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Ammiano sets hearing on proposal
to televise Board of Education meetings

By Aldrich M. Tan

May 4, 2006, 4:37 p.m.

The Government Audit and Oversight Committee will conduct a hearing to discuss the possibility of televising school board meetings next Monday.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano initiated the committee hearing to inquire into the feasibility of including a televised broadcast of the San Francisco Board of Education meetings as part of SFGTV's regular broadcast schedule.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said he is looking forward to the hearing. Mirkarimi brought up the issue at the school board meeting on April 25.

"It should have been done years ago," Mirkarimi said. "We need to bring greater sunshine and transparency to the school district."

Mirkarimi is referring to the Sunshine Ordinance, which requires city operations to be open for the people's review since the government's duty is to serve the public and reach its decisions in full view of the public.

Ali Blum, spokesperson for the School Community Network of District 5, agrees that a televised airing of the school board meetings is long overdue.

"Many of the families cannot make those meetings because they sometimes are late and sometimes go long into the night," Blum said. "The school board discusses issues that affect a great number of people in San Francisco and they should be televised."

Blum said the school district will benefit from having the meetings on air.

"I think the school board will have a better sense of accountability knowing the audience is out there seeing what is going on," Blum said.

Lorna Ho, spokesperson for the San Francisco Unified School District, was not available for comment at press time.

Last May, the City and School District Select Committee held a hearing to discuss the cost and feasibility of airing the school board meetings, said Jack Chin, general manager of SFGTV.

The most feasible option for Board of Education coverage is to install video cameras at 555 Franklin St., Chin said. It would cost $23,000 to videotape the full Board of Education meetings and the equipment and installation would cost $150,000.

The staff is currently at full capacity with eight full time and two part time employees, Chin said. It takes two staff members to air a single meeting.

"The prices may have come down this year, especially on the equipment," Chin said.

Other options included holding the meetings at City Hall and a costly option to use a mobile video unit to videotape on location, Chin said.

The decision to air the Board of Education on SFGTV ultimately rests upon who will be funding the meeting coverage, Chin said.

"It would depend on if the meeting is funded through the city or through SFUSD," Chin said.

SFGTV airs the meetings the Board of Supervisors and its subcommittees, and 11 other commissions, including the Planning Commission, the Police Commission, the Public Utilities Commission, and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.




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