Schools on TV: Districts Discuss Funding For Cable Channel
Three District Board Meeting focuses on better use of cable TV fees for Channel 99
Fenton, Lake Fenton and Linden schools' three superintendents agree — they'd like to work together and keep PEG funding for their districts. It pays for equipment used in support of local access cable TV Channel 99. Students learn to use the equipment, which the districts don't have to purchase.
In addition, if the three school districts can, they'd like to make Channel 99 better for the community, said Superintendent Ed Koledo, of Linden. An idea is having a menu of local programs cable TV customers can select from and watch what they want to when they want to, "on demand." When they have relatives visiting, for example, they can show their son playing at a local high school football game, Koledo said. Now, cable customers don't know if the game will be shown, and when.
She said the on demand idea is great and asked whether any other public access channels have it. Superintendent Wayne Wright, from Lake Fenton Community Schools, said he hasn't seen a public access channel with on demand. A local government official suggested it at a meeting.
Broadcasting school budget meetings on Channel 99 would be beneficial, since it would show taxpayers what school boards discussed and decided on, Koledo said.
Fenton Superintendent Dr. Timothy Jalkanen said Public Educational and Government (PEG) funding is nationwide. It presents great opportunities for local students, who are learning computer, camera and other skills. "We want to make it as good as we can," Jalkanen said.
Locally, PEG money supports Channel 99 and comes from a 2 percent fee local cable television customers pay, said Wright. The most recent numbers he has show 10,000 Charter Communications customers in Fenton Township, Fenton, Tyrone Township and Linden.
These four local governments are part of the Fenton Area Cable Television (F.A.C.T.) Consortium, which formed in 1996. Under the consortium, cable TV customers in the consortium area began paying a 5 percent franchise fee for the four local governments' use. This 5 percent franchise fee offsets maintenance costs in the municipality's utility right-of-way. The 2 percent PEG fee also is charged to customers living in the consortium area, for public access to a cable TV channel and production facilities. This was Channel 19 and changed to Channel 99.
School districts can apply for grants from the PEG funding, which the local municipalities in the consortium must approve. F.A.C.T. members have some concerns, since money is building up that isn't being spent. In addition, they'd like to know how schools are using the money. When they are told, they're very pleased, Koledo said.
At the Three District Board Meeting on Wednesday at Lake Fenton Community School's administration building on Torrey Road, Fenton, Lake Fenton and Linden schools' superintendents and some board members discussed five proposals for new F.A.C.T. by-laws. The superintendents recently met with the F.A.C.T. board. On Wednesday, Koledo presented the five focus areas, which include hiring a full-time or part-time PEG coordinator. Proposed salary ranges are $25,000-30,000 for full-time and $5,000-7,000 for part-time.
A legal question is whether PEG money could pay for it, Wright said. Originally, discussion was to have each school district and local government pay $5,000 toward the salary. But local governments don't have the funding for it.
The superintendents believe it's critical to have someone coordinating the programs to get it going in the direction they'd like, Wright said.
Other legal questions are whether the F.A.C.T. consortium can even exist anymore, Koledo said. Cable franchise rules might have changed to single municipalities and, if so, the consortium might be able to reform under a PEG Consortium. Fenton City Manager Lynn Markland is contacting an attorney knowledgeable on telecommunications laws.
In addition, the F.A.C.T. by-laws need to be affirmed, Koledo said. There is a question of whether the F.A.C.T. board officially passed its by-laws when they were revised in 2008.
Wright said the by-law issue must go to local governments, which are checking regulations to see what can and cannot be done. Possible new F.A.C.T. by-laws include setting a job description and pay scale for the Education and Government (EG) Coordinator.
In addition, the three school districts each would like to have one, non-voting representative on the consortium board. Another proposal is setting inventory reporting requirements for studios PEG funds support, along with equipment replacement, repair and disposal procedures. Wright said the EG Coordinator could gather information on new equipment each school district needs, and what equipment needs repair.
Specific requirements for bi-annual reporting would give the F.A.C.T. board information on financial allocations and programming successes and challenges, Koledo said. A timeline and specific critera for grant applications would be created, along with long-term goals for programming.
Secretary Alberta Martin, of Lake Fenton schools, said, "It's starting up again and it's exciting. It's a program that kids need in the high school." The three superintendents from Lake Fenton, Fenton and Linden are new and doing a great job and what they need to do for the kids and their education, Martin said.
Dave Gallinat, from Fenton Area Public Schools, has been involved with the PEG funding, Jalkanen said. Gallinat assisted with research on the issue for the three school districts.
Previous Three District Board Meetings have focused on services the districts share, and special education.