Parents want meetings on TV – by Holl Prestidge, Richmond Times-Dispatch

[ Ordinarily, “Clippings” just excerpts enough of a story to convey the sense of either what’s being accomplished, or what’s at stake, in any locality with respect to its local access television channels. However, so well does this story represent the dynamics at play in certain types of local access programming, it seems worth including here in its entirety. Public/educational/governmental access television is as diverse a landscape as humanity itself, of course, and no single story can possibly sum it all up neatly. But here we see at play the unfortunately too common tension between citizens who believe the public’s business needs to be televised, and some of their elected representatives who, well… have their reasons for disagreeing. Please follow the link for original formatting, and to show your interest in Holl Prestidge’s report in this edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. ~ rm ]

Parents want meetings on TV
They’ve asked Henrico School Board to air work sessions, but officials have reservations

by Holl Prestidge
Richmond Times-Dispatch
03/16/07

Some Henrico County parents want School Board meetings included in the TV lineup on Thursday nights. Nancy Godfrey and others are asking the board to broadcast its public meetings live on Henrico Education Access Television, Comcast Channel 99, because parents can’t get to the board’s public meetings. “This is just in the public good,” said Godfrey, who has circulated a petition for the on-air meetings and has more than 200 signatures so far. “I don’t know why we don’t have it already.”

The board meets the second and fourth Thursdays of each month. Afternoon work sessions usually start at 3 or 4 p.m., and that’s where most of the discussion on agenda items takes place. Regular business meetings start at 7 p.m. Student and staff recognitions, public comment and votes on agenda items occur at that time. Additionally, there are work sessions and community meetings throughout the school year, but the focus of the petition is on the board’s regularly scheduled meetings.

Parent Lisa Marshall said, “It’s a shame that so many of their work sessions are at 3:30 in the afternoon, when kids are getting home from school” and many parents work.

But most board members don’t feel compelled to be on television. Chairman Lloyd E. Jackson Jr. said the board does not need to be on television because, for issues such as the budget or redistricting, the board moves its meetings into the community. “We wouldn’t accomplish any more” if the meetings were videotaped and broadcast, he said. Others are leery of putting the issue on the table during an election year.

Linda L. McBride and Stuart P. Myers said each new school board should have the opportunity to decide whether to broadcast its meetings. That’s what happened in 2004 with the current board, but it was voted down.

“To decide now, in an election year, it would look like the five of us were looking for free advertising,” McBride said. When asked about the accessibility of current meetings, she said, “The work of the board is so inclusive and takes so much time [that] to protect our staff, we simply had to move those work sessions up” to the afternoons.

Otherwise, “our staff would be there all night,” she said.

Myers said, “It’s not a matter of not wanting people to have the information. I have reservations now because it’s an election year.”

Vice Chairman Hugh C. Palmer questioned how far-reaching a television broadcast would be.

“How many people would watch a school board meeting versus a basketball game or a program they like?” he said.

With the school division’s focus on technology, parents Godfrey and Marshall suggested having high school students in the communications program run the on-air segments.

Compared to surrounding school divisions, “we spend more on technology, so why not put all that wonderful technology to use?” Marshall asked.

The only board member who would consider the idea is Jim A. Fiorelli.

“We haven’t had the chance as a board to discuss or study this issue in a few years,” he said. “There may be some good reasons not to do it, but I like the idea of the community having access to the board meeting without actually having to be there. At this day and age, people are so busy that they can’t be there.”

Locally, only Chesterfield County’s school board broadcasts its meetings live on television. Richmond’s school board meetings are audiotaped but not videotaped.

Contact staff writer Holly Prestidge at hprestidge@timesdispatch.com or (804) 649-6945.
http://www.timesdispatch.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=RTD/MGArticle/RTD_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1173350240852

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