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LETTER: Recordings of Selectmen and School Committee Meetings Should be Available Online

A letter from School Committee member Dr. Erdem Ural regarding the need for "improved access to board meeting records." Dr. Ural would like to see recordings of meetings be made available online, on demand.

The following is a letter to the editor from Stoughton School Committee member Dr. Erdem Ural:

To the Honorable Members of Stoughton Board of Selectmen (BOS), and Stoughton School Committee (SC):

During the recent joint meeting of BOS and SC, communication and trust problems between the two boards were discussed and the need for improved access to board meeting records was highlighted. The current situation leaves a lot to be desired. If a board member wanted to understand why the other board voted a certain way on a particular issue, he or she could theoretically examine the meeting minutes, or watch the video record of the meeting on public access channel broadcast by SMAC (Stoughton Media Access Corporation). To see if the system is working as intended, I just checked to see what is currently available through abovementioned channels.

The latest set of the BOS minutes posted on the BOS website is from the February 1, 2011 meeting, which was approved on August 9, 2011. Although the SC is not as tardy, it does not post all its agendas and minutes. Those that are chosen for posting can take up to 100 days to appear on the school department web site. Furthermore, both BOS and SC minutes violate the Massachusetts Law because they do not include a list of the documents and other exhibits used at the meeting. Thus, it is plenty clear that neither BOS nor SC web sites can be relied upon by the Board members or by Public to obtain timely and accurate information on what transpire in the meetings.

Video records of the public meetings that are considered important (e.g. most BOS, SC, FinCom meetings) are created and broadcast through the public channels of cable television by SMAC. Because the TVGuide function of the cable services does not display the local programs, SMAC publishes its programs on its web site; few days worth at a time, with a warning *Schedule subject to change without notice*. Public cable channels cannot be relied upon by the Board members or by Public to obtain timely information on what transpire in the meetings, either. For example, lately, the education channel has only been broadcasting the School Committee meeting that was held on January 24, 2012. Instead of more recent meetings, it is mysterious why SMAC chooses to broadcast the January 24th meeting day after day (sometimes twice a day).

During the recent joint meeting of BOS and SC, I had requested that Stoughton adopt a system similar to that used by Easton cable access, where all recorded meetings are available on demand. The viewer can easily navigate within the video, going forward and backward to a desired discussion. I understand Easton uses TelVue CloudCast services for streaming meeting videos and video on demand services. I also understand, Easton (or their local access company) pays approximately $2,500 per year to host the video files and to stream them. You can find further information on this system at:

http://www.telvue.com/products/cloudcast/

I respectfully request that you test the Easton system by visiting:

http://eastoncat.org/gov-channel-tvguide

You can select any date, and click on “watch now” button for those available on demand.

If you would like to see a similar system implemented in Stoughton, please advise Steve Innis, and your favorite SMAC director.

Sincerely Yours,

Erdem Ural

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