The Santa Barbara County Board of Education took a step Thursday toward greater public access to its minutes.
The board voted 7-0 Thursday to have Dr. Susan Salcido, the superintendent of schools, direct her staff to post an additional two years of minutes and board packets to the board’s website, sbceo.org.
That brings the website’s total up to five years of minutes. The minutes will need to be reformatted to become ADA-compliant. All meeting minutes prior to 2020 are not currently ADA compliant.
“We had a really healthy discussion, and I liked the way the board worked together to resolve points of view and we reached a unanimous decision,” board president Judy Frost told the News-Press. “In 2025, we will drop 2018 (minutes) so there will be a rolling seven years on the website.”
Board member Michelle de Werd told the News-Press that she supports full public access. She noted that the previous requirement to request historical minutes was a barrier to that access.
“In this age of technology, it is not difficult to post minutes,” Ms. de Werd said. “I rely on these minutes as well for details.
“I think the reluctance at the meeting during the discussion was due to the concern of burdening the staff. But I think we resolved the issue,” she explained. “The minutes are very minimal, and very substantial information is included in the board packets. Board packets also include a record of voting.”
Ms. Frost said the board members also agreed that the work on the minutes could be scheduled appropriately within the priorities of the county staff.
“It was a great discussion, and we all learned a lot. And we were able to work together and come up with a compromise and it passed unanimously,” she said.
Ms. de Werd noted, “I think it was a great outcome for our board that hasn’t had full transparency in years past, and I think requesting the minutes is a barrier for people. There haven’t been very many requests for historical minutes.
“I believe as a board member, I shouldn’t have to request minutes,” she said. “I shouldn’t have to wait 10 days for information … Memories are short; time passes between one meeting to the next. Information and agreements can be forgotten or confused.”
Ms. Frost said the board is moving toward greater public access to the minutes and wants to ensure they are ADA-compliant.
Additionally, for the first time in the board’s history, Thursday’s meeting was recorded on video. This followed months of battling over the issue, but the board voted 7-0 Sept. 1 to implement video recordings.
The recordings include Spanish translations. At this time, there is no option for digital participation and comment on a platform such as Zoom, although that may change in the future.