|As promised, Los Altos City Council member David Casas came to the local high school district Monday to once again pitch his idea for having the school board's meetings televised.
The last time he sprung the idea, during a June 9 joint meeting between the two governing bodies, Casas got a chilly reception from the trustees, who were upset with the manner of his presentation. This time didn't go much better, after trustees agreed there is not enough interest from the board or community to broadcast their meetings.
Los Altos City Council meetings are carried live on public television, and Casas said the Mountain View Los Altos High School District board should also broadcast in order to promote "governance and transparency."
He first brought up the idea earlier this year, and at that time trustees worried that videotaping would distract the board members during meetings. They also said the cost <0x2014> almost $1,000 per meeting <0x2014> was too expensive, especially considering looming budget cuts.
Then on June 9, Casas, who is a high school district parent, surprised and angered both council and school board members when he announced plans for a pilot program -- paid for by his own employer -- to televise 10 of the board's meetings. Casas works as a manager for LifeScan, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson.
The "pilot program" idea was disavowed by his fellow council members and rejected by the trustees, who were miffed at the way he presented the idea without warning.
Casas returned to the district board Monday with a new offer: This time, televising the board's meetings would be paid for using Los Altos city funds -- specifically, a portion of $750,000 the city has received from Comcast for city fees. He said he had discussed the issue with council member Ron Packard, who attended the meeting, but not with other council members.
"I know there are pressing expenses," Casas told the trustees during their meeting this week. "There is a way to make this reality."
Throughout his presentation to the board, Casas said other local school districts, such as Franklin-McKinley School District in San Jose, had turned to broadcasting in the hopes of involving more residents in local discussion. But school board president Judy Hannemann turned that example on its head, saying she spoke with Franklin-McKinley district trustees about televised meetings and heard only negative things: Being on camera distracted them and caused them to bicker, she said, making the board less effective.
"It was a board that had gotten along before, and then they didn't."
Several trustees said they were once again turned off by Casas' presentation -- a perception reminiscent of the June 9 meeting, when trustees said they might have considered the idea were it not for the council member's difficult manner and lack of tact.
This week, after trustee Susan Sweeley asked several questions to clarify Casas' proposal, Casas told her, "The way I speak may not be the way you listen."
Ultimately, trustees said they could not accept an offer for Los Altos to pay for the broadcasting without consent from all of the city council members.
"I would not want to spend school money to fix potholes," Superintendent Barry Groves said later to the Voice. He added that the board makes the final decision.
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