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School board ends video recording of meetings

From left, Scott Truskowski, information technology coordinator, and Mandy Schroeder, information and communications coordinator, appear Wednesday, June 13, before the Ashwaubenon school board to recommend the district discontinue posting videos of board meetings because of costs for closed captioning. Kevin Boneske Photo

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

ASHWAUBENON – Those wishing to watch video recordings of Ashwaubenon school board meetings that have been linked to the district’s website will not be able to do so in the future.

Noting increased costs to comply with an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirement that all videos posted by the district must be closed captioned, added expenses for future board room video equipment and low viewership of previous board meeting videos, the board unanimously agreed Wednesday, June 13, to have the meetings recorded with typed minutes, which would continue to be posted on the district’s website, instead of video recording.

Being that fewer people will now have access to watch the meetings, board Vice President Brian Van De Kreeke said the result of having to comply with the ADA for the district to be able to show videos online is that a “well-intended law creates the opposite effect.”

The district’s information technology coordinator, Scott Truskowski, and information and communications coordinator, Mandy Schroeder, appeared before the board regarding the recommendation to replace video recordings of board meetings with meeting minutes, which already are being typed and posted on the district’s website.

“We stream these meetings out to YouTube Live and then they’re available on-demand afterwards, and then it’s also streamed out to the cable channel as well,” Truskowski said. “The issue now is there’s a bunch of regulations around the ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act, that requires all that stuff to be closed captioned.”

Truskowski and Schroeder also provided the board with cost estimates for what the added expense could be to have on-demand video with closed captioning.

For 13 board meetings a year, Schroeder reported the annual cost of using a closed captioning service through CESA 7 would range from $2,925 to $3,900, based on the average meeting time.

She also noted another closed captioning service through Rev.com, which is now being used by the village of Ashwaubenon for videos of its meetings posted online, would have an annual cost of around $1,170.

In addition, Schroeder said another expense of approximately $2,000 to $3,000 would be incurred for future board room video equipment to continue showing video of the meetings, which could no longer be shown live anymore because of the cost to be able to have live closed captioning.

“There were some higher views when we had them live and on-demand, because a lot of people are watching them live,” she said. “When you look at the only on-demand videos, the numbers go down drastically.”

Schroeder said the average number of viewers for a board meeting video is 37 with the average viewing time 2 minutes and 46 seconds.

“That’s kind of the YouTube analytics,” she said. “When we looked at that, we saw we aren’t really getting a lot of views on these videos.”

When comparing other surrounding school districts, Schroeder said only two out of 11 districts (Pulaski and Green Bay) post video recordings of board meetings with Green Bay having closed captioning and Pulaski currently not having it, while the other nine districts have type minutes posted.

Though Rev.com would be the less expensive option of the two for closed captioning, Truskowski noted there would be a delay of around a day or two before that service creates the captions for a video to be shown online.

“We could do certain meetings – sure – there’s still going to be the cost of upgrading the equipment, though,” he said. “I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot, but maybe part of the reason people aren’t watching is because of the quality of video, too, because our equipment here is pretty old.”

Keith Lucius, district business director, said conversations he has had with other districts indicate that no longer having live broadcasts will result in better attendance from the public at board meetings, while money that wouldn’t be spent for closed captioning could be used for educational purposes.

“As you saw by the comparables, most of the districts aren’t (posting videos of board meetings),” Lucius said. “Really – it’s just the financial burden – it’s money being taken away from education, basically, that we’re putting into equipment, maintenance and subtitles. And then also we hear quality issues with subtitles that they’re not accurate all the time…”

Though he favors having meetings open to the public as much as possible, Lucius said the requirement to have closed captioning for videos has “put us in a situation where you’re seeing a lot of governmental entities no longer broadcasting.”

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