‘A worthwhile investment’

New Marshalltown School Board audio, video equipment praised

“It’s been long overdue, and helps us communicate our message more clearly and distinctly to the community.”

That’s how Marshalltown School Board President Bea Niblock described recent audio and video system upgrades in the board meeting room. She said she heard many complaints from audience members about the previous system.

“We know that the community was concerned,” Niblock said, adding she had heard from audience members “saying that they had been to a meeting and sat near the front and still couldn’t hear.”

District Director of Technology Josh Wesley said the total cost of the audio-video overhaul was $38,113. New microphones, an upgraded projector and two television monitors were among the improvements.

The delayed broadcast audio and video also saw an upgrade.

“If you were watching [board meetings] on TV later, I got complaints that it was virtually impossible to hear what was going on,” said board member Mike Miller. “Just from the perspective of being open and transparent and letting people know what’s happening with the board, I think that, in particular, the improved sound system was a great thing.”

He added some estimates for the project came in around $70,000, and that he was happy to see the changes made at a much lower cost.

Board member Sean Heitmann said there is a stark difference between the current system and the previous one.

“I’ve noticed better ability to hear speakers and presenters, better ability to see their presentations,” he said. “I think it was a worthwhile investment.”

Board member Ben Fletcher, who voted in favor of audio improvements but against video improvements, said he is happy with the results.

“I think the audio equipment, specifically, was necessary,” he said. “I think the video is valuable; I wasn’t sure that it was as necessary as the audio, which is why I voted against that portion of it, but it is helpful.”

Niblock and Heitmann said the new monitor screens allow the board to view presentations and presenters at the same time, without turning their backs on speakers. Previously, the board had to turn around to view a projector screen behind the front table.

“Having to turn around and look at that screen forced the board to turn our backs on the speakers,” Niblock said. “With the video screens, we now can continue to face the speaker, which is much more polite.”

The board members also praised the upgraded projector for its brighter screen, which allows presentations to take place with the room lights on.

Mechdyne Corporation won the bid to add the audio and video equipment last year. The audio bid was passed by the board 4-2, with member Ross Harris and former member Kendall Derby as the “no” votes; the video bid was passed 4-1, with Fletcher as the “no” vote.

“I’m happy with the results, and I do think it has improved the ability of the public to see and hear the meetings,” Fletcher said.

Niblock said she has heard positive feedback.

“At the first meeting that we had the microphones and the new video equipment, I asked individuals in the back … if they could hear, and they indicated that yes, indeed they could,” she said. “I think that it’s proven itself that the audience can hear and see more clearly.”

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com