Guest View: San Benito district should record meetings

John Perales is shown here. He is the new superintendent of the San Benito High School District.

Opinion: San Benito High School Board meetings should be videotaped and posted online.
Quiz: What can add $100,000 to $150,000 to the value of your home, depending on its quality? Who controls the future college or jail destiny (and other life-defining opportunities) of 3,000 young people? What San Benito County employer has 250 employees, a budget of $23 million, and a building program of $40 million?
A: San Benito High School District (San Benito High School District)
Next question: How can you stay informed about the district and the Board of Trustees’ decision-making?
The district is governed by five trustees, half elected every two years. The board meets at least twice a month, in the evenings on Tuesdays, from 7 to 11:30 p.m. In accordance with state law (the Brown Act), the agenda of each meeting is posted online 72 hours in advance of the meeting, together with the informational materials that the administration presents to the board. At the next meeting a few weeks later, there may be minutes of the prior meeting presented for approval. There are sporadic articles in the Free Lance and BenitoLink about what happens at the board meetings.
Since at least 2012, I have been asking why the SBHSD Board meetings are not video recorded and made available online. Commuter data shows that at least 10,000 adults drive out of San Benito County every day to work in Silicon Valley, Monterey County, and Santa Cruz County. We are just too tired to go to board meetings on alternate Tuesdays, but would love to watch them online at home on our own schedule. I was told more than once the SBHSD website didn’t have enough capacity to support files as big as the files of videotaped meetings.
Then when the website was upgraded, I was told the district couldn’t afford the expense of taping because the Community Media Access Partnership (CMAP) would charge $80 per meeting. I found it peculiar that the meetings of the Planning Commission of San Juan Bautista (population 1,500) could be taped and broadcast but not the SBHSD Board.
The Free Lance of February 19 has two articles which are very interesting if laid side by side: (1) the Hollister School District installed video recording equipment for their board meetings, and (2) the superintendent of the SBHSD sought board approval of two contracts for consultant services: a mentor for the superintendent ($5,000 from now to June) and a coach for the board ($1,400 monthly). Both the HSD taping and the SBHSD coaching/mentoring contracts involved roughly $6,000 each.
Superintendent Perales was interviewed about the HSD videotaping of board meetings and said it was desirable, but appeared unaffordable, for the SBHSD board meetings. Really? In a $23 million budget, they can’t (or won’t?) find $6,000 so that county residents can be truly informed about what’s going on in their school district? I’m glad that Superintendent Perales finds the mentoring and coaching useful, but maybe if San Benito County community members could see more easily what is going on at board meetings, they could mentor him and coach the board instead of outsiders.

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