Starting in October, meetings will be recorded in videos
The Santa Barbara County Board of Education voted 7-0 Thursday to start video recordings of its meetings.
The recordings, which will include Spanish translations, will begin with the board’s Oct. 6 meeting, board President Judy Frost told the News-Press in an email.
Included in Thursday’s vote was newly appointed board member Nadra Ehram, who was appointed to fill the vacant seat created by the mid-term resignation of Peter McDougall. Mr. McDougall resigned during the June 7 board meeting.
Ms. Ehram will represent Trustee Area 2 through the November 2024 election, the remainder of Mr. McDougall’s term.
In May, the board voted 5-2 against video recordings. On June 2, the board voted 7-0 to approve audio recordings.
As previously reported by the News-Press, the meetings were long unrecorded, limiting public access.
On June 7, Ms. Frost requested that video recordings be placed on a future agenda.
The Aug. 4 meeting included a presentation by Superintendent Susan Salcido regarding audio recordings. Her talk covered details such as cost and the process of posting. She said it takes about two weeks for a recording to be posted to the website for public access.
Board member Michelle de Werd made a motion to approve video recordings. The motion failed 4-2. Several board members said they felt they needed more information before they could vote in favor of video recordings.
During the Aug. 4 meeting, the board voted unanimously to direct the staff to present a detailed plan on the implementation of video recordings at Thursday’s meeting.
“Yesterday staff provided that information,” Ms. Frost told the News-Press on Friday.
After a motion and brief discussion, the board voted unanimously to move forward with the implementation of video recordings.
Ms. de Werd told the News-Press, “The board’s decision was very deliberate, and they needed to weigh and study and consider the pros and cons of video recording board meetings. I’m happy that the board reconsidered and voted unanimously to video record and archive meetings on the SBCEO website.
“Also, we learned in the meeting from a report by Superintendent Salcido that SBCEO will utilize existing inventory equipment to record meetings via a stationary ipad and will utilize existing staff to do so,” Ms. de Werd said. “There is an additional cost for an interpreter at $100 per hour.
“The public cannot comment remotely and must be in person to comment,” she said.
“I am committed to open government, ensuring as much public access as possible, especially regarding the public education of our children and the spending of taxpayer dollars,” Ms. de Werd told the News-Press.
“Also, most county school boards, school districts and public agencies post historical minutes and board packets on their websites that go back five to seven years or even longer. We do not practice this,” she said. “Our minutes and board packets go back to 2020. For the benefit of tracking trends, strategic plans, budgets, LCAP (Local Control Accountability Plans) and board votes, historical minutes should be available for public review.
“I spoke to many folks, and most assumed our meetings were recorded similar to other public agencies and were surprised to learn that we only started audio recordings a couple months ago,” said Ms. de Werd
The News-Press asked Ms. de Werd about the option for participation and public comment on a digital platform such as Zoom.
“That wasn’t part of the discussion … The board did not give a reason as to why that wouldn’t be an option. People must come in person if they want to comment at this point. That might change in the future,” said Ms. de Werd.
Rosanne Crawford, who is running against incumbent Marybeth Carty for county Board of Education Trustee Area 1, told the News-Press: “I’m very pleased this option is now available after much resistance from the board and it’s a step in the right direction. If elected to Trustee area 1, I will take it a step further and push for remote access so that one may register electronically to speak in public comment or to any agenda item.
“This is needed as the County Board of Education often meets mornings and early afternoons at the Santa Barbara office of education, making it difficult for many to participate,” Ms. Crawford said. “People in Carpinteria, Santa Maria, and Lompoc particularly have found it difficult to attend the in-person meetings in Santa Barbara. The board needs to make access available and more inclusive for all of the communities they serve.”
Noted Ms. de Werd, “We are a public education agency with a staff of 600 people and a $100 million budget; for a future board agenda item, I requested that we post historical minutes and board packets (five to seven years) on the SBCEO website.
“I speak for myself and not for the Santa Barbara County Board of Education,” she said.