CARLSBAD — For the moment, the status quo will remain regarding broadcasting Carlsbad Unified School District board meetings.
On Dec. 12, the board did not approve any measure to either live stream or approve a live audio recording, similar to a podcast. The item was brought forward after several parents, along with trustee Veronica Williams, requested the board broadcast meetings so others in the district can watch instead of waiting for the taped audio to be posted to the district’s website.
The board only voted on one option, a live audio recording, which failed 4-2. Board Vice President Ray Pearson motioned to approve the second option, to video record the meetings on the condition the equipment was donated, but the motion died.
The district’s staff recommendation was not to make any changes and to wait until the final phase of the Measure HH bond and work with the city to incorporate the technology into the boardroom. Superintendent Dr. Ben Churchill said the biggest challenge is cost challenges associated the American with Disabilities Act requirements.
Currently, board meetings are uploaded to the district website via Sound Cloud as an audio recording.
“It’s 2018, soon to be 2019, and these meetings should be available on video,” said Athena Runner, a district parent. “You learn so much from these meetings. To see the trustees, to see how they interact and to put a face with the name, most people don’t know who you are.”
Perhaps the biggest concern for the board was the cost of broadcasting. Startup costs were estimated between $2,500 to $5,000, but some on the board felt with the district expecting to operate a negative budget over the next three years, broadcasting the meetings would mean making cuts elsewhere.
Churchill said the district could sell additional bonds as part of Measure HH to cover the costs, but the board balked at adding more to the bonds.
District staff also inquired about the option to have the city host and broadcast meetings, which was done from 2009-2013, and perhaps use its broadcasting equipment. The district has not televised its meetings since 2013. The district first broadcast its meetings in 1994 on the City of Carlsbad TV, which was paid for through a grant from Adelphia Communications.
One financial challenge is the American Disabilities Act requirement of providing closed captioning for the hearing impaired. Churchill said he found one service, but it costs $95 per hour.
“Priority is always access,” trustee Claudine Jones said. “In any other budget year it would be a little bit easier discussion. Because $5,000 does not seem like a lot … these are the decisions that add up to full-time FTEs to be able to reduce our class size.”
The four options before the board were to reconfigure the board room from phase four to an earlier phase in the facilities master plan (Measure HH upgrades), video record and post to the district website, conduct a live audio recording or keep the status quo.
The second option expected a cost of $5,000 from the general fund, while the third alternative was estimated to cost $2,500 in one-time funds and up to $600 per year in ongoing fees from the general fund.
The boardroom is scheduled for about $440,000 in renovations in the final phase of Measure HH, which would be in 10 to 12 years.
Board members debated as to what path they wanted to go down. Pearson said a live broadcast provides context, demands of transparency and allows the community to see who their representatives are and how business is conducted.
Williams, who pushed for the item to be on the agenda, said the board must figure out its goals and priorities for broadcasting.
Elisa Williamson said the board follows the Brown Act, thus policing itself and copies of presentations, agendas, minutes and other board actions are posted, so a live stream or broadcast is not the highest priority.