District 211 to consider video recording meetings

 
 
Updated 4/4/2016 3:31 PM
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  • Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 officials say they'll discuss video recording school board meetings and broadcasting them online as part of the district's ongoing community engagement process to help draft a new strategic plan.

      Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 officials say they'll discuss video recording school board meetings and broadcasting them online as part of the district's ongoing community engagement process to help draft a new strategic plan. Eric Peterson | Staff Photographer

Schaumburg resident Mark Puchalski recently urged Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 to video record its school board meetings and post them online, in the least expensive way possible.

In making the request, he echoed a sentiment expressed last summer by District 211 school board member Pete Dombrowski, who said doing so would improve transparency.

Puchalski and fellow Schaumburg resident John Parker frequently attend District 211 school board meetings, where Parker records the proceedings on a $200 device and posts them on YouTube. Though both regularly criticize the district's financial policies, Puchalski says recording and posting board meetings online is worth the cost.

"This is well worth my tax dollars," he said. "It isn't that labor intensive. It's a low-cost endeavor."

District 211 expects to address the question during its ongoing community engagement process leading up to a new strategic plan in the fall.

"Previous boards have reviewed video access to board of education meetings in 2007 and again in 2011," Superintendent Dan Cates said. "We are aware there is a mix in the area, as there are some districts that provide video access and others that do not. ... The central principle is to ensure accessibility to information and District 211 provides extensive reports and materials prior to and long after each board meeting that are readily accessible."

Palatine Township Elementary District 15 and the village of Hoffman Estates are among the neighboring local governments that record and broadcast board meetings. Northwest Suburban High School District 214, Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54 and the village of Schaumburg are among those who do not.

While those who broadcast meetings say it's an effective way to publicize their activities and decisions, the ones that don't say such broadcasts are not the sole measure of transparency.

Hoffman Estates Mayor William McLeod said he's been an advocate for broadcasting meetings since he became mayor in 2000. It took until 2007 before he had a board of trustees he was able to persuade.

While cost was cited as a concern by those who are against it, the significantly bigger argument was that such broadcasts encourage grandstanding. McLeod said that in his experience, the cameras are much more likely to discourage grandstanding.

"Once you see yourself on TV and you look like a jerk, that behavior tends to stop," he said.

Both District 214 and District 54's board presidents said they haven't heard much public demand for their meetings to be broadcast. When it was last discussed, there was concern about the multiple municipal cable systems with which the school districts would have to deal.

District 15 faced a similar situation when it began its broadcasts in 2005, but also began showing meetings online in 2010, officials said.

"We want the information available to the community," Superintendent Scott Thompson said, adding that it's the most cost-effective way of informing the public of the board's actions. "I think it's just a matter of transparency for us."

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