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Action, but no lights or camera

LR School District cuts TV coverage.

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It didn't used to matter much whether the Little Rock School Board's agenda meetings were televised. Historically, they were informal, with board members sitting around tables on the floor instead of behind their microphones on the dais, and extremely short — as short as 10 or 15 minutes — with little if any substantive discussion.

That changed earlier this year as the controversy over former Superintendent Roy Brooks' future heated up. The board frequently tacked special meetings on after agenda meetings, or got involved in sometimes heated debate over what issues would or wouldn't be on the agenda for future meetings. The district began televising those meetings on its public access channel.

So when the Dec. 6 agenda meeting — which stretched to two hours with a discussion of the planned new West Little Rock school — wasn't televised, the district heard about it from at least a few parents, spurred on by an e-mail sent out by Stacy Sells Pittman, a public relations executive and district parent.

Pittman's e-mail questioned whether interim Superintendent Linda Watson intended to make board meetings less accessible to district parents. Watson said that wasn't the case.

Watson said several board members had asked to go back to the informal set-up on the floor, which doesn't allow for televising. Since they've now gotten requests to televise the meetings again, Watson said, she planned to check on the cost and let the board decide.

District spokesman Joe Mittiga said the cost would be minimal: Paying one camera operator for the duration of the meeting.

However, board President Katherine Mitchell said she had no plans to bring the issue up, and no other board members addressed it at the Dec. 13 regular meeting, although three reached by phone — Baker Kurrus, Melanie Fox and Micheal Daugherty — said they had no objections to televising the meetings.

“Only one person wrote an e-mail about it,” Mitchell said. “I don't think people are concerned. It's just something for people to nitpick about.”

She said there was no reason to televise agenda meetings because board members don't discuss anything. The discussion of the West Little Rock school at that Dec. 6 meeting was so long because district staff had gathered information with the intention of presenting it at a board retreat that was postponed until January, and presented it at the agenda meeting instead.

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