The Coast News Group

Carlsbad Unified School District looks into live streaming board meetings

Broadcasting meetings once again has risen to the surface for the Carlsbad Unified School District.

During its Oct. 11 meeting, Melanie Burkholder, who is running for the Area 1 seat on the district’s board of trustees, said the policy to televise, or at least live stream, the meetings must be reinstated.

Later, trustee Veronica Williams, who is being challenged by Burkholder, requested a feasibility report from district staff.

For years, many parents have complained about the lack of broadcasted district meetings. Those complaints center on the length of the meetings, parents being unable to attend due to family commitments and more transparency with the board and district.

However, others fear broadcasting the meetings will lead to grandstanding and political posturing.

District President Ray Pearson has long called for broadcasting the meetings, but has never received the support. Informal discussion, though, has shown that most of the board is hesitant to move forward with streaming or broadcasting.

Williams said plans for broadcasting school board meetings have been discussed for several years, including prior to the Oct. 11 meeting with Superintendent Dr. Ben Churchill, and it was included in the district’s 2007 Facility Master Plan, as well as the recently approved 2018 Long Range Facility Master Plan.

The district, though, prioritizes money into the classroom before recording meetings. Even with the $265 million proposed school bond, streaming or broadcasting is one of the lower priorities in the plan, according to district officials.

Some issues that were brought up regarding broadcasting were ADA requirements and funding. Starting in 2015, the district audio recorded board meetings. The 34 total audio recordings since January 2017 reached just 195 listeners.

“I have always been an advocate for transparency and accountability, but if broadcasting requires dollars, which could be used in the classroom (like lowering class-size), this is a lower priority,” Williams said. “What I proposed in the Oct. 10 board meeting was to research the costs and ADA requirements specifically for live video streaming board meetings (for example: Facebook Live Video Streaming). I’m always exploring low-cost/low-staffing options.”

The question of whether to broadcast meetings has been a long running issue for the board over the past several years. The board has voted against broadcasting meetings on several occasions in that time frame.

As for the district, it did not comment as the staff members, including Churchill, are still gathering “information relative toward the board request,” according to a statement emailed to The Coast News.

While the district is collecting information, Burkholder said it is important for the district to broadcast its meetings.

“Televised meetings are a win-win for everyone,” she told the board on Oct. 11. “They increase transparency and accountability and provide greater input from stakeholders.”

Burkholder said there are options to consider such as a potential partnership with the city of Carlsbad or approaching the Carlsbad High School broadcast journalism program. She said logistics are the main challenge for parents with preparing dinner, shuttling to and from athletics or extracurricular activities and helping with homework.

The district, meanwhile, will return with its findings in several weeks and the board will then discuss and potentially act on the item.

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