Argument sparks over putting school board info online - Titusville Herald: News

Argument sparks over putting school board info online

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Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2019 5:00 am

A discussion about posting meeting agendas and information online turned heated between members of the Titusville Area School Board on Monday.

At the second of their bi-monthly meetings, board member Char Eggleston made a motion to have the meeting agendas and the information packets given to the school board published online for anyone to read. Eggleston, who had suggested the idea in previous meetings, said the action would make the board more transparent and was a modern way to inform the public.

“The tax payers, again, should have this at their fingertips,” Eggleston said. “When they walk in to get something, it is basically archaic and reactive if they need something. We, as a board, need to be proactive.”

Eggleston said that, in her view, the agenda given to members of the public who attend the meetings was bare bones, and didn’t have much information. She also alleged that several people had approached her with concerns about the lack of information.

Treasurer Kevin O’Neill seconded the idea, and suggested BoardDocs, an online tool that he said other education organization, such as the Intermediate Units, have used. BoardDocs allows the sending of documents online and is able to limit who has access to the information.

However, board member Jean Spence said the idea had been brought up before, but was shot down to the expense. Jane McNierney, the secretary to the superintendent, said she had researched BoardDocs and found it would cost the district $10,800 a year to use it.

Board Vice president Jack Roberts expressed skepticism about how many people would actually utilize the tool.

“How many people are going to use this that are online,” Roberts said. “That’s my thing. How many people are out there right now that are beating out the door to get all of the information to everything we go over every month? Not very many.”

Roberts gestured to the public seating meeting room as he made his point, noting that there was no one there. He asked whether it would be smart to spend the $10,800 a year in taxpayer money to pay for BoardDocs.

Eggleston shot back and said that many people cannot get access to the agenda or information from the school board because they’re working when the schools are open. She also said it would be beneficial to alumni who donate to the district and may live in different states or countries, making them unable to come in and get the information needed, and that none of the information board members receive should be kept private outside of those brought up in executive sessions.

“We need to be transparent,” Eggleston said. “There’s nothing in that packet that we should hide from anyone in this community that’s a taxpayer.”

Board President Lynn Cressman pointed out that many of the people in the Titusville area are not “computer oriented” and may be unable or unsure of how to access the agenda and information if it is posted online.

Just before the vote was made, board member Jim Come went on a rant, raising his voice against Eggleston.

“Here is what I am sick of hearing, Char, from every meeting that we come in,” Come said. “You say we’re not being transparent, you say we’re hiding stuff. There is not one person in this room that is hiding anything. You need to stop making the innuendo that we are, because we are not.”

Come said there was a difference between being transparent and putting things online, and said anyone who wants to find any information would be able to find it.

Ultimately, the motion was voted down, 6-3. Eggleston was joined by O’Neil and Carol Shaffer in voting in favor of the measure. Eggleston vowed to bring up the point again in future meetings.

Sports broadcasts

A motion to alter a contract between the district and a local broadcast company regarding broadcasting sports games was shot down 6-3 at the meeting.

Eggleston made the motion based on a letter she received from a concerned citizen. The letter, according to Eggleston, asked why Lightning Strikes Productions, which had signed the contract with the district earlier this year, had to delay their broadcasts of game coverage for 12 hours when other people had allegedly been airing them on Facebook live.

Under the terms of the contract, Lightning Strikes Productions must delay all sports game broadcasts except for the Titusville Rockets football Homecoming game and Senior Night game. In exchange, the company did not have to pay the usual licensing fee and is given the use of the press box at Carter Field and other advantages.

Eggleston initially made a motion to have the 12 hour limit removed for all games. However, Superintendent Stephanie Keebler said that, per board bylaws, a motion to amend the contract would have to be made first, and the vote would need to go through committee first. As such, Eggleston changed her motion to bring up the contract for amendments.

However, Come expressed concern that altering the deal could bring up too many issues, such as requiring the school to prevent other people from live-streaming games. He also said that Luke Ruot, the owner of Lightning Strikes Productions, was getting a lot in return through the contact.

“Well, in this, Luke has that prime-time real estate thing,” Come said. “When he comes in the gym, he gets the closet to put all his stuff in there and set up all his stuff. He has better privileges than others have.”

Come also worried that opening up the contract more could bring in future debates if another entity wanted to livestream the game, such as determining who gets the better filming locations.

Keebler said that she was studying how other school districts handled broadcast agreements in order to make future changes to the agreement that would be beneficial to both TASD and Lightning Strikes Productions.

When the time to vote came around, O’Neill, Roberts, Rick Skinner, Cressman and Shaffer all cast nay votes. While Roberts was the one who seconded the motion, he told The Herald he was interested in having a conversation on the topic, but had his mind set from the start.

“I just wanted to hear what people say to it,” he said.

Other

meeting news

A motion to approve the district’s participation in the Pennsylvania Youth Survey met some resistance at Monday’s meeting. Skinner, Eggleston and Spence voted against TASD taking part in the 261 question survey, which asks students in grades six, eight, 10 and 12 about several personal topics, including whether they have smoked or used drugs. Eggleston and Spence both thought the survey was too personal, and believed many students did not take it seriously. O’Neill, while supporting the measure, requested that students be given more time to complete the document, which is normally done during gym period. Participation in the survey helps the school apply for grants. All data is kept anonymous.

The next meeting of the Titusville Area School Board will take place on Oct. 14, at 7 p.m., at Titusville High School.

Ray can be reached, by email, at sray@titusvilleherald.com.

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Welcome to the discussion.

1 comment:

  • Jahoba posted at 7:03 am on Tue, Sep 17, 2019.

    Jahoba Posts: 240

    Board of Education Agendas and Meeting minutes are like tax returns. They need to be done but don't really need to be made public. I'm not hiding anything but why would the public need to see them?



     

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