Friday, November 19, 2010

Update: TV or not TV?

Update: Board member Tim Morgan raised the question of televising budget work sessions today (see discussion below if you're new to this post). Superintendent Peter Gorman said it would cost about $2,000 to tape a three-hour session, air it on CMS-TV and webstream it.

Several budget discussions will take place at regular meetings, which are already televised. Four special sessions are slated, the first in mid-February. Gorman suggested a total tab of $10,000 to allow for run-on meetings.

Trent Merchant, Rhonda Lennon, Joyce Waddell, Richard McElrath and Joe White immediately weighed in against spending the money. Morgan said he'd be willing to give up some of his travel money to cover the cost, and Eric Davis told Gorman he'd talk to board members and get back to him.

For what it's worth, $10,000 from a billion-dollar budget is roughly the equivalent of a person who makes $100,000 spending $10. But even a relatively small expense carries big baggage these days.

If you feel strongly about it one way or the other, you might want to let board members know soon. And of course, feel free to keep posting suggestions here.
Original post: This is far from the toughest decision facing the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board, but let me pose a puzzler:

The board is staring down huge budget cuts in 2011.

Members just took a beating over public engagement in the first round of cuts, which included closing schools. Among the complaints: Vast amounts of vital information were presented during special meetings held in the middle of weekdays, when few could attend.

On Friday, they'll start another round of meetings -- again, with a special midday session at a little-known location (1 p.m., CMS Leadership Academy, 7920 Neal Road).

They already eliminated CMS-TV as part of this year's budget. They're still paying freelancers to tape and televise the twice-monthly regular meetings. But they don't televise work sessions and public forums.

Should they?

On one hand, it would be ironic and no doubt unpopular to approve an additional expense going into a long season of budget cuts. Superintendent Peter Gorman fought to keep CMS-TV, but board members decided there was no way to preserve that while laying off teachers.

On the other, CMS has an $18.6 million reserve fund carried over from last year's budget. I don't know the cost for more meetings to be taped, televised and webstreamed, but it'd be pocket change compared to that sum.

Other things being equal, I'm a big fan of making public meetings public, especially when so much is at stake. The Observer can report only a small fraction of what goes on in long board meetings. Broadcast media get even less. CMS posts a lot of documents and PowerPoints, but it's nearly impossible to get the full meaning without hearing the discussion.

Gorman says the board is likely to discuss the question of televising special sessions.

So what do you think?


Steve Johnston said...

Private donor dollars via the CMS Investment Study Group would be useful. The channel could open up new avenues for citizen participation, starting with the budget, but could outlive that use and become an ongoing fixture of community-based decision-making about the public's school system.

Anonymous said...

Pete should invest his 250k CD Spangler grant(less the Broad Foundation entertainment junket) into
a tripod and a new Sony video camera. Hire a Waddell student to operate at all photo/video opps. Better yet, use one of the National Board certified teachers he's laid off or John Edward's blonde videographer. They are all around Charlotte and experienced taping "special" lessons. In reality someone does need to keep an eye on Pete or there'll be no justice or peace.

Rev. Mike said...

Now that I have AT&T U-Verse instead of Time Warner, CMS TV is no longer available to me, so the question is a moot point. However, the Government Channel is. At least for "critical" messaging such as you describe, should they not be looking more closely at using that venue?

Anonymous said...

Rev. Mike makes the same point as Rhonda Lennon, District 1 rep. CMS-TV was missing in action north of I-85 in 2 out of 3 homes. My guess is iCarly was playing in the other 1/3.

If CMS really wants to get the message out, it could serve food and drinks to the humble masses at the board meetings.....and do away with the PowerPointless presentations.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

I have to say that facing this budget cut, that not a DIME should be spent for anything other than saving teachers. This includes setting up avenues for private funding to cover expenses CMS might choose not to cover. CMS shouldn't facilitate any efforts that don't keep teachers in classrooms.

Anonymous said...

Keeping the public informed of school decisions is very important. The puplic needs to hear and see all data and statements. This affects everyone. I am sure it is less expensive than maintaining the University Parent Center.

Anonymous said...

Wow, for a community tryign to recover economincally, feeding throngs of people just because they choose to do their civic duty and attend a board meeting sounds a bit ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

I agree witht the poster who said that a highschool student should record the board sessions.

Put more responsibility on students. They love to do things like that!

Can you stream the board sessions live?

Ann Doss Helms said...

The Observer is not set up to record or webcast the meetings. CMS is or was (though I believe they didn't go online until the next day). That's one of the things the $10K would pay for.

Anonymous said...

For many years CMS was successfull without all the $150,000. (+Benefits) "area superintendents". It seems like that is a great place to cut without affecting the student. As long as the bloated bureaucracy continues it is hard to take any discussion by CMS Board or management of fiscal responsibility seriously.

Anonymous said...

A high school videographer would have been nice for the lockdown and fracas at West Meck this week. Other CMS HS students come to West looking for trouble. Any news? Nope, more of the same swept under the rug.

Anonymous said...

Much of this discussion shows how clueless the public is about the school budget discussion. Invest the 250K Spangler grant??? That is set aside for college scholarships for students... flippant ridiculous uninformed jabs at our superintendent only add to the problem. Cut superintendents??? Any one remember anything about the north county's threatened succession??? These superintendents were put in place to help the school system "make big seem small" and bring decisions to the areas that they affect. How would the loss of that tax base help our schools' poverty rate? We have a schizophrenic citizenry, impossible to please, and not willing to put their "homework" time in to really understand the issues.