Seattle University board’s virtual general public conferences are worthy of a failing quality

Lisa R. Parker

The Seattle Community University board values local community engagement. At least, which is what board administrators and board policies assert.

But these mentioned values are really hard to square with the board’s virtual general public meeting practices, which erect unnecessary and, frankly, irresponsible obstacles to general public participation. In simple fact, if a board wanted to alienate its constituents, it could just take a page out of the SPS playbook: Hold interminably extensive conferences with minimal public see. Get general public testimony by audio meeting connect with. Broadcast and archive only some, not all, community meetings on line.

As distant public meetings have grow to be regime, lots of public councils, boards and commissions have discovered conducting the people’s business enterprise with higher transparency and community comments is truly less difficult. Persons who couldn’t hike down to stuffy meeting rooms can participate from any where. No bus schedules to take into account no babysitter necessary.

But at just one new Seattle university board meeting, individuals had these types of issues navigating the simply call-in line for community comment that university team encouraged them to cling up and check out contacting back again. On the broadcast, board associates deliberated and voted behind inanimate nonetheless photographs, their video clip turned off, denying the public the chance to enjoy its elected representatives get the job done.

The district broadcasts standard faculty board conferences and perform classes on cable and YouTube. Having said that, district officers shirk their duty by not executing the very same for specific meetings — these as the Jan. 21 meeting when board users voted to research for an interim superintendent.

A member of the public who would like to enjoy these must log on to Microsoft Groups in serious time or file a general public-information request. An SPS spokesman claimed that’s for the reason that board business team lack the complex capacity to add the recordings. Alternatively, they ahead requests to the general public records section the place someone — get this — copies them to a disc and pops it in the mail.

Certainly, actually.

This in a college district in its third semester of remote instruction in the coronary heart of a famously engaged tech neighborhood, whose board users and administrators have voiced heartfelt dedication to inclusive and responsive neighborhood relationships. It is tricky to comprehend.

Neither outgoing Superintendent Denise Juneau nor any school board member responded to a ask for for far more facts. Which brings to mind a further troubling shortcoming: the board’s negligible public conversation about pending business. Conference notices and agendas are posted to the board’s site, but that’s the place outreach would seem to finish. A search of the district’s social media channels discovered terse reminders of common board conferences, posted the working day in advance of the assembly but immediately after the registration window for public comment had closed. Neither they nor the lone calendar notice in the district’s e-e-newsletter hinted at agenda items or feasible board motion. That is an possibility missed — or potentially intentionally prevented.

The district’s meager attempts seem to be to meet the minimum amount requirements of Washington’s open up meetings legislation, but they totally are unsuccessful the law’s additional generous spirit — to give community servants a possibility to speak to and listen to from the men and women whose life will be affected by their decisions.

Board members could get started by turning on the video to exhibit their faces during community conferences and adopting better equipment for community comment. They should really insist that each individual general public assembly be broadcast and posted to various platforms, and that assembly notices incorporate previews and recaps of board motion and why people really should treatment.

Certainly, extra strong and diverse community engagement options would be welcome. But this is very low-hanging fruit — tailor-produced for the pandemic and social distancing. The faculty board and district need to shake off complacency and come across innovative strategies to have interaction.

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