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Feb. 19, 2009 at 11:10pm

TACOMA SCHOOL BOARD GONE WILD

help convince the school board to record!

Thursday, February 26, 2009 6:00PM

The Melon invites all of its allies to attend the School Board Meeting to either testify or merely show-up in support of convincing the School Board to broadcast its meetings on public television.  Thus far, The Melon has been providing coverage as a public service since July of 2008 - but this is becoming problematic in a weakening economy and we can no longer do this as private individuals.  We nonetheless believe that these meetings are not only important, but more digestible than most other civic meetings and should be broadcast. Electric Elliot Trotter and Chris Van Vechten both plan to speak, and invite anyone else with an interest in doing so to join us.

Latest meeting coverage:
http://themelononline.com/2009/02/tacoma-school-board-meeting-2122009/

comments [19]  |  posted under school board, tacoma, the melon

Comments

by Erik on 2/20/2009 @ 12:20am
Why do they object to broadcasting the meetings?

Is it the cost? Do they believe no one would watch? Is there some other known objection?

by ElectricElliot on 2/20/2009 @ 6:50am
They suggest it might be cost, but smaller school districts do it. We're living in the information age. It's time they take some responsibility.

by morgan on 2/20/2009 @ 9:29am
Cost?

Laptop: $500. Webcam: $100. Google: unlimited free storage (pretty much).

No, I don't think it's cost.

by izenmania on 2/20/2009 @ 9:35am
I think they probably just don't feel a need for it. They are perfectly willing to let other people do it, but unless enough people stand up and insist upon it they are not going to bother doing it themselves.

(surely one of the schools in the district has a video productions class that can lend a student and a camera out for some extra credit, though...)

by jenyum on 2/20/2009 @ 9:43am
Where are the meetings after October? Is that when you stopped recording them?

by jenyum on 2/20/2009 @ 11:13am
The school board is dealing with a lot right now.

While I think it would be really cool to have televised school board meetings (for one thing, it's frustrating to me to not be able to get there, and not be able to watch them later), if I were the Melon, I'd probably not be wasting too much energy on this right before the school bond election, with two major education bills slated to live or die by next Wednesday.

So anyway, I vote for televised meetings but I'm thinking after March 10th might be a good time to push the issue.


by ElectricElliot on 2/20/2009 @ 11:54pm
Is there ever a good time to ask for a public organization to put money into something?

Truthfully, I believe this is a case of them being camera-shy.

We'll consider what to do. The Melon just doesn't have the time to continue to offer this service, as important as we feel it is. We don't want coverage of the school board to go uninterrupted. If we could arrange a list of volunteers who could take shifts filming, we'd be happy to continue to upload the footage.

by Erik on 2/21/2009 @ 12:06am
Perhaps this is the perfect time for the school board to open up their meetings, before the next bond measure. Isn't this the best time to give "public input"? Why wait?

by jenyum on 2/21/2009 @ 8:09am
As Chris Van Vechten seemed to note with such derision, School Board meetings aren't exactly super entertaining. I really doubt filming them would make much of a difference one way or another in the bond vote. And I certainly hope the people here are too smart to use this issue as a reason to vote no on new middle schools for kids.

by fredo on 2/21/2009 @ 8:20am
Jen@ agreed!

We should definitely prevent the public from seeing the proceedings. In fact we should get the city council to conclude its broadcast as well. Here in Tacoma, we are too smart to be fooled into thinking these broadcasts are either informative or entertaining.

by jenyum on 2/21/2009 @ 8:25am
You know I'm not advocating preventing anyone from seeing anything, Fredo.

These are public meetings, and you can bring your own camera if you wish. I hope they do film them, eventually. But I just think it's too bad all this "go lobby the school board!" energy is being used on this issue at this time, when there are so many important things going on. Please do get involved! Just pick your battles and your timing.

But here I go, proving my point, spending way too long it. End of distraction.

by Erik on 2/21/2009 @ 8:41am
Here in Tacoma, we are too smart to be fooled into thinking these broadcasts are either informative or entertaining.

