A few more than 100 people have signed an online petition calling on the Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95 Board of Education to resume livestreaming its school board meetings.
But District 95 confirmed receipt of the petition, but school board president Katie Mulcrone said Nov. 15 that the school board does not intend to resume the practice livestreaming all its school board meetings as it had during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Late last week an online petition signed by 115 people was sent to the district office. The petition asks for the school “to create a policy that implements live streaming, recording and retention of all board meetings and meeting materials, which should be posted online in a conspicuous manner for public viewing.”
Jamie Baker, the mother of a kindergartener at Brook Park School who organized the petition and two other district parents, spoke on the matter during the public comment period of the Nov. 11 meeting of the District 95 school board. Baker said the district should use some of its federal pandemic relief money to pay for the cost of livestreaming its meetings.
“Now more than ever we need transparency,” Baker said. “Use the extra funds to livestream the board meeting and invest in an adequate sound system so taxpayers and parents can actually hear what’s being spent.”
Julie Buscemi is one of the parents who signed the online petition.
“I am the parent of a BP and Gross student,” Buscemi wrote when signing the online petition. “I want to know what’s going on now and not in a month. I can’t make it to the meetings with 3 kids and a full-time job. Zoom and recorded meetings would be spectacular.”
Paul DiVittorio also signed the petition.
“Streaming these meetings cost nothing,” DiVittorio wrote. “The only reason not to do so is the keep the community in the dark regarding meeting content. The community pays for the schools. It has every right to see how its money is spent.”
Baker said she found it contradictory that the district would conduct parent-teacher conferences by Zoom but no longer livestream school board meetings.
“Funny how flexibility is being taken into account in one situation and not the other,” Baker said.
Baker used her own computer to livestream the Nov. 11 school board meeting. She said that eight to 10 people were watching online through her broadcast. Seven parents attended the meeting in person.
District 95 had livestreamed its school board meetings for much of this year until deciding last month to stop. At the October school board meeting, Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski said streaming the meetings was cumbersome, the audio was poor, technical problems were frequent and that few people watched.
“I just think Zoom itself is a difficult technology to use for our meetings because of how we’re set up,” Mulcrone said. “It’s limited on what you can hear and what you can see and obviously our meetings are better if you’re in there in person.”
Mulcrone said few people have contacted her to ask for the meetings do be livestreamed.
“I would say very, very few people have reached out via email,” Mulcrone said. “I’ve received no phone calls. No one approached me.”
Mulcrone said she did have a telephone conversation with Baker a couple of weeks ago about the issue.
“It went from very limited contact with us to a petition,” Mulcrone said.
Mulcrone said the district would consider livestreaming certain meetings when controversial issues arise or when there is great public interest in a certain issue.
“But we at this point we do not have a plan to broadcast or Zoom our regularly scheduled meetings,” Mulcrone said.