Cherry Creek School District Headquarters. Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

This perfectly describes a fixable community problem: Cherry Creek schools is the largest district in Colorado that does not livestream or broadcast its school board meetings.

If you’re like many parents, students, teachers and taxpayers who want to know what issues the school district is facing and what elected leaders and top administrators are doing about them, the lack of watching from home is a real problem.

School districts for Denver, Douglas County, Jefferson County, Aurora and bevy of smaller and rural school districts livestream, broadcast or at least video record school board meetings. It’s not just for the convenience of school district stakeholders, it’s often a necessity for those interested enough in all or part of a school board meeting to observe what takes place — and in the best scenario — even participate in the meeting remotely.

The Cherry Creek schools community knows this is possible, because the school district did it during the pandemic.

While the entire world was turned upside down the pandemic, virtual government meetings — a byproduct of necessity and technological progress — have been a boon to transparency, accountability and public engagement in what is often obscure government business.

Cherry Creek district officials broadcast the meetings along with just about every other school district in Colorado for more than a year.

Then they stopped.

While most school boards have a permanent home for regular public meetings, Cherry Creek, for years, has purposely moved the meetings across and around the school district. The school board meets in the gym, cafeteria or other common space in schools all over the district.

Proponents say that having school board meetings “in everyone’s corner” of the district brings the governing board of the district closer to everyone.

Not really.

By moving the meetings all over the sprawling school district, the relatively few people willing or able to turn out for the meetings have to trek all over southeast Aurora, Centennial, Glendale and Greenwood Village to find where in a school — not set up or equipped for large public meetings — they can observe what their elected officials are doing.

It’s because Cherry Creek keeps their school board show on the road about twice each month, that school officials say it would be too difficult to stream or broadcast the meetings.

It’s time to make a change for the good of the school board, the public and the employees, find a place to meet and stay there. The benefits of allowing not just the district, but the entire region to tune into these meetings, and hopefully participate remotely in comment, far outweigh the actual hassle and perceived benefit in schlepping the board meetings all over the region.

In a clear parallel to mail-in voting at home, the convenience of not having to leave home to vote has been a huge boon to public participation. Watching government meetings remotely has the same potential to increase engagement and participation. 

The students themselves could harness the amazing power of and prowess of the school district to broadcast the meetings, held, permanently, from one of the district’s larger and more technologically equipped schools, or perhaps from the dais of a city hall or the school district headquarters itself.

There is no debating that the district has the resources, and certainly the need, to provide remote access to the school board meetings.

If the school board insists that having roving confabs somehow benefits the district, then the school board should also ensure Cherry Creek goes the distance in ensuring all of the meetings are made public via streaming.

After initial criticism of the lack of remote public access, the school district agreed to post audio recordings of the board meetings on its website. It’s somewhat helpful to some, but not at all the same as virtual, live access.

Stream the meetings and allow anyone in the district interested or concerned about the school district to see for themselves what’s going on

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. Excellent piece! Plus access is a clear right to full and equal participation under Colorado’s civil rights statute for community members who may not drive, who may be caregivers at home or be disabled. Remote streaming and participation is a digital equalizer.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *