School board agrees to put archived meetings online

The audience at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Orleans Parish School Board voiced little opposition, but debate among members was occasionally spirited. photo: Jessica Williams

Archived videos of Orleans Parish School Board meetings will be available on the board’s website, members decided at their Tuesday night meeting, but not without spirited debate.

An amended disadvantaged-business policy was also approved, and the board agreed to the deletion of 21 positions from the payroll.

In what’s become a customary alliance, board members Cynthia Cade and Ira Thomas spoke in support of streaming the videos as a way to increase public access. Members Woody Koppel, Lourdes Moran, and Seth Bloom banded together just as predictably in opposition, citing cost concerns.

Board president Thomas Robichaux, who tends to align with Koppel, Moran, and Bloom, remained silent on the issue, but voiced opposition to a separate policy proposal to require that meeting minutes include what was discussed, in addition to what was voted on. Robichaux prevailed and that the proposal was nixed.

Cade for months has advocated streaming the archived videos. She argues that not all citizens get Cox Channel 8, the public access channel that carries School Board meetings, and though the meetings are live-streamed on the School Board’s website, viewers can’t review them.  Koppel approved the idea of greater public access, but said he was concerned about the cost, which School Board staff pegs at an initial $35,000 or so.

“Couldn’t we send people to YouTube? Then we wouldn’t have to spend $35,000 on this or anything else,” he commented. Bloom agreed, saying that his colleagues had mentioned other free video sharing sites that would serve the School Board’s purpose.

Superintendent Stan Smith noted that the bulk of the cost would be to pay the person who runs the program, not for technology. A part-time staffer would cost the board about $26,000 a year, and the other $8,000 to $10,000 would be for software.

That software would need to be upgraded every three or so years, Smith said.

Cade said that she didn’t understand why Koppel, Moran, and Bloom had waited until the meeting to air their objections, because “the wording has been there since June.”

The board held a public hearing on the matter an hour before the meeting, and no comment cards were received. However, Nolan Marshall of the Tulane’s Cowen Institute spoke in favor of the archived streaming during the general board meeting, saying it was important for the board to provide citizens with education information.

The much-anticipated adoption of the amended disadvantaged business enterprise program policy passed without a hint of opposition from the audience. That contrasted with the School Board’s Thursday committee meeting where opposition had been tendered.

Similarly, an approval of 21 position cuts, which last week drew opposition from Cade and Thomas, passed without comment.





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