Former teacher's mission: Make BOE discussions more accessible

Former teacher's mission: Make BOE discussions more accessible
Updated: Nov. 7, 2016 at 6:16 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For over a year, Vanessa Ott has been videotaping Board of Education meetings and uploading them to her website.

She considers it a public service, but she wants the board to take over what she started. And she's got support from the governor.

"A lot of people can't even come to the meetings even if they had the day off," said Ott, a former teacher.  "When people watch the videos then they can actually write to the board and say, 'Hey, I think you need to know something about this.' That's all about what community engagement is."

The Board of Education, meanwhile, applauds Ott's work. But officials sai the body lacks the money and people to ensure videotaped recordings end up online. Last legislative session, lawmakers denied the board's request for $5,000 to broadcast its meetings.

"Given the competing needs, that was not put into the budget," House Education Committee Chairman Roy Takumi said. He added, "I'd certainly take another look at it in the upcoming session."

Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Jill Tokuda believes the BOE can videotape or livestream its meetings using inexpensive means, like student volunteers from audiovisual classes or groups.

"I think there's much more creative ways that they can probably still get this done, if it is a priority, or find the resources within their existing budget to be able to accomplish this task," she said.

In August, Gov. David Ige urged the Board of Education to seriously consider Ott's plea to find a way for the board to do what she does.

HSTA Secretary-Treasurer Amy Perruso said teachers and other stakeholders often can't get to the meetings, where key education policy decisions are made.

"I think the teachers for so long have felt the policymaking that happens at the Board of Education and even at the Legislature is a black box to which they have no access," she said.

Ott added, "Around the country, boards of education are putting their meetings online. This state board really should step up."

The BOE does livestream the audio portion of its meetings. On Wednesday, it will try to livestream video of a public hearing on charter schools.

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