School board looks at live streaming meetings

Published 9:55 am Tuesday, May 10, 2016

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — On Monday the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education revisited an old topic: live streaming meetings and events.

Board Chairman Josh Wagner said the board discussed the option before moving to the Wallace Forum, but never made any decisions. After community input in recent meetings, board member Dean Hunter suggested they take another look at the topic. Board meetings typically start while people are still at work, and live streaming would give those who can’t make it to meetings an option to watch.

“At least the community could be involved and know what was going on in real time,” Hunter said at Monday’s work session.

The board agreed to bring the item back for discussion at June’s work session.

The board also agreed to look into more effective ways to serve notice of public meetings. Wagner suggested that meeting dates and times could be added to the main Rowan-Salisbury School System website and Facebook page, or could be noticed using ConnectEd.

“It’s at least worth talking about,” he said.

School system officials agreed to create a separate tab for the board of education on the main school system website, as well as adding meetings to the site’s events calendar. More options will be discussed at the May 23 business meeting.

After recent criticism of inconvenient start times, the board also spent some time discussing when to start its business meeting. Business meeting start times were changed earlier this year from 5 p.m. to 4 p.m. out of concern for staff. At Monday’s meeting, Wagner suggested switching the time back to 5 p.m., with public comment beginning at 6 p.m.

Wagner said the change would give the public time to get to the meetings from work. However, board member Susan Cox opposed the idea.

“Except for the times that there is an issue, there is nobody in the audience, so I feel like if we change a time we are basically unaccommodating the board and the staff to accommodate people that come maybe two or three times a year,” Cox said.

Cox also suggested that if meetings were live streamed, more people would have the opportunity to watch meetings, regardless of location.

Board member Chuck Hughes suggested keeping the meeting start time at 4 p.m., but pushing public comment back to 6 p.m. to give community members plenty of time to arrive, and the board a chance to get work done.

But Wagner said board members couldn’t expect community involvement when meetings begin during work hours.

“You can’t expect them to miss work, you can’t expect them to be here at 4,” he said.

By pushing the start time back, meetings would be available to all community members, and would place the onus on them.

“It’s not our responsibility to worry about who’s going to come,” he said, “It’s a valid concern.”

Hunter agreed, and said that a late night once a month would be worth it if it meant more community members would have an opportunity to attend meetings.

“We’re not here to convenience ourselves,” he said. “I think we can make that sacrifice one time a month.”

“If I’m being inconvenienced for a reality, I have no problem with that,” Cox responded, “but being inconvenienced when I see empty seats meeting after meeting, after meeting becomes a problem.”

“It could be those seats are empty because they’re at work at 4 o’clock, or 3 o’clock. … It’s one meeting a month we’re talking about. It’s one day out of 30 to 31 days,” Hunter said.

The issue will be brought back for discussion at the May 23 business meeting.

In other business the board:

  • Heard information about increasing school lunch prices by 25 cents. School Nutrition Director Libby Post said the price increase was needed due to rising costs of food and increased funding from the federal government for free and reduced lunches. Post explained that while the funding formula doesn’t require systems to match the funding exactly, they are expected to price their paid lunches so that they take in a roughly equivalent amount.

“We don’t have an option to leave it as it is,” Post said.

School lunch prices have not been increased since the 2014-15 school year.

  • Heard an update on school progress from Achieve3000. According to the presentation, Rowan-Salisbury students have spent an average of more than 24 hours on the program with an average of 40 activities per student. Student lexile scores – the measure of ability to read and understand complex language – have exceeded expected growth.
  •  Looked at a policy that would allow teachers to make up days missed due to inclement weather by working from home as well as a policy protecting confidential information.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.