Maryland BOE fumbles live-streamed meeting

Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon is pictured during a news conference Wednesday, March 18. The State Board of Education did not make a decision during its live-streamed teleconference Tuesday, March 24, on whether to issue a further statewide public schools closure in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

ANNAPOLIS — After a two-hour delayed start to the public portion of its live-streamed teleconference, the Maryland State Board of Education launched into a COVID-19 update — only to deliver spotty audio, and ultimately, fail to update the public on coronavirus-fueled school closures before calling an abrupt early adjournment.

The Tuesday, March 24, meeting’s untimely end followed at least two failed attempts by technicians to correct audio issues with the livestream after listeners complained that the connection was repeatedly cutting out while State Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon and other board members were talking.

Dr. Miya Simpson, executive director of the state board, attributed the audio fumble to “a lot of traffic” on the website, with many Marylanders tuning in to the livestream in anticipation of an announcement concerning a prolonged statewide closure of public schools to help combat the spread of COVID-19.

The board members acknowledged the number of people visiting the Maryland State Department of Education’s website during the livestream amounted to “much more traffic than we typically receive.”

Before the livestream audio cut out, though, Salmon appeared to be easing the group into its public discussion about whether to keep schools closed past the already-issued two-week shutdown.

The superintendent said, “I’m sure everyone knows the circumstances surrounding this virus continue to change on a daily basis, sometimes hourly or minute-by-minute.”

Salmon said MSDE has taken “some very unprecedented steps to protect our school communities and also to curb the spread of the virus in our state,” which provided local school systems time to prepare for a potential longterm closure.

“As the potential for longer school closures exists ... we’ve started to work very closely with our local superintendents so they can let us know how they can maintain the continuity of learning as soon as possible for all of our students,” she said.

Salmon then handed the mic to Carol Williamson, deputy superintendent for teaching and learning, to discuss local superintendents’ prospective plans. But, just as Williamson began to speak, the audio dropped again and the board determined it would take a 20-minute break to address the livestream issues.

When the board returned, discussion cautiously resumed among the members under the looming possibility of another interruption because of poor audio.

Members could be heard on the livestream saying things like, “We’ve got to vote on this” and “Well, we can’t wait on this.”

It’s unclear precisely what measure the board members were planning to vote on, as a motion to vote was never made. But the board decided to adjourn early after one of the members objected to continuing the meeting knowing many public listeners were not able to hear them.

The board ended the meeting without publicly making a decision concerning further school closures.

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