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Academy D-20 votes to spend up to $10,000 to videotape board meetings, at public's request

September 2, 2016 Updated: September 2, 2016 at 6:28 pm
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Parents and community members who can't make it to twice monthly board meetings of Academy School District 20's elected leadership soon will be able to watch video recordings of the meetings online.

After initially resisting a request that began over the summer from a few parents for D-20 to do more than provide an audio recording and minutes for public perusal, the five-member board agreed Thursday night to adopt a video plan.

"I'm very pleased," said parent Mike Esty, who led the charge for videotaping. "I want to make sure they move forward with it and not procrastinate."

Board members directed Superintendent Mark Hatchell to by Oct. 30 "oversee the purchase and installation of video equipment."

D-20 will spend up to $10,000 from its budget on the project. Equipment rental options also will be considered.

Stationary cameras will be set up in the board room, capturing the dais as well as podium speakers. The videos will be "made available to the public in a timely fashion via the district's website," according to the resolution.

Only regular board meetings, not work sessions or other special meetings, will be recorded.

Tracey Johnson, board vice president, said the discussion "goes to the heart of transparency."

"If there are areas in which we can improve our communication and help everyone know our aims are high and our concern is for the well-being of our entire community, I am in support of these ideas," she said.

At the board's Aug. 18 meeting, Johnson suggested waiting until after the Nov. 8 election to deal with the issue. Other members disagreed.

D-20 will bring a $230 million bond issue measure to voters in the upcoming election, to build three new schools and an innovation center, expand and repair existing schools, and upgrade technology. Approval would not raise property taxes but would allow the district to issue bonds over time to pay for the projects.

Parents have complained about transparency for years. Following several Gazette articles, the board in January 2015 began making supplementary materials about what's on the agenda available to the public before meetings.

Parents have said D-20 meeting minutes are not complete, and people often cannot attend the meetings, which are held on the first and third Thursdays of each month and typically last three to four hours.

Parent Melanie Knapp said obtaining the audio recordings cost money and takes time. The district charges a fee, and the recordings aren't available until weeks after the meetings. She said it's hard to figure out who's talking, and that supporting materials shown at meetings are absent.

"Anything's better than audio - it's so hard to get and find something on," she said. "Video could be used as an engagement tool, a promoting tool."

Academy D-20 is the Pikes Peak region's second-largest school district, nearing 25,500 students this school year.

Colorado Springs School District 11, the area's largest district, and Falcon School District 49, the third largest, videotape regular board meetings and post them online. They also air their meetings in real time, but D-20 won't do live broadcasting. Lewis-Palmer School District 38 in Monument also videotapes its board meetings and posts them.

D-20 board members balked initially after board president Glenn Strebe, said at the Aug. 4 meeting that it would cost D-20 anywhere from a few thousand dollars up to $26,000 to do video recording.

Board member Linda Van Matre said she wasn't sure a majority of constituents wanted video recordings or would watch them.

"I don't think most of the public is necessarily interested in this," she said at a community forum held before this week's board meeting.

Parent Jill Johnson said she thought the request was becoming more complicated than it had to be.

"Why don't you start with a low-tech, inexpensive approach," she said.

Strebe said some people he had talked to didn't care either way, others didn't want the district to spend the money it would take, while some favored the concept.

"Let's make sure we're not foolishly spending money," he said at the community forum. Esty said he's been recording recent meetings on his smartphone and posting them on a website he created, asd20.info.

Video of the Aug. 18 meeting has received more than 250 hits, he said, along with compliments and criticisms, the latter mostly about the sound quality.

"I think more people will get engaged," Knapp said about D-20 providing videotaping. "A lot of people don't even know who the board members are."

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