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Board Sets Rule on Videotaping Meetings, May Post Its Own

A gavel-to-gavel policy was requested from everyone on the board and the administration Jan. 12 during a special board meeting.

President Karen Powers asked that videotaping be allowed only during board meetings — and not before or after.

She requested a gavel-to-gavel policy — which means the camera can be turned on once the meeting officially begins and must be turned off once the meeting is officially ended.

Powers also asked that photos or video taken outside the meeting be destroyed.

"Do not videotape me in any other manner ... if you have an image of me [outside of the official meeting], destroy it immediately, take it off any website, social networking sites not in the course of the meetings," Powers said.

Her fellow board members, Superintenent Russ Jones and Treasurer/CFO Catherine Bulgrin requested the same. Board member Rod Armstrong said, "I don't care."

Donny VanOss has been recording meetings for months and posting them to YouTube and in the comments section of school board stories .

"I am a very concerned citizen of this great city, and feel that many do not have the opportunity to attend our Stow Board of Education meetings, due to conflicts of schedules. I have just started to videotape the meetings, so everyone can have the opportunity, to watch and stay involved with of wonderful schools," he says on . "These videos are for everyone to make their own conclusions and are in no way to criticize any of the meetings or the persons involved in the meetings. Please watch and make your own conclusions. Thank you for taking the time for being an involved citizen."

During the meeting VanOss agreed to Powers' request.

"No I don't have a problem with the gavel-to-gavel idea, I just feel it's more than that ... Monday night's meeting was really the first time I let it run over. I was asked by the person whose name was on the box of records that Ms. Bulgrin showed off at the meeting," VanOss said.

In December, , the board voted to disallow videorecording at that meeting.

"I filed a complaint with the [Ohio] Attorney Generals Office in Columbus," VanOss said in an email Jan. 1. He also said he is waiting to find out if the minutes from the Dec. 20 retreat, where the board voted to ban videotaping for that meeting, are approved during the Jan. 23 meeting at 7 p.m. at the.

Kent State News Graduate Coordinator and Professor Tim Smith said he isn't convinced any Ohio Sunshine Laws were violated, but it may be a violation of the First Amendment.

"I know of no prohibition in the law about videotaping or tape recording a public meeting. You cannot be disruptive with the process, but beyond that there are no grounds for an outright ban. I don’t know that it is a violation of the Sunshine Law so much as an illegal restraint in violation of the First Amendment — and a comparable provision of the Ohio Constitution," he said in an email. "As long as what you’re doing isn’t disruptive, it would be a form of prior restraint to ban videotaping, the same as it would be to ban taking notes."

Jones said the board banned videotaping during the retreat because it was not a representation of a board meeting that members wanted to share with the public. The same reasoning prompted last night's proposal. 

"The board's concern has been, and I think Mrs. Powers expressed that pretty well tonight, videotaping of public meetings of boards of education should be gavel-to-gavel only, should be all inclusive without editing," Jones said.

He said he has viewed some of the videotaped meetings and noticed some inaudible or missing parts.

Jones said he appreciates the videotaping because it offers transparency, but said the recording has to be a complete unedited account of the meeting. 

"I have never showed anyone on video doing anything wrong ... and posted it," VanOss said.

Jones said the district is thinking about posting its own videos on the school's website.

"We want to make sure any citizen in our communities who would like to see and hear at meetings, want them to see everything," he said. "We are exploring the possibility of videotaping meetings ourselves and posting them on our website as soon as practicable."

A student looking for video experience or who needs service hours would be the person doing the videotaping for the district, Jones said.

VanOss said the district posting its own videos would not deter him from continuing. 

"In my opinion, I think they want me to go away. Well I'm just not ready yet. This is my hometown ... I went to school here and graduated here and I have this gut feeling to protect this town from what is going on," he said.

Ed Kent January 20, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Thanks Maureen for this information. I know one student who had moved here who was a senior and only needed enough credit from half a year to graduate, but they were told by Stow-Munroe Falls that they had to stay the full year. After they believed the district and stayed there for both semesters the student found out through further investigation they really didn't need to take both semesters. But, the district was thinking about the state funds they would make from having that student in for both semesters. It's amazing what goes on. That student, who had come in with a lot of credits, wasted a semester when they could have already moved on. It's hard for parents to believe everything they are told by the school district because of things like this being found out.
Maureen Adkins January 20, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Wow Ed.. want to hear another side of that, of course, not this school district but one near. We moved back from TN 11 years ago, my stepson was a Senior at that time. The school district didn't recognize most of his credits from TN, he would have to repeat his Senior year again. Well, with him turning 18 that Feb, (we moved back in Oct). he wasn't going to repeat his Senior year, he would drop out, that school district told us about the alternative school, even gave us the dollar amount the city school was not receiving, they didn't care about the money, they wanted him to get a diploma.. and we did too!! and he did within a few months. There are some districts who look out for the students, I wish ours did. I have thought about pulling my 6th grader out, if only I had the patience and time to home school. I am not in favor of IB, I want back to the basic education. They can also throw out investigations math. But that is a different topic. LOL
Maureen Adkins January 20, 2012 at 06:59 PM
I should point out, they didn't give us money, they told us the amount..
Ed Kent January 20, 2012 at 08:28 PM
The student I was referring to, which has gone on to a great career, came from a private school. But, due to moving into this area and other factors the family chose to send them to Stow's public system since the student should have only needed 1 semester to graduate. They already had their career planned and things were in the works, which got delayed due to the misinformation given by this school district. It was a huge difference for them coming from a private school to public. They basically felt like it was a walk in the park and simply had little challenge. But, at least the high school building is new and quite nice. Plus, Stow kids are known for being better mannered than some other public systems in Summit County. And, the teachers are friendly.
Maureen Adkins January 20, 2012 at 09:04 PM
I will agree with you on kids being well mannered. And my daughter has not had one teacher in the system neither her or myself didn't like. They have all been excellent! I am very lucky to have a child who loves school and she does very well. I'm glad to hear your friend dealt the semester issues and moved into a great career. I'm sure at times it was hard. I don't know what the future holds, only time will tell! Nice chatting with you Mr. Kent. I hope you have a nice weekend!!

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