Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Conducting a Teleconference

Here is how you conduct a teleconference. Maybe I should have written this over the week-end and sent it to the Richland 2 School Board. No doubt there are manuals and experts available. There is probably even a Teleconferencing for Dummies.

- Provide a telephone number that can be called for the public to join the Livestream event. The S.C.School Boards Assn. (SCSBA) provided this guidance ("If telephonic methods are used, the public must (emphasis in the original) be provided a call-in number, preferably one with the ability to mute the public participants). Richland 2 did not do that!

- Test the system thoroughly ahead of time. Make sure the lines (telephone, computer) work! Work out the bugs ahead of time.
- Provide the board members with a private telephone number to call, if the line of communication is broken or impaired.
- Inform the board of proper teleconferencing conduct.
- The Chair is in charge. Don't talk until recognized. And then, keep it short. No grandstanding.
- When the meeting starts, the Chair should direct the Secretary to call the roll.
- The Secretary should call out the name of each board member and the Supt.
- The verbal response is "Present in person" or "Present by remote connection".
 - Last night there was no identification of remote attendees until the Board & Supt. Comments. There was only a brief mention after the vote on the Consent Agenda that some board members were tele-conferencing.
- Upon completing the roll call, the Secretary announces the number present in person, the number attending remotely, the number absent or excused, and whether a quorum is present. (A quorum needs to be present in person.)
- The Chair moves forward with business.

- Provide the public with a separate Help Line telephone number to call or text, if the Livestream breaks down or if they cannot hear or understand what is being broadcast. A staff member could receive those messages and inform the Chair that the public cannot hear or understand.

- If the public cannot hear or understand, the meeting must stop until the problem is corrected.

- During Livestream (audio only) events, the Secretary should call the roll for every vote. Richland 2 is a public body. The public is entitled to be told what is happening.
- When the Secretary calls the roll, the response from a member should be Yea, Nay, Abstain. If the member does not respond to the first or second call, the Secretary announces that Trustee __(name)__ is not voting.
- The Secretary announces the number of Yeas and Nays  and whether the motions passes or fails.
- The correct reporting of a failed motion is "The vote is 2-5. The motion fails."

When entering Executive Session, a roll call vote should be taken. When telephonic attendance is involved, the member must confirm that no one is present who can overhead any part of the meeting, including the remote member's spoken words.

- Members attending by telephone are to provide their reason for so doing (Board Policy)

- Currently, the Chair reports who made and seconded the motion to end Executive Session. That is not necessary.
- What is necessary, and is not done, is a roll call vote to re-convene the public session. The Board never does this. Which means that, legally, the Regular Meeting never has re-convened. This should be by roll call vote.

- Every member should be instructed to interrupt and speak up if s/he cannot hear everything that is being said.

- Likewise, no member should interrupt and just begin speaking. When a member has something to say, s/he should attract the attention of the Chair and, if attending remotely, provide his/her last name. Not only will it be clear to the Chair who is speaking, but also the Public will know.

- Members need to be reminded that Board Policy instructs members to address only the Chair. This rule is not followed, even in non-Livestream meetings.

During audio Livestream meetings, the Chair should ask the Secretary to call the roll and report the result for every vote on a motion. Otherwise, the public cannot know what is happening.

I'm sure there are additional procedures, and a teleconferencing consultant could advise the board.

If you have ideas for improving last night's call, post them in comments below. Or email them to  Your name or email address will not be published, unless you approve.