Community Board: Time to press record button, school districts

Officials discussed the issue before a packed crowd in San Juan Bautista. The city is among those in San Benito County that gets meetings recorded by CMAP.

The San Benito High School teachers’ union is absolutely right: There’s no good reason for the district to go on without some type of audio or video recording to document what’s said at public meetings.
It is long past due for San Benito High School, Hollister and other local school districts to implement a recording system of some kind. There are numerous benefits—particularly increased transparency and accountability for the elected officials—and just minor costs involved.
San Benito High School’s teachers’ union at this month’s regular meeting for the first time made an audio recording of the trustees’ meeting, and then posted it online afterward. The district’s top officials in the recent past considered hiring Community Media Access Partnership to record and show the meetings, as it does for other local government entities such as the cities of Hollister and San Juan, and San Benito County. District officials, however, were turned off by the $5,000 annual cost charged by the community access channel, which shows its government programming on a cable channel and online as well.
Although $5,000 is a drop in the bucket for a high school district with multimillion-dollar annual budgets, and we believe the high school should make the investment, there are less-expensive options as well that would include minimal effort and cost. As the high school union showed, a simple audio recording is cheap, easy to publish, and easy to comprehend for listeners. So at the very least, each of these local school districts should take it upon themselves to initiate some sort of audio or video on their own if they can’t afford CMAP’s services.
In open government, nothing is more important than transparency, and agencies can only improve transparency by recording public meetings. It’s time for all local governments to recognize the need.
The Community Insight Board is an independent panel of residents. Views are consensus opinions, but not necessarily unanimous. Members include Jae Eade, Cesar Flores, Frankie Gallagher, Gordon Machado and Brenda Weatherly.

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