I suspect quite a few people would watch the meetings online. The board has had some very important issues before it in the last 5 years including school closure issues and hiring and firing of the superintendent.

by jenyum on 2/21/2009 @ 10:29am
Right, right now being one of those times. We've got a local school bond election, (ballots should be in the mail starting today) 2 bills to be re-written in the next week or the school funding issue is dead on the state level, (coupled with a state budget with major funding cuts) and federal stimulus dollars to watchdog. I'm not kidding when I say right now, this month, please go out and get involved.

If the Melon didn't like SB 5444 and HB1410, I hope they are following developments in Olympia this week, because the compromise bill with the teacher's union concerns rolled in is being drafted even as we speak.

Nobody's ever said they don't like the idea of filming the meetings, it's just not a big agenda item for February 26th.

A list of action items:

- Contact Tacoma Citizens for Schools and volunteer to doorbell/phone bank for the bond: tacomacitizens@gmail.com

- Write a letter to the editor at the Trib, Tacoma Weekly, etc, on the importance of school funding. Pick a level - state, local, or federal. (those of you with your own -cough- websites, write an article)

- Contact your Washington State legislators about the two compromise funding bills that need to be out of committee by Feb 25th. (SB 6048, and its companion HB 2261) If you have specific things you'd like to see included or changed, mention that.

- Write or call your congress members, thank them for their support of education and ask them to make sure education remains a priority when stimulus dollars are spent.

by fredo on 2/21/2009 @ 11:27am
When contacting your legislators about increased funding for a program you favor it would be helpful if you could indicate which programs should receive less funding. With the State of Washington facing an $8B budget deficit over the next two years I'm not sure increased funding proposals without accompanying funding plan will garner much support.

by NineInchNachos on 2/21/2009 @ 11:38am
The traveller is in jail till May. The board has nothing to fear... except maybe June.

by Chris Van Vechten on 2/22/2009 @ 9:24am
Jen - I think school board meetings are far more entertaining (and important for that matter) then city or county council meetings yet the latter is filmed and the former is not. Fife School District films their meetings, why don't we?

If it's a matter of money, I'm sure we could easily raise between us the necessary funds ($500 at the max) to buy the district a cheap camera at Best Buy, A Firewire Cable, tripod, film and editing software. It's not particularly difficult material to grab and the district has plenty of employees who seemingly do nothing but take notes during school board meetings so I don't see why they can't film them also.

I'm serious, if the district promises to put said videos either on the website or broadcast them on public access then I will personally donate the first $100 to buying the necessary (minimal) equipment.

If you ever attend a typical Board meeting, you'll notice far more people in the audience then a county or city council meeting, which suggests to me that there is more interest then what you suggest.

Finally, I don't feel like we should be perceived as radicals or muckrackers for simply requesting some - yes some - transparency regarding what our school board is doing. Public meetings (which from what I can tell are mostly ceremonial and reflect the outcomes of private meetings held behind closed doors) are not recorded in anyway save for the agenda and whatever notes staff take. At the very least audio recording available to the public would be an improvement.

By arguing for this, we are not insinuating that the school board is doing anything wrong. We are merely expressing a desire to become better informed.

by Chris Van Vechten on 2/22/2009 @ 9:27am
Jen - one more thing, the Bond is not in the hand of the school board but rather the voters. The same is true for the aforementioned bills in the state legislature which the board will have no final say one. The issue of video-taping meetings, however, is entirely in the school boards hands.

It is therefore entirely appropriate for us to push this.

by fredo on 2/22/2009 @ 3:58pm
Chris@ solid posting! Agree on all points.

by Erik on 2/22/2009 @ 7:26pm
This is really an opportunity for the school board.

They could gain momentum for the bond measure by announcing they are broadcasting the meetings.

The City of Tacoma has been making steps toward greater transparency lately. Here's the school boards chance. People want to be able to see where their money is being spent and how the big decisions are affecting them.

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