BURLINGTON — Several Burlington Area School District Board members and Superintendent Peter Smet have expressed skepticism about a proposal to broadcast School Board meetings.
The proposal was brought forward May 6 by board member Taylor Wishau, who pitched the idea as a way to reach out and engage the community.
“It’s just a tool for those who want to be here but can’t be here,” said Wishau. “This is kind of the way the world is so I think we should move in that direction.”
Wishau proposed having Burlington High School film students record the meetings either for live streaming or to be uploaded later to the district’s website.
“I don’t see a negative to this,” he said.
Smet gave two arguments against the proposal; first, he argued that board members would not feel as comfortable having in-depth conversations with an audience.
“When we go into closed session, the board is able to go into richer, deeper conversation,” said Smet. “This could limit discussion at the board level.”
Second, he argued, it would be an expense for the school district since lighting, audio and closed-caption service would need to be incorporated.
“I don’t want to say never. We will probably be doing town hall meetings differently than we do now,” said Smet. “But I would caution you if you proceed with this.”
Board member Barry Schmaling pointed out that the recordings would become public record and would need to be archived and stored.
“I’m all about open records, but our money really needs to be focused on the students getting the best education they can,” said Schmaling. “There’s some resistance to people sitting on-camera wanting to participate ... I’m not super in favor myself but I’m open to ideas.”
Wishau said the cameras should encourage people’s willingness to speak on issues.
“We shouldn’t be afraid to speak our mind, since we are elected by people to do what they say,” said Wishau.
Racine Unified broadcasts its board meetings on public access Channel 20 for RUSD. RUSD also uploads the videos to its BoardDocs web page.
BASD’s Communications Committee voted to move the proposal to the full board for discussion at tonight’s School Board meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the district office, 100 N. Kane St.