The Santa Barbara County Board of Education should be the shining example of transparency for all school boards and provide greater public access.

Four months ago, given our county school board oversees a budget that exceeds $100 million, I suggested that our board meetings be video-recorded and archived on the Santa Barbara County Education Office website.

Many local school districts and other governmental agencies live-stream board meetings and post them for later viewing.

The county education board’s meetings are on the first Thursday of the month at 2 p.m. in Santa Barbara.

Video-recorded meetings provide more access for working parents, teachers, staff, community members, and those residing in Guadalupe, Santa Maria, Lompoc, Los Alamos, and the Santa Ynez Valley.

Sadly, local newspapers’ budgets are tight, and reporters cannot attend all school board meetings.

The County Education Office serves approximately 70,000 students countywide and 20 school districts, and our actions can have significant ramifications for students, about which many parents might want to be better informed.

On May 5, 2022, at our regular meeting, after a lengthy discussion, the board took action and voted “no” (5-2) on video-recording our meetings and archiving videos on the County Education Office website. However, the board agreed that audio recordings would be discussed at a future meeting.

The board provided many reasons for not video-recording our meetings, but one, in particular, stood out. A board member referred to Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE), who warned in the Wall Street Journal of “jackassery” if cameras were placed in the Supreme Court.

Public access to school board meetings is about inclusion. In this age of technology, I believe denying our community video-recorded meetings, especially regarding public education, will undercut the public’s faith in us.

Michelle de Werd is a trustee of the Santa Barbara County Board of Education for District #4, but she does not speak on behalf of the Board or the Santa Barbara County Education Office.


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