Rosa says:

    The public has a right to know what local officials are doing, especially with schools. If adding donated video can increase transparency w/o significant costs, they should have approved this!

  5. I think some people may be missing the point here. They welcome video cameras, they just don’t want to spend the school district’s money to record the meetings. I think that’s perfectly reasonable. Do you really want them to hire someone anyway? You know it would just end up being a friend or family member who’s going to gouge the district… because they can. So all of you that want the meetings recorded so badly, grab your camera and go record them and post it on Youtube.

    • Terry Barnes says:

      So I need to pay for a video camera, on top of the taxes I am paying, to be able to EASILY review what the school board is doing? Nah.

      • I’m sure there are plenty of people out there with existing video cameras or video capable cell phones that could record it and post the video online. Or you could just go to the meetings and take notes if you’re really that concerned. Or read the transcripts.

  6. Cynthia Connell says:

    Same board, same inflexibility….sadly, so many more things are also status quo, which the community would be more aware of if meetings were broadcast.

  7. Maria Peceli says:

    I really like the idea of videotaping! Is the idea that the meetings be videotaped and then posted to the NUSD website? I haven’t been able to attend the meetings, but I do like to stay abreast of what is going on – especially when it comes to my children and my friends’ children! What is the proposed cost? In this age of technology, this makes sense.

  8. Adam Ellison says:

    It seems to me that Congress is slightly more transparent than the board. There is absolutely NO reason the measure should have been voted down. Those were votes against Natomas kids, teachers, and parents if you ask me.

    • To clarify, videotaping meetings was a discussion item at the school board meeting, not an action item, so no vote was taken.

      • Adam Ellison says:

        Nevertheless, there may as well have been, as the discussion item yielded no action at all and there are those on the board who seem to prefer that and apparently, a lack of transparency. Thanks for the info!

  9. June 14, 2013
    The following statement was released from Board President Susan Heredia regarding the discussion to videotape board meetings:
    On behalf of the Natomas Unified School District, I want to correct the record that the issue of videotaping board meetings was a discussion item and not an action item. Our Board of Trustees did not vote on the matter, as originally reported by the Sacramento Bee. The board discussed the cost and feasibility of implementing a video system in the board room and determined that any new investments need to be considered in the context of restoring funding to our classrooms. As is the case with many of our colleague districts up and down the state, new revenue prompts discussion about funding priorities. It is the priority of the Board of Trustees to reinstate funding of our instructional program. This is our focus at this time.
    Our meetings are transparent and open to the public. We are not in agreement with diverting resources – both monetary and staff time – from the classroom to implementing a video system in the boardroom at this time. We are, however, exploring a change in board policy to allow members of the public to tape the meetings on their own devices.
    Our community has a right to have access to the business of Natomas Unified School District. That is why we are exploring alternative methods for the public to engage if they are not able to attend a board meeting.

  10. biggestfan says:

    First: you don’t need an entire video system installed in your board room, that would cost a lot. All you need is a Videographer willing to come and record and then upload the footage to a site. This could cost very little per meeting ($15-$25 per hour of meeting time). You could use an independent contractor. How many meetings per year are we talking?

  11. Natomasguy says:

    Video taping of meetings is not costly. Aa independent Videographer would charge around $100.00 -$150.00 a meeting to make unedited dvd’s available to the public.

  12. Dolores Buck says:

    Video taping all board meetings and uploading to the district website would go a long ways to keep our families informed but most of all involved. I agree that contracting with an independent videographer (not family member or friend) would create the transparency desired by many. Uploading to the district website would encourage a higher level of involvement of our families and community. Even better, expand a school program for students to video the meetings, work with district tech staff to properly prepare materials and upload to the district site and offer academic credit to the students. The video could also be uploaded to the some of the social websites and viewed by so many more of our community. For all the community members and our school families who are unable to attend the meetings this would be such a great service for them. Even better, they would be able to provide feedback to the board members reflective of a much broader piece of the community. What an inexpensive way to get more families involved, the community involved, the schools involved and most of all the STUDENTS.

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