Most school boards publish meetings online; Newhall, Saugus hold off

SIGNAL FILE PHOTO: A classroom full of kindergarteners and first graders at Rosedell Elementary School in Saugus applaud 100 year-old Wilbur Vidito Monday afternoon. Cory Rubin/ The Signal

While three Santa Clarita Valley school districts have made the decision to record and publish videos of their governing board meetings, the Saugus Union School District and Newhall School District have held off on making a similar decision. 

The SUSD and NSD boards offer the public access to their meetings through Zoom during the meeting. However, both governing boards have so far held off on making them available online after the meeting. 

The SUSD board, which governs approximately 10,100 students in 15 schools, tabled an agenda item Tuesday on the subject, according to Superintendent Colleen Hawkins.

Newhall School District governing board President Sue Solomon indicated in an email Thursday that the board hadn’t yet deemed that necessary, when reached for comment this week. 

“At the present time, the Newhall School board has not determined a special or specific need for the recording of the meetings,” said Solomon, later adding, “The Newhall School board has a commitment to transparency and public involvement. If necessary, the recording of meetings can be reconsidered in the future.”

The SUSD board hadn’t made a final determination on the subject of making the recordings available, Hawkins said. Board members questioned whether they’d have to continue the Zoom meetings after quarantine, how the recordings would be made available; compliance with state guidelines; and how would closed captioning work, Hawkins said. There was no mention as to whether any of the other districts that do record and publish had been contacted regarding how to solve any potential issues around those topics.

“The Saugus board continues to be committed to transparency and we’re looking forward to continuing the discussion about recording the virtual board meetings,” said SUSD board President Julie Olsen via email on Friday. “At the next regular board meeting when the item returns, we’ll look at available formats and other important considerations such as where recordings would be hosted, related costs, how to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and more.”

“We decided to table it and bring it back for discussion on (July 21) with some answers to some of those questions,” said Hawkins. 

Although not required, the William S. Hart Union High School District, Sulphur Springs Union School District and Castaic Union School District have all made the decision to publish video recordings of their governing board meetings. 

Hart District board President Linda Storli said she directed district staff to record the Zoom meetings and put them on YouTube in the interest of transparency. 

“I think for parents to be able to watch it the next morning, or when they’re off work the next day just makes sense,” said Storli, in regards to the decision to publish the meetings, adding that students and stakeholders have a right to know what’s going on with their schools and taxpayer money. “We’re elected officials, so we should stand behind what we said, and if we say something wrong we should fix it.”

Fred Malcomb, Castaic school board president, agreed that publishing the video record of the meetings was in the best interest of transparency. 

“We wanted our community, our parents and students to know what was going on in real time and they could actually join on YouTube to view the board meetings,” said Malcomb. “When you get away from that in-person environment, sometimes you get your community feeling detached. And we didn’t want that to happen during these times.” 

Malcomb added the board had not yet made a decision on whether the video recording will continue once the board returns to in-person meetings. However, while the meetings remain virtual and on Zoom, the decision to record was “not at all” an inconvenience to the district.

“The hardest part to the whole thing …  has been some people struggle with (technology),” said Malcomb. “But we have awesome support with (Del Hickman, the district network supervisor), and he has no problem reaching out and helping people.” 

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