BOE meetings turn digital with Livestream

Minah Kim, News Editor

For the first time ever, anyone with internet access could watch a Board of Education meeting from his or her home or office.  The school district broadcast the meeting live on Portnet.  The live stream started at 8 p.m., and viewers could chat in the sidebar during the meeting.  During the first several minutes, microphones were not working properly, but all the glitches were quickly ironed out and people were able to view the entire BOE meeting live online and play it back afterwards.

Several members of the Board of Education asked district administrators to investigate whether a live stream could be implemented and the potential costs involved.

Assistant Superintendent Ms. Mary Callahan and Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Mooney worked with the Director of Technology, Mr. David Baylen, to learn how streaming works, what equipment would be needed, and how quickly it could be set up.

“I’m very pleased to be part of this exciting project.  I believe that it demonstrates our school district’s vision of utilizing technology to enhance all aspects of our school programs and will be a great benefit to the Port Washington Community,” said Mr. Baylen.

In Mr. Baylen’s absence, because of a short medical leave, Mr. David Israel worked with the BOE to set up the stream.  District Information Technology Aide, Mr. Chris Johnert, and Mr. Phil Macedonio from the print shop worked on the project as well.

“The introduction of live video streaming of school board meetings is an exciting opportunity to utilize technology to enhance the school district’s communication with the community,” said Mr. Baylen.  “The Board of Education and our new Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Mooney are committed to providing open access to board meetings to those members of the community that cannot attend in person.”

To make this project possible, the district had to purchase a video camera similar to the one purchased for the TV studio.  The district also has to pay a subscription fee to the streaming service it is using.

To support this video streaming project, members of the technology department worked in collaboration with the district’s facilities department to install new network cabling into the projection booth in Schreiber.  This new network connection is being used to broadcast the video stream and will be available for use by the Schreiber theater arts department.  In addition, the district purchased a new HDMI capable video camera and a live stream broadcaster, which is a device that allows for video streaming without using a dedicated computer.  This enables a direct and reliable connection to the Livestream online service.

Technology department staff worked to configure and test the new equipment, as well as establish the online account with Livestream.

“We will be updating and maintaining the new Board video channel on the district web site.  Working through the district’s business office, we trained the staff members who are responsible for the setup of equipment and video recording of Board meetings,” said Mr. Baylen.

Mr. Baylen worked on the setup and Mr. Macedonio, who has filmed BOE meetings in the past, did the actual filming.

“This is beneficial for the community and the District because it provides more people with the opportunity to view BOE meeting proceedings, especially if they are unable to go out at night.  It makes the BOE meetings accessible to more people in the community,” said Dr. Mooney.

In the future, the livestream could be used to communicate with viewers at home.

“I’m really impressed that Dr. Mooney was able to get this beta version of the webcast going,” said Mr. William Hohauser, Vice President of the BOE at the Board meeting.  “I’m not usually texting during the meeting but there is a chat feature on here.  I’m chatting with all you viewers at home.  I don’t know if we want to get to the point of fielding questions through the chat feature.  It’s a possibility that we have opened up here.  At the very least it is ready for advertising, to let people know that it is working well.  Hats off to Dr. Mooney for getting this going in a very quick manner.  It looks like this is a success.”

“I just wanted to say that Dr. Mooney and everyone here needs a green room now.  We need hair and makeup,” said Ms. Karen Sloan, President of the BOE.