At its next meeting on Feb. 10 the Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95 Board of Education will decide whether to livestream its meetings. School board members discussed the issue for nearly an hour at a Jan. 26 committee of the whole meeting.

The board is set to vote on a motion to spend nearly $5,000 to purchase microphones and other equipment to create a conferencing hub at the board table that can be linked to a computer to livestream meetings.

District 95 had livestreamed its meetings as a result of the pandemic before deciding last fall to stop doing so. Viewership was low, the livestream audio was poor and beset by technical difficulties, and it was difficult for Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski to simultaneously lead meetings and monitor the livestream.

School board President Katie Mulcrone appeared opposed to livestreaming meetings, noting that the district does not have access to a school television station such as RBTV, which broadcasts Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 school board meetings, or a local public access television channel such as Riverside TV, which broadcasts the meetings of the Riverside Elementary School District 96 school board.

Despite the district receiving a petition signed by 116 people calling for livestreaming meetings, Mulcrone said that she is not aware of any great public outcry for it on a routine basis and noted school board meetings are open to the public.

“One of the options is to come to our meetings,” Mulcrone said. “I feel very strongly that I don’t want to be reactive [to a petition].”

Other board members seemed more open to livestreaming meetings if it can be done relatively inexpensively and not burden staff.

Board member Melissa Biskupic said while the board has not typically livestreamed meetings in the past, except during the height of the pandemic, she is open to doing so if it can done relatively inexpensively and not be labor intensive.

“I think the expectations have changed,” Biskupic said. “It’s not really about the numbers. It’s about the availability.”

After the meeting, Kuzniewski said that option the board would likely consider at the Feb. 10 meeting would cost about $5,000.

“I’m not really sure this is a money issue,” Kuzniewski told the school board. “It’s not going to take books from children. It’s not going to take crayons from children.”

But Kuzniewski was adamant that he did not want to do anything that would create more work for his administrative team.

School board member Barb Garvey said she was having trouble making up her mind on the issue.

“I have gone back and forth on this,” Garvey said. “It’s not a huge part of our budget. I don’t see the direct educational benefit for kids.”

Garvey said she was looking for an inexpensive way to stream or broadcast meetings.

“I don’t want to make it a strain on our staff,” Garvey said. “I don’t want to make it a strain financially, but I want to include the community as much as we can.”

When school board member Meaghan McAteer ran for the school board in 2019, she advocated livestreaming meetings because she had been frustrated as a parent about not knowing what was going on if she didn’t attend meetings in person. Now that McAteer is on the school board, she says that she’s learned that the issue is more complex than she realized.

“Then I get on the board and you kind of see that it is not as simple as it sounds,” McAteer told the Landmark. “There’s the audio component, there’s video, there’s having staff there to run it.”

McAteer said that she hasn’t made up her mind yet on how she will vote on the issue.

“As of right at this moment I am still considering all the options,” McAteer said. “I’m not sure.”

But McAteer said the board wants to resolve the issue one way or the other and move on. McAteer said that she will not base her vote on the petition, something that other board members also seem to feel strongly about. 

“I think it’s important that it’s clear that we don’t make decisions based on petitions,” McAteer said. “We were elected by the community to represent them, so petitions aren’t how you should be making decisions. I’d be really terrified if my village board started making decisions just based on petitions that were submitted.”