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Can't Go to a School Board Meeting? You Can Watch

A Los Altos parent is now recording school board meetings and uploading them to a website.

Can't get to those Monday night school board meetings?

Plenty of harried Los Altos residents know the feeling, even in the age of live meetings streamed on the Internet.

The Los Altos School Board and the city have talked about live-streaming the board's meetings for more than a year; but one parent has single-handedly come up with a work-around.

Vladimir Ivanovic, a Gardner Bullis parent of a first-grader, started a website with the idea of making Los Altos School District's meetings more transparent and accessible. He started with agendas and relevant documents.

Now he is recording the board meetings for those who can't make it to the meetings at 201 Covington Rd. on Monday nights. He started with the Aug. 15 board meeting.

“The LASD Board Matters website is my first step in getting information out to the community,” Ivanovic said. "I'm using it as an archive of board documents and meetings."

There have been other attempts to videotape the board meetings over the years, according Mark Goines, vice-president of the school board.

“We’ve had people videotape several different times, especially during the first couple of years of the ,” Goines said. “They’d come to the meetings, tape it, then pull stuff out of context and publish it on their website.”

Goines said the district has been in talks with the city over recording  the meetings for about a year and a half now, and is waiting for the city's proposal.

The city collects fees from various cable and telecom companies that have to be used for limited functions. Residents can watch Tuesday night's council meeting, for example. The city told the district it had extra funds from this collection, which would pay to record the school board meetings, according to Goines.

"We should have something figured out by the end of the calendar year,” Goines said.

In the meantime, Ivanovic plans to videotape and post each board meeting on his own.

Goines said Ivanovic is free to record the meetings as long as he does not cut the clips and take things out of context.

“I believe that open transparency is great,” Goines said.

The city's system has the advantage of indexing capability, so someone would not have to watch an entire meeting video to see one part of interest.

He added that about three years ago, the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District rejected the city of Los Altos' offer to broadcast the meetings, citing various reasons, including the sense that the district board members felt the city was overstepping its jurisdiction.

The Aug. 15 video is up on Ivanovic’s site now, along with board meeting packets and other materials.

“I think the more convenient board meetings are for the public, the better,” said Jennifer Carlstrom, a parent, board member of the PTA, member of LAEF and a member of the Los Altos Hills Education Committee.

Ivanovic has more plans to involve residents. 

“I'm also setting up another website that will hopefully be more interactive: Vision and Voices: An LASD Community Forum,” Ivanovic said. This website is not active yet.

He said the issues facing the district "are large enough and complex enough that no one person or even group of people can solve them,” Ivanovic said.

“It's only by involving all the stakeholders and giving them a real voice in the outcome that a workable compromise can be achieved. So, increasing the community's involvement is what my goal is.”

The district will unveil a new and improved website this year, Goines said. Board packets should now be posted before the meetings, instead of after, and have “significantly more content” available, as well as easier publishing methods for teachers and students.

He said the new website has a publishing system built into it so content can be put up with less Web support.

“We’ve added it to the work of our technology staff, which we’ve cut down about 30 percent," Goines said.

Kitty Uhlir August 23, 2011 at 02:17 PM
Three cheers for Mr. Ivanovic! I have been making use of the Los Altos City Council's broadcasts and webcasts for years, and I have been wondering when the School Board would catch up with the times. When people have young school-age children at home, it is hard to find time to go to an evening school board meeting. This is a super idea.
Vladimir G. Ivanovic August 24, 2011 at 04:47 PM
@Kitty Uhlir Thanks for the support! @Mark Goines "Goines said Ivanovic is free to record the meetings as long as he does not cut the clips and take things out of context." I don't believe that there is anything in the law that prevents me from making clips or taking things out of context. Certainly, there is nothing in the Brown Act, the Act which specifically grants the right to "to record the proceedings with an audio or video tape recorder" (§54953.5(a)), which limits what I can do with these recordings. Of course, on principle, I wouldn't knowingly misrepresent what anyone said at a Board meeting, but I don't think the law prohibits me from doing so. I'd be happy to be proved wrong; a reference to the statute (http://www.leginfo.ca.gov) would be sufficient.

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