School board to upload simple recordings of committee meetings to YouTube

·3 min read

Aug. 26—The Frederick County Board of Education will temporarily embrace a no-frills method of recording and sharing its committee meetings while it searches for a more permanent solution, members said this week.

The full board's twice-monthly evening meetings are broadcast live on Frederick County Public Schools' website and on TV. A high-quality recording is available online later.

But most meetings of the board's 11 committees — whose work informs decisions on everything from curriculum to the school year's start date — are not streamed or recorded. While committee meetings are open to the public, they're often held on weekday mornings, making it difficult for working parents to attend.

Committee meeting minutes and agendas are uploaded to BoardDocs, the board's site for sharing documents with the public. But officials have acknowledged those are often bare-bones.

Community members have been vocal in requesting all committee meetings be live-streamed.

This week, the board took an initial step in that direction. Around 3 p.m. Thursday, the board posted a recording of its Policy Committee meeting on YouTube. The meeting had taken place at 9:30 a.m. the previous day. Officials made the recording by opening up a laptop, placing it at the back of the room and pointing it toward the dais, board member Jay Mason said.

"Anything is better than nothing," board Vice President Sue Johnson, who has been a strong proponent of live-streaming the meetings, said in an interview Thursday.

The video is about 90 minutes long. Speakers' words and voices are clearly discernible throughout most of the meeting, but at some points, it's nearly impossible to tell what board members are saying.

All of the footage is shot from a single angle, meaning viewers can't see the faces of people who are giving public comment or presenting to the board.

"They're trying to find an inexpensive, non-labor-intensive way of doing it," Board President Brad Young said in an interview Thursday. "It's a short-term way of being able to provide a solution."

Live-streaming all committee meetings would come with a $141,000 price tag, FCPS public affairs' staff said during the board's budget discussions in June. It would require adding two full-time employees to the department.

Young had wanted to include funding for the positions in the fiscal 2023 budget, but his motion failed.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, minutes of the Wednesday morning policy committee meeting weren't yet available on BoardDocs.

Johnson, who is not one of the board members on the policy committee, said she usually can't attend the meetings and has to rely on her colleagues to tell her what happened. There "are certainly times" where she would take advantage of a video recording, she said.

"It's very apparent that it's in the public's best interest that as much of the work of the board as possible is available for the public to view," Johnson said. "We need to do it, and it needs to be done sooner rather than later."

FCPS spokesperson Eric Louérs-Phillips said Friday that the committee meetings were being recorded and shared on a case-by-case basis when the board requests it.

This story has been updated.

Follow Jillian Atelsek on Twitter: @jillian_atelsek