Following a controversial decision last month by Rainbow District School Board trustees to restrict who is allowed to videorecord their meetings, the board is now looking into videorecording its own meetings.
Trustee Robert Kirwan brought forward a motion at the trustees' Dec. 18 meeting, asking that all regular and special board meetings be videorecorded and posted on on the school board's website within 24 hours for viewing by the public.
However, at the request of trustee Judy Hunda, trustees voted unanimously to defer the issue to the board's next meeting, scheduled to take place Jan. 29, to give board staff time to find out how much the initiative might cost.
Kirwan said he considers the motion to defer “very reasonable” as long as staff understand that he's not looking for a “big television production” when it comes to videorecording the meetings.
“All we need to do is have a video camera set up, make sure you can see everybody at the meeting, and record it.”
Even if somebody “doctored” the information for their own purposes, the official version will be on the board's website, giving trustees “some protection,” Kirwan said.
He said he's had people tell him the board's minutes don't give enough information about what goes on at meetings. “If this is digitally recorded, people will see the discussion that goes into the decisions,” Kirwan said.
Posting videorecordings of the meetings also allows people to watch them at their own convenience, he said.
“A lot of the time, the timing of our meetings is inconvenient for people to get out to.”
Kirwan also took a swipe at the motion passed by the board last month, which states that only members of the media and those who have permission from the board's director of education can videorecord at board meetings.
He said that he was under the assumption at the time that the motion was passed that members of the media attending Rainbow board meetings are accredited, but has since found out that this isn't the case.
Parents who have blogs or Facebook pages where they communicate information to other people could make a case that they're a member of the media, Kirwan said.
“So a person who declares they're a member of the media more or less has to be given permission to record anything that goes on here, otherwise we're going to be seen as discriminatory in favour of certain media companies.”
Besides her concerns about the possible costs of videorecording meetings, Hunda said she “can't really be opposed to” the initiative, because it was what she'd requested in the first place.
“This would certainly alleviate a lot of my fears,” she said.
We all know that we have nothing to hide, but people outside this room don't necessarily know that.
Rainbow District School Board trustee
Killens said Hunda's idea to direct staff to find out the costs before voting on the motion is a “wise idea.”
“I don't think trustee Kirwan is looking for a full movie production, just our IT people,” he said.
Trustee Dena Morrison said she hopes the trustees' meetings can be videorecorded and posted on the board's website at “virtually no cost.”
“We are publicly elected officials,” she said. “We all know that we have nothing to hide, but people outside this room don't necessarily know that.”
Dylan Gibson, who, along with wife Anita, had been videotaping most Rainbow board meetings until early this fall, told Northern Life last month he hoped trustees would pass a motion similar to the one brought forward by Kirwan.
He said they'd started videorecording the meetings because the minutes were sketchy at best. Dylan said they never posted the information on the Internet.
In October, the Gibsons, whose son attends Algonquin Road Public School, were banned from certain board property, including the board office, where meetings are normally held.
They say they think the trespassing order stemmed from a conversation they had with one of the trustees after the September board meeting.
But Dylan said he's not jaded by his treatment by the board, and is willing to “bear that cross” if it brings changes to how the board is run.
“I'm enthusiastic that these problems are actually coming to a discussion point,” he said last month.
“The majority of the trustees that are in power now have been there for a long time. I think a lot of them haven't really migrated to the 21st century.”