Citing a commitment to transparency and open government, San Mateo County Community College District officials expressed an interest in starting to broadcast videos of school board meetings.
Trustees said streaming the videos online and archiving their recordings would be the only suitable compromise with administrators seeking to limit the scope of meeting minutes.
The two issues, which will be discussed during the meeting Wednesday, June 12, must be considered in tandem, said trustees who are unwilling to trim down written records of the meetings without offering supplemental, comprehensive material.
“I will not support limiting the minutes without some form of documentation of meetings, whether that is through recordings, or video recordings or streaming,” said board President Maurice Goodman.
Vice President Richard Holober shared a similar perspective.
“I certainly wouldn’t want to change how we record our minutes unless we are concurrently providing live and archived access to our meetings,” said Holober.
The issue rises from a report crafted by the office of Chancellor Ron Galatolo requesting to amend the district’s process for generating meeting minutes, the written record of public board sessions.
Trustees recognized writing exhaustive minutes capturing the details of board discussion may be a burden on district staffers, but that was balanced against an obligation to document and track the board’s actions.
“We understand there is a set of best practices for keeping minutes and understand the demand on our staff and that is very important to us,” said Goodman. “However, what is most important is that we are doing the public’s business publicly.”
District administration proposed to whittle down the depth of the minutes to a format which mostly tracks board action and omits addressing much of the discussion surrounding issues.
Holober noted though the proposed format is endorsed by the state’s City Clerks Association, the agency does not have jurisdiction over an education system like the school district.
Furthermore, he said the recommendations from the association suggest more thorough minutes should be kept, unless the agency offers an alternative fashion of accessing full meeting materials — such as recordings or videos.
The community college district currently keeps audio recordings of meetings. No decision is slated to be made at the upcoming meeting, as the issue is up for discussion.
For his part, Holober said he considers minutes of meetings a valuable resource which he often relies on when researching district issues, and would not favor doing away with such an asset.
Additionally, he said the district could offer students in the broadcasting and media departments an opportunity to collect course credit by helping record and stream meetings.
Such a program could also cut costs for the district, which administrators claim could rise beyond $100,000 in initial investment for technology, plus ongoing expenses associated with recording meetings, saving material and more, according to the report.
Noting it is an industry standard for cities and other agencies to broadcast meetings, Holober questioned whether the endeavor would be as expensive as the report claimed, while Goodman said the benefit far outweighs the cost.
“That’s not really a concern of mine,” said Goodman, regarding the investment required for broadcasting. “When it comes to transparency and access, I’m always going to side with transparency and access — not the potential cost.”
Goodman said broadcasting the meetings would also align with a proposal for Peninsula TV to move to the College of San Mateo campus in the former KCSM-TV studio, as the station’s presence could help the initiative as well.
Beyond financial concerns, open session of board meetings begins as 6 p.m., which Goodman added is a difficult time for many students and community members who work and balance classes and family obligations.
Considering the variety of hurdles, Goodman said broadcasting the meetings would meet the needs of those who are interested in the board’s discussions but cannot attend.
More generally though, Goodman said it is essential the district and board remain as open and honest with the public as possible.
“What’s important is that we are providing our community the amount of transparency and access they should be afforded,” he said.
The district Board of Trustees meets 6 p.m., in the district office, 3401 CSM Drive, San Mateo.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105