Milton School Board now live streaming meetings

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Jake Magee
Tuesday, April 26, 2016

MILTON—As a resident positioned his retro video camera to record the Milton School Board meeting Monday, district employees set up their own camera and microphone at a table in the center of the room.

“We are live streaming tonight and will be from now on,” board President Jon Cruzan announced at the beginning of the meeting.

The district's decision to live stream comes two weeks after resident Lance Fena brought his own video camera to a board meeting. School board members adjourned the meeting  after former member Rob Roy said he felt uncomfortable and Fena refused to turn it off.

To alleviate Roy's concerns that edited clips could be posted online and taken out of context, Communications Supervisor Jerry Schuetz recommended the board record its own meetings.

A state school board association attorney told The Gazette the discomfort of school board members would not hold up in court as a reason to stop residents from recording meetings. A state Department of Justice attorney and the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council president agreed.

Fena returned Monday night with his camera and set it up in the same place he had two weeks ago. No one asked him to turn it off.

Fena is a fan of the school district's decision.

“My feeling is that more transparency and the more stuff available for the taxpayers is always good,” he said. “Me kinda pushing for stuff is moving them in the right direction.”

Fena said he will still record meetings until he sees how good the district's recordings are and how consistently they are done.

Administrators spoke with the district's technology department and found the easiest way to record meetings was to live stream them through YouTube and save the archived footage. The district didn't have to buy additional equipment, Superintendent Tim Schigur said.

By live streaming, staff would have to note any technical difficulties the equipment experienced so viewers were aware, but the district didn't expect such problems, Schuetz said before the meeting.

Halfway through the meeting, though, Schigur asked for a short intermission to fix a camera issue. A few minutes later, things were running smoothly again.

Messages sent by people watching from home indicate the first live stream was a success, said Ed Snow, technology supervisor.

A snowball microphone—a white, spherical mic that picks up audio from several directions—likely was adequate for the meeting, Snow said. Before the meeting, administrators weren't sure if the snowball microphone would be enough or if the district would have to buy individual microphones for each board member, Schuetz said.

Live-streamed meetings are saved on the district's YouTube channel and on its website. The district stores copies on an external hard drive and backs them up on Google Drive, Schuetz said.

District officials don't plan to stream or record committee meetings, Schigur said.

The district bought the external hard drive for about $200 a few weeks ago, specifically to save video files as it started filming more videos, such as the "Tim Talk" series featuring Schigur, Schuetz said.

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