SMCISD school board considers televising future meetings

By: 

Senior News Reporter

San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District board members voted unanimously Jan. 26 to analyze the cost to begin televising monthly meetings. 

The board previously voted four to three against televising the meetings in 2013 after a recommendation from Mark Eads, SMCISD superintendent. Eads’ recommendation stated the board should address current policy issues before revisiting the possibility of televised meetings. 

The board’s initial worry was finding enough money to televise the meetings. Councilman John Thomaides, Place 3, said he reached out to the board to help alleviate costs as a member of Open San Marcos, an organization advocating for transparency in city government.

Thomaides said the school board was offered the use of city council’s chambers. He said the T.V., audio and computerized system to feed into a cable channel were set up and budgeted. The school board was offered the room at no charge but ultimately declined.

The board voted against the 2013 offer with Thomaides’ recommendation for two reasons, Eads said. 

“First of all, it would mean that we would have to go to a different location,” Eads said. “We want to be able to have (the meetings) here at our current facilities. The second thing is we don’t feel that (the city council chamber) has the ability to host enough people, and you can see at our board meetings we have anywhere from 20 to 50 to 100 people show up.”

Thomaides said Open San Marcos received a verbal agreement from Eads following the 2013 vote. The verbal agreement, made with witnesses present, stated the board meetings would be filmed and broadcasted by the first of 2014.

“Well, here we are in January of 2015, and it still hasn’t happened yet,” Thomaides said. “If you want your community to be involved, if you want to have an open government, you have to broadcast the meetings and make it easy for the public to watch the debate and discussion, and that’s absolutely what this school board has to do."

John Crowley, school board member, said he managed to get the issue on the agenda once again for last week’s meeting. 

“The Hays County Commissioners Court is televised, San Marcos City Council is televised, and I personally believe that could add a layer of transparency to what we do as a school district,” Crowley said. “We’re the largest portion of the people’s tax bill that they pay, and I think that we owe it to our parents, and citizens and taxpayers to let them see what’s going on from the comfort of their home.”

Crowley stands with the Open San Marcos belief in the importance of transparency in government. He said the unanimous vote by the board to look into the possibility of televising the meetings gives him hope the initiative will be successful. 

Eads does not see any obstacles to moving forward with the initiative. 

“The benefit would be that it would offer more visibility to people,” Eads said. “So (citizens) will be able to see what’s happening, and they can watch the board meetings at their convenience.”