BY SONYA HERRERA
Daily Post Staff Writer
Todd Collins, president of the Palo Alto school board, has an additional volunteer job few people know about: camera operator for Ravenswood City School Board in East Palo Alto.
Collins is the sole member of the TV crew for the Ravenswood meetings. Currently, the district just records audio of the meetings, which isn’t available online. Collins livestreams videos of the meetings on the Ravenswood CA School Board Meetings Facebook page. The videos are not currently broadcast on cable television or other online media outlets, however.
Collins said he first became involved with the Palo Alto school board after his kids grew out of sports and activities that he could help with.
“I found myself with an interest supporting youth in our community,” Collins said.
He first served as chair of the Palo Alto Unified School District’s elementary subcommittee before being elected to its board of education in 2016.
But Collins soon realized that students in the neighboring school district, many from low-income families, are in greater need of help. He said he felt a kinship with Ravenswood board members, given that his own school district had gone through turmoil a few years ago, including the resignation of a superintendent mid-year. Ravenswood’s superintendent had also resigned in February amid controversy. Collins started reaching out to Ravenswood school board members and the interim superintendent.
Helping people follow their school board
“One of the things I realized is that it was hard for people in the community to follow what was going on,” Collins said, noting that at the time, meetings at Ravenswood were not being video recorded.
Collins has some technology experience, so he was able to identify the equipment that was needed in order to record the board meetings. The Ravenswood Education Foundation paid for the equipment, which cost about $700, according to Collins.
“All that was needed was someone to set it up every time and broadcast the meetings,” Collins said.
Since it was his idea, Collins volunteered.
Gina Sudaria, superintendent for Ravenswood, said anyone is welcome to record the board meetings. “It allows for our meetings to be spread across the community if (people are) not able to come to the meeting,” Sudaria said. “We’re able to reach a broader audience.”
District has challenges
Ravenswood currently faces a $1.35 million funding gap and is preparing to close two elementary schools. Most, though not all, school districts in the area video record their board meetings.
Collins said parents and community members need a way to tune into meetings from home.
“People work hard, their days are long… the idea of going to a school board meeting is really hard,” Collins said.
Many people tune in to Palo Alto Unified board meetings online. Now, because of Collins, Ravenswood City School District residents have the same opportunity.