(May 21, 2003) -- The Long Beach Unified School District, whose governing School Board does not televise its meetings for the public, is using the District's cable TV channel, sophisticated video equipment, production gear, multiple cameras, slick graphics, "slow motion" technology and LBUSD staff to record and televise LBUSD high school baseball games.
The District operates and controls its own cable TV channel, studio, cameras, recorders, production equipment. LBUSD staff operate the equipment.
To televise the "LBUSD Game of the Week" during basketball and baseball seasons, LBUSD Board members voted at their meetings of January 21/03 and March 18/03 to incur additional expense, approving several thousand dollars more in contracts for three announcers ("play by play," game patter and the like). The sports announcers' expenses were part of the School Board's "consent" calendar as routine "purchasing and contract" business items.
LBUSD sports telecasts are more technically elaborate and labor intensive than School Board meetings. [Board meetings wouldn't involve instant replays, video highlights, slow motion effects and bumper music...at least we hope not.]
As previously reported by LBReport.com, six of seven candidates currently vying for the 4th district (southeastern LB) School Board seat in a June 10 election have pledged that within 90 days of their election they would vote to televise School Board meetings.
At an April 24 Stearns Park candidate forum, School Board candidates Norm Ryan, Richard Green, Marilyn Russell-Bittle, Andy Nagle, Yolanda Benavidez and Gary DeLong raised their hands when asked if they would commit to voting to televise School Board meetings within 90 days of their election.
Candidate Jon Meyer did not attend the event (citing a previously made commitment), and as a courtesy, LBReport.com contacted him the day after to the event solicit his views. Mr. Meyer said he could not commit to vote to televise School Board meetings without knowing more, including costs.
As separately reported by LBReport.com, the Long Beach Community College Board of Trustees began televising its meetings on its cable TV channel on May 14, voting unanimously to authorize an amount not to exceed $20,000 for equipment and other expenses to implement the television service, plus additional ongoing costs for staff support and supplies.
As first reported by LBReport.com, LBUSD Board Members voted in Sept. 2001 to spend up to $8,100 for announcer contracts on LBUSD televised football games and other sports events.
LBUSD Boardmembers voted just months ago -- January 21, 2003 and March 18, 2003 -- to continue the process, approving expenditures of up to $8,200 for announcer contracts (play by play and patter) while LBUSD televises high school basketball and baseball games.
LBUSD already has its own cable television channel, television equipment and paid staff to operate it. Recording a Board meeting for subsequent replay would be less complex technically and would require fewer personnel than producing a field sports broadcast like a baseball game.
As previously reported by LBReport.com, in response to an inquiry from a member of the public during a 2002 Board meeting, School Board president Bobbie Smith said, "The Board has debated that issue and the Board has decided that it is too costly and we could use those funds to improve student achievement."
When LBReport.com later contacted Ms. Smith to ask exactly when the Board had "decided" not to televise its meetings (since we could find no record of such a public vote), she said the Board had discussed the subject in a Board "workshop" and hadn't taken a formal vote.
LBReport.com then decided to find out when that "workshop" took place. Since no one at LBUSD could tell us, we had to resort to making the equivalent of a Freedom of Information Act request under CA's Public Records Act.
LBUSD spokesman Richard Van Der Laan sent us a letter indicating the subject of televising Board meetings had come up during an April 15, 2002 agendized closed session (i.e. it's legal) that dealt with then-Superintendent Dr. Carl Cohn's performance evaluation. Mr. Van Der Laan's letter said Dr. Cohn had given the Board a San Diego newspaper clipping and a San Diego City School District web page print out (discussed below) on the subject of televising its Board meetings.
The San Diego newspaper clipping indicated it would cost San Diego City Schools $4,500 to televise each School Board meeting using a County Education Dept. crew and County cable channel, and a print out from SD City Schools' web site listed more dreary costly options. However, the article also noted that if SD had its own video equipment (it didn't, but LBUSD does), and its own television channel (it didn't, but LBUSD has its own cable channel), the operating costs would only be about $500 per meeting or only about $10,000 per year.
LBReport.com calls to LBUSD's media office and public information office seeking additional information were not returned.