Laurie Downs says she’ll no longer be behind a camera at Riverhead school board meetings. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)
Laurie Downs has videotaped her last Riverhead school board meeting.
The Polish Town resident and school board watchdog announced her decision to step down from the responsibility during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting.
“I’ve been doing this for the community for 15 years,” she said about her volunteerism. “I’m 59 years old. I was 44 when I started this. Tonight’s my swan song. Tonight is the last night of videotaping. I will still be here, but I will not be shuffling back and forth [between the school and Riverhead Town Hall] with any disks.”
The decision comes after vice president Sue Koukounas suggested at the May 26 school board meeting that the district upload the videos to its website along with continuing to air the recordings on public access, an idea Ms. Downs said she was “thrilled” about.
“For years, we were told it couldn’t happen,” Ms. Downs said. “Now we have the mechanism to do it. I’m very happy about that.”
The plan to post school board meetings online came after Ms. Koukounas said she had heard several complaints about how some meetings weren’t aired on public access. Posting the videos in BoardDocs, the same software that organizes the school board’s meeting agendas and minutes, would be beneficial to the community because residents could watch the videos at their convenience, she said.
Under the current videotaping arrangement, Ms. Downs records the meetings with the district’s equipment and school officials burn the videos onto DVDs. After a meeting is over, Ms. Downs returns the equipment to the school, picks up a DVD recording of the previous meeting, and delivers it to Town Hall to air on Channel 22, which is the town’s public access channel. The district sends the recordings directly to Southampton Town.
As a volunteer, Ms. Downs receives no compensation for her efforts.
After school board member Lori Hulse thanked Ms. Downs for her service, she said Riverhead and Southampton towns are currently negotiating their 10-year renewal franchise agreements with Cablevision and believes grant money is available for providing a camera person to video record meetings.
“It’s a public obligation,” Ms. Hulse said. “I think this is something we should pursue with the towns.”
Superintendent Nancy Carney and school board president Greg Meyer said while the district has attempted to pursue such a plan in the past, agreed to revisit those efforts.
“We’ll give it a try, again,” Mr. Meyer said.