School board debates recording meetings

  • By KAT SORENSEN
  • Monday, August 7, 2017 8:58pm
  • News

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Board of Education raised the issue of recording its meetings during Monday’s work sessions, which are not recorded.

Currently, the Board of Education’s regular meeting audio is broadcasted via the district’s website and stored online for future listening. Both committee meetings and work sessions are held during the day, as necessary, before the regular meeting at 6 p.m. This month’s committee sessions were held between 11:15 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. The work sessions started at 2 p.m., with the final session being held at 4 p.m.

The meetings are open to the public, but not broadcast or recorded in any way.

Recording the meetings would require minimal work from a technical standpoint, said Eric Soderquist, the district’s information services director, during the work session.

“There’s no burden whatsoever,” Soderquist said. “… Anything in this building would be easy.”

The work sessions are held in the assembly chambers of the George A. Navarre Borough Administration Building in Soldotna, which is currently set up to record both the board’s regular meetings as well as the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meetings.

Soderquist said as long as committee meetings’ locations are determined ahead of time, the burden for those meetings would “be minimal.”

The board weighed the pros and cons of recording the meetings, lauding the transparency but questioning the effective use of resources.

“My hesitation is with staff time,” board member Lynn Hohl said. “Our IT department has a lot of really important work and I’m hesitant because it’s drawing one person out of their office from helping and working with the schools.”

Soderquist said utilizing audio recording, specifically in the assembly chambers, would not require additional equipment, but could possibly require support staff.

Board member Tim Navarre expressed concern that any recordings would be incomprehensible, due to shuffling papers and other interruptions during the less formal work sessions.

“I personally would be more interested in having an opening and closing area of our work sessions, where the public can comment on the times that day,” Navarre said.

But board member Dan Castimore said it wasn’t about getting comments from the public.

“The idea behind government is transparency,” Castimore said. “So, if we can have a mechanism in place that is a minimal burden, I don’t see why we wouldn’t … It allows them to be engaged. I don’t see a reason why we would say we want people to be less engaged.”

The district is also in the process of testing video broadcasting of the Board of Education’s regular meetings, which should be rolling out over the course of the next few months, Soderquist said.

The Anchorage School Board broadcasts both its work session and regular meeting online through ASD-TV.

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

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