Board looks at How to Enhance Communication with Public

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Thursday February 23, 2012

During its February 15 meeting, the South Burlington School Board discussed how advances in technology can help directors alert the community about the panel’s decision-making process at hearings.

The Board’s discussion was split into two main areas: recording of the meetings and how to handle executive, or secret sessions. During such times, a Board can’t take any action on a matter before it, but must come out of executive session to render a decision.

South Burlington Superintendent David Young noted the Board has used an array of ways to record meetings, including occasional televising of hearings through RETN, an educational cable station, recording of the proceedings by staff member Delina Gilroy, and using cassettes to catch each comment made by Board members and the public. Young also publicly praised Gilroy for her commitment, dedication and “good job” she does when recording the School Board minutes.

Young also noted that at one time, the Board also set up a number of microphone stations to record Board members’ and the audience’s comments. But the method isn’t used on a regular basis, he said.

Citing advances in technology, Young noted that the School District will have to spend funds to reach a wider audience if it wants to improve how sessions are recorded. “If we want to do this right, then we’re going to have to invest a certain amount of money in recording devices,” he said.

Young also expressed concern about how well audience members hear comments coming from School Directors and staff who sit at the front of the room during meetings. At times, some community members say they can’t hear what’s said by school personnel at hearings. Young also pointed out that the FH Tuttle Middle School Library, where some meetings take place, is a spot that’s open and where sound travels relatively well.

Young and School Board Chairman Richard Cassidy also discussed the feasibility of approaching RETN about increasing the number of times the station comes to record and then televise South Burlington School Board meetings. Some nearby district’s such as Williston, Shelburne and Charlotte, have every meeting recorded and then aired on the channel for the public to watch. Young said the “ideal” method would be to have RETN record and then show each South Burlington School Board. That way, residents who couldn’t attend the meetings could watch them online or at home on television and be informed about School Board actions.

“RETN is the easiest way for the public to have access,” Cassidy said.

Young said he planned on approaching RETN to talk with officials there about the feasibility of increasing their coverage of South Burlington’s School Board meetings. He, then in turn, would inform Cassidy about the talks.

Assistant Superintendent Winton  Goodrich told Board members he observed a number of televised School Directors’ meetings and called that method “the optimum use of technology.”

Meanwhile, Young also discussed the use of Executive Session. During last week’s meeting five subjects were slated to be talked about in a private meeting. Young also wants to look into how Boards treat such sessions and he plans on updating the Board shortly on the matter.

“I think we do well,” Young said. “But there are opportunities we really should look at this a little more.”

SOURCE: Gail Callahan, Correspondent