Fayette school board members ask for meetings to be livestreamed for transparency

·2 min read
vhoneycutt@herald-leader.com/Valarie Honeycutt Spears

Two Fayette school board members are concerned that board planning meetings — where much of that panel’s work is carried out — aren’t livestreamed or shown on TV.

“We have nothing to hide,” school board member Stephanie Spires told the Herald-Leader Wednesday. “But when you aren’t transparent, you give off the appearance that you have something to hide. And we don’t.”

Given that the school board planning meetings were livestreamed and televised for months during the COVID pandemic, Spires and board member Tom Jones at Monday’s meeting asked board chairman Tyler Murphy to resume the livestreaming.

Since the livestreaming stopped, this is the second time that Spires has asked for the planning meetings to be livestreamed and aired.

Robust conversations and presentations of data, such as how the district is spending COVID dollars, are common at planning meetings. Without a livestream, many people never hear that information, Spires said.

The public can attend in person school board planning meetings (usually held at 5:30 p.m. once a month) at Central Office at 450 Park Place. Even though some school board planning meetings and work sessions have been remote for school board members they weren’t accessible to the public unless the public went to Central Office and watched the meeting on a screen.

Only audio recordings are made of board planning meetings and community members must request them of district staff.

A second meeting, the Fayette school board’s regular monthly meetings, are generally in person, and televised and livestreamed. Because there is less conversation at those meetings, Spires and Jones say they’ve heard criticism that board members aren’t asking enough questions about the work of the school district.

Spires said the General Assembly livestreams and records committee meetings and the Urban County Council livestreams and records work sessions.

“There’s no reason we’re behind the times,” she said.

“I think we are making a mistake,” Jones said, by not making the board planning meetings more accessible.

Spires said before the pandemic, board members had directed the staff to work toward livestreaming planning meetings because that was not being done.

When COVID-19 resulted in virtual only planning meetings, those were live-streamed and large numbers of people were watching, she said.

Fayette Superintendent Demetrus Liggins and district staff members said Monday that livestreaming planning meetings presented technological and equipment challenges.

Murphy asked that district staff bring board members more information on the issue. He said the board didn’t want to add strain to the system involved with school board meetings.

“It can be done,” Spires said of the livestreaming. “And I think it should be a priority.”