School board votes to further explore video recordings

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The Santa Barbara County School Board voted unanimously Thursday to direct staff to present a detailed plan on implementing video recordings at the Sept. 1 meeting.

In May, the council voted 5-2 against the video recordings. On June 2, the board voted 7-0 to approve the audio recordings. As previously reported by News-Press, meetings have long been unrecorded, limiting public access.

On June 7, Board Chair Judy Frost requested that video recordings be placed on the future agenda. At Thursday’s meeting, the discussion about video recordings took place.

The meeting included a presentation from Superintendent Susan Salcido regarding audio recordings. His speech covered details such as the cost and the posting process. She said it takes about two weeks for a recording to be posted on the website for public access.

After the discussion, “I made a motion to videotape the meetings, which was seconded by Bruce Porter,” board member Michelle de Ward told News-Press. Mr. Porter noted that limited access to meetings “undermines public trust”, according to Ms. de Ward.

“The motion failed 4-2,” Ms de Ward said.

On June 7, at the end of the board meeting, member Peter MacDougal resigned, which explains the discrepancy in the vote count.

“I think the thinking on the board has come a long way since we started talking about it,” said Judy Frost, chair of the board. “I needed this time to process the information on the audio and video recordings because everything was new, things that had not been taken into account in the past. Before embarking on a new process, I needed enough information to feel comfortable with the ramifications of what I was doing and what it will mean.

“We’ve been recording audio since June 9, and there hasn’t been much activity on the YouTube channel, where audio recordings are posted,” Ms. Fost said. “As we talk about it, I feel like it’s really not helpful.”

Ms Frost said the council discussed issues with audio recordings, including that they are sometimes difficult to understand and viewers do not know who is speaking.

Ms. Frost and board member Michelle de Ward added that it’s hard to follow presentations by Santa Barbara County Education Office staff without seeing the accompanying slides, and that’s a waste.

Additionally, “more agencies are providing meeting recordings” in the post-COVID and Zoom era, Ms. de Ward said, noting that she “appreciated that the chair of the board, Judy Frost, bring the discussion back.”

“I try to keep an open mind, and the board has been much more open about this process,” Ms. de Ward said. “And I think that’s a very positive step forward for our board. And I think we have a problem with limited public access, and video recording of meetings is one solution.

Ms. Frost said if the board wants to do something, it has to do something that works. “There were a lot of factors for me that played into my desire to say I’m not ready to say do it now, but I’m ready to say to the staff, ‘Please develop your detailed plan of the implementation of video recording would look like I hope when we see this plan it fills in any gaps I have on the process and that I have fully considered all the ramifications as we have many many, including ADA laws.

“I can’t wait to get a full picture of what we’re talking about and to be satisfied,” Ms. Frost said.

At the end of Thursday’s meeting, Superintendent Salcido informed the board that the county has the equipment to implement video recordings, should the decision be made to play audio recordings. At the September 1 meeting, staff should present to the board a detailed plan for implementing video recordings, including cost, ADA compliance, and execution.

The September 1 meeting is at 2 p.m. The meeting is open to the public and will be held at the Santa Barbara County Office of Education, 4400 Cathedral Oaks Road, Santa Barbara.

Mr Frost told News-Press that she would like to convey to the readers of this newspaper “our appreciation for the patience as the board goes through the process of determining what we are going to do”.

She added that she would like people to “respect the fact that our intention was to show them that we wanted to get this done and that we were doing it right and that the process was very important to understand. And we didn’t feel comfortable enough with that a few months ago.

To voice your opinion on this matter, write to the Board of Education at [email protected] Emails sent to this address will go to all Board members.

Email: [email protected]

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