The actual resolution is a model of such things: simple and easy to read, yet complete enough to cover the territory, and leaving no doubts as to the board’s position. Congratulations to LCBOE on that resolution!
Playlist, called meeting, Lowndes County Board of Education (LCBOE),
Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 30 August 2011.
Videos by Gretchen Quarterman and John S. Quarterman
for LAKE, the Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange.
Let me also take a moment to thank some LCBOE staff.
Thanks to Terri Welden, Assistant to the Superintendent, for helping me arrive in plenty of time for the meeting. I live half an hour north of LHS, so that’s important; traffic could cause delays, and with lead time everything can be set up properly. As Ashley Paulk can attest, I often arrive at the last minute or even one minute after to Lowndes County Commission meetings, and this precedent will help me change that bad habit. Thanks, Terri!
“Visual, sound, and visual and sound recording during open meetings shall be permitted.”This clause applies to school systems:
O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1-c.
50-14-1. (a) As used in this chapter, the term: (1) ‘Agency’ means: (A) Every state department, agency, board, bureau, commission, public corporation, and authority; (B) Every county, municipal corporation, school district, or other political subdivision of this state; (C) Every department, agency, board, bureau, commission, authority, or similar body of each such county, municipal corporation, or other political subdivision of the state; …And a school board meeting including a vote must be an open meeting for the resolution to have any validity:
(2) ‘Meeting’ means the gathering of a quorum of the members of the governing body of an agency or of any committee of its members created by such governing body, whether standing or special, pursuant to schedule, call, or notice of or from such governing body or committee or an authorized member, at a designated time and place at which any public matter, official business, or policy of the agency is to be discussed or presented or at which official action is to be taken or, in the case of a committee, recommendations on any public matter, official business, or policy to the governing body are to be formulated, presented, or discussed. The assembling together of a quorum of the members of a governing body or committee for the purpose of making inspections of physical facilities under the jurisdiction of such agency or for the purposes of meeting with the governing bodies, officers, agents, or employees of other agencies at places outside the geographical jurisdiction of an agency and at which no final official action is to be taken shall not be deemed a ‘meeting.’ (b) Except as otherwise provided by law, all meetings as defined in subsection (a) of this Code section shall be open to the public. Any resolution, rule, regulation, ordinance, or other official action of an agency adopted, taken, or made at a meeting which is not open to the public as required by this chapter shall not be binding. Any action contesting a resolution, rule, regulation, ordinance, or other formal action of an agency based on an alleged violation of this provision must be commenced within 90 days of the date such contested action was taken, provided that any action under this chapter contesting a zoning decision of a local governing authority shall be commenced within the time allowed by law for appeal of such zoning decision. (c) The public at all times shall be afforded access to meetings declared open to the public pursuant to subsection (b) of this Code section. Visual, sound, and visual and sound recording during open meetings shall be permitted.Note that that says “the public” shall be afforded access, and recording “shall be permitted”. Not just by news media, and there is no requirement to ask permission first. Attorney Turner was good enough to confirm all this.
LAKE of course is a news medium, according to the definitions in the OPEN Government Act of 2007.
[T]he term ‘a representative of the news media’ means any person or entity that gathers information of potential interest to a segment of the public, uses its editorial skills to turn the raw materials into a distinct work, and distributes that work to an audience. In this clause, the term ‘news’ means information that is about current events or that would be of current interest to the public. Examples of news-media entities are television or radio stations broadcasting to the public at large and publishers of periodicals (but only if such entities qualify as disseminators of ‘news’) who make their products available for purchase by or subscription by or free distribution to the general public. These examples are not all-inclusive. Moreover, as methods of news delivery evolve (for example, the adoption of the electronic dissemination of newspapers through telecommunications services), such alternative media shall be considered to be news-media entities.That law is one of the most bipartisan acts of Congress ever, sponsored by 17 Senators ranging from Sen. Barack Obama to Sen. Johnny Isakson.
I’m sure everyone is familiar with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.Freedom of the press was so important to the founders of this country that they put it first in the Bill of Rights. It is no less important today.
Local governmental entities seem well aware that LAKE covers many local meetings and other events in its blog, On the LAKE Front. I’d like to thank Warren Turner for taking the time to personally assure me on camera that if I wanted to video the LCBOE meeting, I could.
Finally, as an LHS graduate and former Star Student, I would like to thank Superintendent Steve Smith for his warm personal welcome in his office before the meeting. My family counted the late Superintendent Sonny Martin as a family friend, but I have to say even he, known for his friendliness, never laid on a welcome quite like that one!
I hope the numerous video cameras in the audience at that board meeting (I counted at least four) recorded enough to satisfy the board and staff. I know we of LAKE accomplished what we went there for: we recorded an historic moment, and we posted it on the web for the public to see now and later. Personally, I think it was a marvelous PR opportunity for the Lowndes County School System, and for its cooperation with the Valdosta City School System. All the video cameras in the room helped make that PR opportunity a reality.
Let’s review the important lessons the Head Learner and his staff have provided for the Lowndes County School System and for all of us.
Arrive early! That way you’ll have time to set up, and to go to any unexpected meetings with local dignitaries. Thanks Terri Welden!
Open meetings are open to all citizens, press or not, and Georgia law says anyone can record sound or visuals of an open meeting. That plus press and other media are valuable components of an open society, and local public officials are eager to cooperate with them. Thanks Attorney Turner!
Always extend a warm welcome to visiting citizens and members of the press. They’re helping you do your job as elected, appointed, or employed officials, and helping the public know about it. Thanks Superintendent Smith!
And congratulations once again on that resolution!