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School Committee switches to a new video service group

December 2, 2010
Original Publication by Chris Church
North Kingstown-East Greenwich Independent

In an effort to save money and have more control over the systems that provide live and archived video of meetings, the School Committee unanimously voted to switch service providers on Monday night.

The committee also will begin using iPads to save on printing and labor costs associated with creating agendas for each meeting, something the Town Council did last month.

Superintendent Phil Thornton estimated that it costs between $800 and $900 to produce the packets for each School Committee meeting for every member.

In August 2007, North Kingstown became the first town in New England to offer live and archived video broadcast of its Town Council meetings, after signing a contract with Granicus, a San Francisco, Calif.-based company.

Under the contract, Planning Commission, Audit Committee and School Committee meetings also are streamed live and archived on the Internet.

In June, Thornton recommended the School Committee switch providers in order to save money and have more control over the system, but the committee declined.

The way the contract is structured with Granicus, the School Department does not deal directly with the company, but has to go through the town regarding any technical questions.

Thornton said the district currently pays the town about $11,000 annually for the Granicus service and suggested switching to another company, IQM2, which charges about $8,000 a year. Thornton said IQM2 also offers the opportunity to live-stream sports games and events such as proms, plays and concerts. It also does not delete archived content after one year, which Granicus does.

In 2008, the School Department began using a “home-grown” system to broadcast meetings but was ordered to stop because it was in violation of the Granicus contract.

And last December, there was an incident in which School Department Information Technology Director Richard Booth had asked town IT Director Jason Albuquerque for assistance in editing videos from a joint Town Council-School Committee meeting on Nov. 17, 2009 and a School Committee meeting on Nov. 24, 2009. During breaks in both of those meetings, the microphones were left on and captured conversations between town officials and residents without their knowledge.

Thornton said he asked Booth to erase those portions of the meeting because he feared it violated confidentiality, citing one instance when he was speaking with a parent who was unknowingly recorded.

School Committee member Kimberly Page described the past dealings with the town on this issue as a “sandpaper relationship” and urged the committee to accept Thornton’s recommendation.

“The town has been on notice enough that we weren’t happy with the service,” she said.

School Committee member Richard Welch agreed and said the video portion of the Nov. 22 Town Council meeting was “intermittent at best.”

“We played good, we went along,” he said. “The thing is, it’s costing us money.”

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