Friday, September 26, 2008

Update on TV Coverage of Board of Education public meetings

At a Board of Education (BOE) meeting in October 2007, the BOE unveiled a proposal to spend more than $400,000 of taxpayer money on equipment to makeover the BOE meeting room for TV coverage. The BOE told the public there was no time to propose modifications to the plan for BOE TV coverage because an immediate vote was necessary on the plan if BOE TV coverage was to commence at the start of the coming school year in late August 2008. When the August 2008 deadline came and went without a pipsqueak from the BOE, an October deadline for BOE TV coverage was put forth. Now the word is that BOE TV coverage will not be instituted until after the BOE elections on November 4. The hope is to begin installing TV equipment in the BOE meeting room the week of Thanksgiving, with possible completion not until January 2009.

At the October 2007 meeting of the BOE, I suggested online access to BOE meeting TV coverage, including webcasting. I also asked for the integration of meeting agendas with the TV coverage (critical for online access to meeting coverage but less important for traditional TV coverage). The BOE replied it had no plans for such coverage.

Now I would like to suggest two very minor modifications to the current plan for BOE TV coverage. By “minor” I mean inexpensive and easy to implement. The first is for the BOE to provide programming information along with its broadcasts so that the broadcasts can be easily recorded by DVR. All non-local cable stations provide such programming data. Locally, the Anne Arundel Community College channel also provides such data. The County Council does not. This is a bad practice the School Board should not copy. The ability to easily record BOE TV coverage by DVR should be considered an essential function.

Second, the school board should switch to electronic voting with a real time feed displayed on the TV screen. Such voting systems are now ubiquitous and inexpensive. My kids in college regularly use this type of technology when the professors are seeking feedback from the students in class. And when I attend conferences in Washington, DC, I increasingly see this type of technology being used to solicit audience feedback.

--Jim Snider

P.S. Thanks to all those who volunteered to help at the Countywide CAC meeting last evening (September 25).

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