Liberty County Board of Education members who recently voted against having their meetings videotaped expressed several concerns — not necessarily with the concept, but how it would be implemented and whether the board is ready for it.
Those who voted in support of the idea said it’s a way the board can be more accessible to the public.
The Coastal Courier asked board members last week to explain their positions on the issue. The board voted 5-2 at its Dec. 8 meeting against have meetings videotaped.
Board member Marcus Scott IV proposed the idea. He said it would allow those who cannot attend board meetings to stay informed.
“I figured that would be a good way to get that out to the general public,” he said.
Opposing the motion were board members Marcia Anderson, Carol Guyett, Dr. Yvette Keel, Carolyn Smith Carter and board Chairwoman Lily Baker.
Baker said she is not opposed to the idea, but feels the board isn’t ready to have its meetings videotaped.
“We’re not trying to keep anything from the public,” she said. “Our meetings are open, our minutes are online. … Whereas it appears that it won’t cost us anything to do it, it will cost manpower, and we haven’t worked out the particulars of that. I do know there are some things within ourselves that we need to work out. I’m not saying that we will never do it. I don’t think that was the right time to do it.”
Carter said videotaping should not become a platform for one particular board member to use. She did not name the board member to whom she was referring.
“I think some of us need more training, and there needs to be more growth on the board,” she said. “We have governance training as to how a board member should act. There’s a whole list of guidelines that isn’t always being followed by board members. We need more training so it’s internalized.”
Carter agreed with Baker, saying the board is transparent, and she encouraged people who are interested in the school board to attend meetings. Then Carter talked about the importance of board members knowing how to conduct themselves outside of the meetings.
“I don’t have that confidence that it’s been internalized by everyone, and all you have to do is go on social media,” Carter said. “We’ve gotten calls … then why would we want to be taping stuff? I don’t want a platform to perform. Until training is internalized by all school board members, then I’m not going to vote for a platform for you to perform.”
Keel agreed with Carter, saying the board needs to address some internal issues first and that now is not the right time to start videotaping meetings.
“I feel like we’re really transparent. The meetings are audiotaped, the minutes are supposed to be posted on the website. And, of course, we have open meetings, so anyone can come to them,” Keel said. “I feel like there’s a hidden agenda — why they so desperately want to be videotaped right now. I’m not sure everybody understands their training of governance teams at this point in time. Until I feel like everybody knows what you can and can’t do as a board member, I just don’t feel like it should be on videotape.”
Keel was also concerned about asking staff to stay late at night to resume taping after board members come out of executive session and back into public session.
Anderson had a different idea — partner with Comcast and have the meetings broadcast on a local-access channel.
“If we videotaped our meetings, we really don’t have a venue to play them. We don’t really have anything to do with it, except store, and we already have the audio. So to me, I would prefer to partner with Comcast. That way they would do the broadcast, they would do the storing,” Anderson said. “There’s so many issues with streaming that I felt it wasn’t worth the time. We do audiotape it, the paper is there, so it’s not like we’re trying to hide anything, and, of course, it is an open meeting.”
Anderson added that videotaping meetings would be extra work for a school-system employee. She hopes that Comcast might broadcast meetings several times during the week so people can watch at their leisure.
“I thought it was a lot of effort and a lot of work that wouldn’t produce anything,” she said. “I’ve mentioned it (working with Comcast) a couple of times, a couple of years ago. I don’t know if Comcast is open to that here in town. I think it would be great for all our government agencies to broadcast. But I’m not opposed to looking at it again later.”
Guyett wanted more time to explore different ways to broadcast the meetings. She was not sure if videotaping was the best medium or if partnering with a local broadcast station was better. Guyett also mentioned that videotaping would create extra work for a staff member.
“I’m not saying no, just not now,” she said. “I want to do it right and do exploration into how others are doing theirs. We have no intent to withhold anything. I just want to do it right. I thought it would be tabled so we could explore it more. But I think (videotaping is) coming and will accomplish what it’s set for.”
With regard to how people might access videotaped meetings, Scott said, “I think they would put it online for (the public) to see and then, if somebody wanted to, upload and share it to Facebook.”
He encouraged community members who want to have the meetings videotaped to get in touch with their school board member.
Verdell Jones joined Scott in voting to support videotaping meetings.
“Most entities do some taping of their board meetings,” she said. “Some do video and some do audio. It’s an open meeting. It wasn’t an issue at all. I didn’t have a problem with us videotaping or not. It’s just another way to keep people informed and updated on the business of the school.”