USD 329 started streaming board meetings along with other school events in spring of 2020, following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a newspaper staff, we have found this new form of access to board meetings very useful. Prior to this we would have to find a student or two each month to send to the meeting, record it if possible and then report back. The schedules of high school students tend to be very busy and sometimes it could be a challenge, especially since it’s not the most glamorous of stories.
Regardless of whether board meetings are fun to cover, it’s important to the school and community to cover the discussions and decisions made at meetings. It’s also a great way for student journalists to learn some new skills, like weeding through an hour or two of financial jargon to find the important things to write about. Since the board meetings have been streamed on the district’s Youtube page, we have been able to share the responsibility more and even watch parts of them together during class the next day.
In the December meeting, members briefly discussed the fact that some other districts have stopped streaming their meetings. While stopping the USD 329 meetings wasn’t suggested, we’d like to get ahead of the game and say it’s important to continue to provide easy access to the community. Of course, there are other ways to get information about the board meetings. The district releases notes from each meeting, but they tend to be pretty vague. It’s a good way to find the decisions the board has made, but the discussion and context is often lost.
It’s also cheap and easy to stream, and technology director Josh Nisly said it would be easy to continue. “I don’t think it’s a problem, I usually try to attend every meeting and so every meeting I’m at I am able to take care of it and I don’t have any plans to stop it,” Nisly said.
There aren’t just benefits for newspaper students though, it has also been beneficial to the community. Prior to the pandemic, very few people attended meetings. Since the implementation of Youtube streaming there has been a large increase in viewers. While the average number of viewers at board of education meetings is 20 continuous viewers at a time, the average number of total viewers is 236. Board of education meetings are not just for people affiliated with the school, they provide pertinent information to everyone and the more people who have access to them, the more informed we can be as a community.
Superintendent Brad Starnes said he agreed on the importance of community engagement. “I think it’s important to keep people involved, informed and educated and the best way to do that is through listening and having an understanding of what the board is discussing and working through, and if you’re not there in person then this is the best-case scenario so you can keep up with things,” Starnes said.
While this practice began because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are very thankful that it has continued and hope that it stays that way into the future.
All of the recorded board meetings are currently available on the USD 329 Youtube page.
The editorial is the opinion of the Charger staff. Students discuss editorial topics as a group and write an opinion that represents a majority of the staff.
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