Pattye Benson

Community Matters

TESD Public Information Committee meeting tonight!

Tonight at 6:30 PM at the TESD Administration Building, is the first meeting of the T/E School District Public Information Committee, chaired by school board member Scott Dorsey — click here for the agenda. Dorsey is committed to improving communication with the public and encouraging open dialogue between the Board and residents.

Unfortunately, I am unable to attend tonight’s meeting but I have a personal ‘wish list’ for the Public Information Committee to consider and will send a copy to Mr. Dorsey for his consideration.

  • Change how residents ask questions at school board meetings. Residents should be able to ask their question and receive an answer not have to wait until all the questions are asked before receiving an answer.
  • Televise the School Board meetings live, as is down with the Board of Supervisors meetings. I advocate for Finance Committee meetings to be televised.
  • Coordinate regular School Board meetings and Board of Supervisors monthly meetings == too often they fall on the same Monday nights.
  • Encourage open dialogue between the residents and the School Board – an example took place at last week’s Finance Committee meeting where residents were encourage to ask questions and participate. Questions were answered immediately with no standing in line. I would like to see that refreshing relationship continue at regular school board meetings.
  • Provide sufficient details and supporting documentation on the financials and budget so the public understands where the numbers come from – too often, the public is not provided with the necessary background for the numbers to make any sense.
  • Many school districts, including Unionville Chadds Ford School District have the email address of school board members listed on their website. We don’t need to have their ‘personal’ emails, (like UCFSD) but I think that there should be a way for the public to communicate directly with the Board. Currently all emails to the school board are filtered through Art McDonnell. Why is Art McDonnell, the business manager, the filter for resident’s emails to the school board? This does not seem like an appropriate use of time by one of the highest compensated TESD employees.
  • I would like to see the end to the consent agenda. Too many non-routine items ended up on the consent agenda – as examples in 2013, included on the consent agenda was the hiring of Andy Chambers and salary increase to the administrators. Other school districts (including UCFSD) do not use the consent agenda for that reason.
  • Respect and civility is a two-way street. The Board members (plus District solicitor and staff) should be encouraged to respect the residents at meetings as should the residents to to the Board.
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  1. Pattye,

    I am a member of the crew that broadcasts the Board of Supervisors meetings. While I agree with most of your points, I would offer the following caveats:

    1) The folks who crew the BoS telecasts are volunteers. Any other broadcasts of public meetings would probably require the same. This may or may not be a problem, I’m just putting it out there.

    2) The BoS meetings are done by cameras installed in Keene Hall and the broadcasts are produced, directed and actually sent out on the air from the control room right next door. To do a “remote” broadcast from the School Board (don’t know where the Finance Committee meets) would by logistically and financially…formidable, to say the least.

    1. 1) The TE meetings are already recorded, so staffing the cameras shouldn’t be an issue. There is no reason it needs to be a multi camera production, just broadcast what is currently recorded.

      2) The infrastructure for live broadcast is in place, at least it is in place from the high school where they often broadcast sports and concerts live.

  2. A couple of quick comments from tonight’s meeting.

    The number of Board members and district staff outnumbered community attendees 2:1. A cold night to be sure, but reinforcing the challenge of getting residents to committee meetings where so much action happens.

    So videos would be helpful, but Mike presents the logistical challenges above, and we heard from Dan Waters many reasons why even the pilot web stream of the recorded ACA meeting would be hard to continue, even just for Board meetings. Hopefully the Committee will follow through on figuring out how it can be done.

    Hopefully, too, there will be follow through on the commitment to ongoing review of the Board Meeting comment policy. The Board favors the control offered by the recently adopted stacking approach, but that seems to be at the expense of effectiveness. It should not be hard to refine the regulation to allow for productive two way communication.

    The District has a good tool in the weekly e-newsletter. I think there’s an opportunity to use that to highlight key issues to be covered in imminent committee meetings, along with the currently-provided links to the agendas and times of the meetings. Perhaps the District could also revisit the use of Twitter, possibly separate feeds for student and Board matters.

    The Committee has many ideas to work on in improving a sound foundation. I hope that many more community members will weigh in with those process improvement ideas both at the meetings and through any other media that work for them.

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