School Board gives LiveStream meetings a shot

By Louis Bettcher | Oct 17, 2017
Source: LiveStream

Rockport — For the first time ever, the MSAD 28 School Board will offer a live video broadcast of one of its regularly scheduled meetings. Using the video equipment available at the Rockport Opera House, the Oct. 18 meeting will be viewable online via LiveStream technology.

Both Rockport and Camden use LiveStream technology to broadcast their Select Board meetings. The meetings are broadcast live on each town's website. People who log on to watch the meetings live can see how many other viewers are tuned in, and a "chat" option allows for members of LiveStream to communicate with one another via their keyboard. The meetings are then archived online and can be viewed at a later date.

Over the past year, members of the public have expressed interest in having School Board meetings made available for remote viewing in the same manner. School Board meetings have historically had low attendance by parents and community members, some of whom cite the time of the meetings (typically weeknights) as an inconvenient time to leave home. The opportunity to watch the meetings remotely, they suggested, could increase their familiarity with issues in the school district.

One parent who has been an outspoken advocate of having the meetings LiveStreamed is Marci Casas. At past School Board meetings, Casas has used the Facebook application on her phone to stream portions of meetings she attended to the social networking site.

"I am thrilled that the School Board is moving forward with LiveStreaming. It is nearly impossible for parents of young children to attend all of the public meetings available. Having the ability to watch from home, live or on delay, allows me to stay up to date and informed about decisions the School Board is making. These decisions impact our children and our finances," Casas said Oct. 16.

One of the challenges facing the School Board, however, is the cost of the technology that it would have to purchase (up to $50,000) if it were to equip one of the schools in either MSAD 28 or the Five Town CSD with the LiveStream cameras and software. Another concern would be making such an investment if there isn't sufficient interest from the community or enthusiasm to attend the meetings or make use of the technology.

Members of the School Board have also considered alternatives to LiveStream, which may offer recordings of meetings to the public at a fraction of the cost. One idea, discussed at a Sept. 20 meeting, was to record the meetings and then make a "highlight reel" available on the school websites. Another would be to partner with VillageSoup TV.

"This [LiveStream] idea really came about due to public interest that the meetings be LiveStreamed or recorded. The board has been hesitant in the past due to cost and concern about lack of real interest in viewing them.

"However, if the public is actually interested in being able to tune in at a time or place that is convenient for them, then I think we need to try and accommodate that desire, because it is important for the public to be informed about and engaged in our children's education," said Maria Libby, superintendent of MSAD 28 and the Five Town CSD Oct. 16.

Maine School Administrative District 28 includes the Camden-Rockport Elementary School and the Camden-Rockport Middle School. The Five Town CSD includes students from Camden, Rockport, Hope, Lincolnville and Appleton who attend Camden Hills Regional High School.

The Oct. 18 meeting of the MSAD 28 School Board will be held at 7 p.m. in the Geoffrey C. Parker Meeting Room of the Rockport Opera House. The meeting can be viewed online on the town of Rockport website, Town.Rockport.Me.us.

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