Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 8, 2013

TC school districts differ on recording meetings

BY MICHAEL WALTON mwalton@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Area Public Schools and the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District offer starkly different approaches to broadcasting and recording public school board meetings.

TCAPS has broadcast Board of Education meetings live on television for roughly 15 years. Meetings also are streamed live on the Internet and can be watched after the fact at tcaps.net.

TBAISD, by contrast, does not broadcast, video tape or audio record its public meetings.

“That’s never been our process and protocol,” TBAISD Superintendent Mike Hill said.

Instead, a TBAISD staff member takes notes during board meetings and prepares meeting minutes, which can be reviewed online at tbaisd.k12.mi.us.

Both Hill and TBAISD Board of Education President Joseph Fisher said they were open to considering recording meetings. It doesn’t happen now because the idea’s never been brought up, they said.

“There’s been no demand for it, pure and simple,” Fisher said.

Fisher added TBAISD meetings generally do not attract the same amount of attention as local school districts board meetings. The ISD’s board is “not very political” and, unlike local districts, the intermediate school district does not oversee activities like high school sports, student councils and many other day-to-day school functions, he said.

“We don’t attract a lot of attention, period,” Fisher said. “Either that’s because nobody knows about us or we do our jobs so well that we don’t attract attention like local districts do.”

ISD meetings are always open to the public, and some parents do attend at times, Fisher said.

The next TBAISD board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. at 1101 Red Drive at the Grand Traverse Commons.

TCAPS board members said the district broadcasts and records meetings to promote open and transparent government.

“We consider it our obligation in this day and age to be transparent and keep the public informed as to what we are doing,” Board of Education President Kelly Hall said.

TCAPS board member Julie Puckett said broadcasting the meetings live on television is especially important for reaching older citizens and other taxpayers who cannot attend meetings in person or who might not have computers.

“It’s really about laying bare that this is how TCAPS works and that this is how your money is being spent,” Puckett said.

TCAPS spends roughly $13,800 annually on recording and broadcasting its meetings, said Christine Guitar, the district’s chief of communications.

It’s an expense board members never seriously considered cutting during a round of $5-million budget cuts in 2011, Hall said.

“Our board considers it imperative,” she said.

TCAPS’ next board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. at the district’s Boardman Avenue administration building.