Sunday, February 22, 2015

School District News

Candid Camera

Trustees vote down motion to put meetings online

Staff/Voice file photo


SD33 trustees Walt Krahn (L to R), Martha Weins, Paul McManus, Dan Coulter, Heather Maahs and Sylvia Dyck the night of their swearing-in December 6, 2014 after the last elections.


ast Tuesday, School District 33 Board voted down motion (4.1), brought forward by Heather Maahs, that the Board record its regular public meetings and make them available to the public over the internet.


Trustees weren’t convinced that it wouldn’t add stress on the budget so they nipped it in the bud.


Trustee Sylvia Dyck says the Board has no cost information.


"We should know the financial impact of decisions beforehand. Boards of Education have now been directed to cut 29 million from their administration budget and in this climate we should add expenditures not directly related to student achievement? One should always be thoughtful about spending taxpayers' dollars,” she said.


Later, Dyck was asked if the current amendment included language that specifies this motion cannot be tabled again at a later date, for instance after the Board's prerequisites are met, but has not yet responded.


Schools Boards around the province have already been put on notice to trim costs to the tune of $50M over the next 3 years. So needless to say, Trustees don’t want to spend money in a time of austerity.


If the BC government doesn't give out the final cut numbers until March 17, and put the cash on the table until the end of April, were SD33 Trustees jumping the gun with reasons for denying this motion?


Many will say that the BC government hasn’t had a stable funding base in place for decades.


But if there is belt-tightening to do, then Secretary Treasurers are going to have to sharpen their pencils and figure out what their options are. Look for excesses, and maybe figure out ways to generate revenue, like allowing more corporate involvement and working logo deals.


Trustee Heather Maahs opposed the amended motion because according to her, it fundamentally changed the intent of the motion.


“The function of the board is to set the direction, and the staff carries it out. This amended motion gives no direction and no timeline for brining back the “explored possibilities,” she said in an email last week.


“In the meeting, I also stated that our current strategic plan has Engagement and Technology as two pillars. This motion of recording out meetings simply puts those two items into practical use. And of course, ultimately it’s about an elected body being transparent for our community. That’s really the bottom line.”


Peter Sacha, former Director of the Cultus Lake Park Board (CLPB), whose board also dealt with a similar motion last year, said the small cost was worth it and it sailed right through on the first reading. That despite CLPB's limited budget.


"The costs were completely justifiable. In the 21st century there is no reason not to do it," he said in an email last week.


The reason was because it made perfect sense. At the time, Peter argued that the price of getting an internet camera and posting meetings online was relatively minor.


“A camera with a couple lenses (one focuses on the boardroom, the other is a wide-angle shot of the public gallery for when they ask questions or when there are delegations presenting to the board) was mounted onto the ceiling. This was wired up to a server computer in the backroom,” explained Peter. “Someone just went in the room and turned on a switch when the meetings began. Then they flipped it off at the end. The recording was then sent to an online video streaming provider. Basically, it was just a "glorified YouTube clip" that would run for five hours instead of five minutes.”


"Our primary motivation at the Cultus Lake Park Board was two-fold: to allow people that were unable to come on Wednesday evenings to attend board meetings to watch the proceedings (at any time of day), and to improve accuracy of reporting on meetings," he said.


Having recorded meetings could be a chance to get students more involved in what is happening in their district by having teachers include watching the meetings as part of the criteria, and even quiz them on it.


With cameras, the Board would be adding a lot more passengers to the bus without decreasing gas mileage. In other words, everyone gets their money’s worth, especially taxpayers.


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