Jefferson school board eyes televised meetings

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Efforts to televise the sometimes lengthy and contentious meetings of the Jefferson Elementary School District board have nearly reached completion as the district opens its doors today.

The board in March approved a pilot project to televise its meetings. A June San Mateo County grand jury report recommended doing so to improve community relations and outreach.

The Jefferson school board has two options for televising the proceedings, said Leah Berlanga, a City Council candidate with a daughter in the district and former PTA member who is leading the effort.

At a long-term cost of roughly $300 per night, the meetings can either be taped and aired on Daly City’s Cable Channel 27 at regular times and dates, or the board can hold its meetings in the Council Chambers at City Hall to be broadcast live for a cost of $36 a night, Berlanga said.

The board is likely to consider one of these options in the coming months, which is none too soon, said board member Anthony Dennis.

He said the district hoped to save money in implementing the project but added that televising the meetings should’ve been done “a long time ago” because the meetings run long and most parents can’t attend, resulting in people being misinformed.

Dennis also said putting board members under the microscope of televised proceedings could help tone down behavior that has made their get-togethers some of the most heated in the county.

Daly City Councilmember Carol Klatt — who met with Berlanga, Dennis, District Board President Marianne Petroni, Superintendent Barbara Wilson and Mayor Mike Guingona as part of the Daly City Cable Subcommittee Aug. 17 to discuss the project — said since the city began televising its meetings in the mid-1990s, council members have been held to a higher accountability.

“If you’re going to say it on TV, you need to stand behind it and say it to other people, too,” Klatt said.

She added that televised meetings could affect credibility for officials because the expanded audience can see how adamant a person is on an issue.

Berlanga noted that at the Aug. 17 meeting, Petroni and Wilson had concerns about maintaining the independence of the school board if the board met in the Council Chambers.

dsmith@examiner.com

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