Some debate ensued in Brandywine School District’s board meeting Monday night as members weighed whether creating a better viewing platform for audience members is worth limiting public participation.
While the majority of school districts in Delaware have a virtual option for their monthly board meetings, most of them operate through Zoom.
There are often technical difficulties and if a parent misses the meeting, they have to wait days — sometimes weeks — for the recording to be uploaded to the district page.
Not only does this allow students to gain some media skills, but Youtube automatically saves and publishes the live feed.
Instead of being a separate recording file from Zoom that the district then has to upload later, the video of the meeting is immediately available.
That allows a busy parent who can’t tune in to board meetings — which usually runs from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. or later — to watch it as soon as they have the chance, rather than waiting several days to find out what happened.
“Anything we can do to bring our meetings to the public in a high quality format is to our advantage,” said Ralph Ackerman.
He said content sharing such as powerpoint presentations is much better on YouTube.
“I would love to see the quality that YouTube can bring to our board board meetings and to bring that to our public,” he said.
Monday’s meeting demonstrated the problems that can occur during live streaming. The first 20 minutes or so were mute for those tuning in virtually because of audio difficulties on the Zoom meeting.
Board member Kimberly Stock was concerned that students would not be able to stay engaged, which is a huge goal, because certain websites are blocked on their district-issued Chromebooks.
Other board members confirmed that YouTube is not blocked and students could still view the meetings in school and on their laptops if the district leaves Zoom.
The board was split on whether to move to a new platform, with those opposed worrying about virtual attendees not being able to comment or speak, defeating the purpose of an open public forum.
Those for the move pointed out there’s usually only a few, at most, virtual comments each meeting. The majority are in person.
Both YouTube and Zoom have closed captioning options, so the botrd will have to decide whether it’s willing to sacrifice potential virtual comments for a better viewing experience.
At the end of the discussion, the board decided to table the question and perhaps revisit the topic at next month’s meeting.
Also Monday, the board announced the state rejected its nearly $200 million certificate of necessity request.
Districts submit requests to the Department of Education to ask for state funding for capital projects, which are often related to building maintenance.
In Brandywine’s case, the money would have been spent on replacing decades-old ceilings and fixing water issues.
The final list of districts approved or denied certificate of necessity requests should be published in the coming days, according to the state Department of Education.
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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