In the future, meetings of the Brookfield-LaGrange Park District 95 Board of Education will be livestreamed. After pondering the issue for a couple of months, at its Feb. 10 meeting the District 95 school board voted 5-2 in favor of livestreaming its meetings.
Melissa Biskupic, Barb Garvey, Jackie Jordan, Elizabeth Loerup and Meaghan McAteer voted in favor of livestreaming the meetings, while board President Katie Mulcrone and board member Jessica Filbey voted against.
The issue had been contentious. The board had livestreamed meetings for part of last year but stopped doing so in the fall. In response, Jamie Baker, the mother of a kindergartener at Brook Park School, organized an online petition drive in favor of livestreaming meetings. Baker presented the petition, which was signed by 116 people, to the district in November.
Some board members were unenthusiastic about livestreaming the meetings, saying that few people had watched the meetings when they were broadcast previously and that the quality of the audio was poor.
Board President Katie Mulcrone was strongly opposed to broadcasting the meetings live, saying that people can always attend board meetings in person. Board members also expressed concerns about the cost and time staff would have to devote to livestreaming meetings. But in the end a majority of the board felt that that the benefits of the practice outweighed the costs.
“I think that things changed during the pandemic,” Biskupic said. “People learned the value of technology, and if we have the means to do it and it brings even a few more people the ability to access the meetings and understand what’s happening in their school system, then why not?”
Loerup said the board received many emails about streaming meeting and those emails influenced her vote in favor of livestreaming the meetings.
“There were other emails that came through to the board that were in favor of us streaming the meetings and that kind of resonated with me, that other community members are reaching out to the board.” Loerup said. “And I myself am a working parent and have a husband who wants to have the meetings zoomed, so on a personal level I think it’s a good idea to move forward with the zooming.”
The board did not debate the issue on Feb. 10 before voting, but school board members had discussed the issue thoroughly at previous meetings over the past few months.
Baker said she was pleased that the board voted to livestream its meetings.
“I know parents are going to be really pleased that it’s going to be livestreamed and then it’s going to be recorded,” Baker said. “The bigger issue is just getting parents the ability to watch the meetings at a time that was convenient for them, because a lot of parents weren’t able to make the board meetings.”
It is estimated that will cost the district approximately $4,900 to purchase the equipment to livestream the meetings. The district will likely purchase a conferencing hub with an array of table microphones, cables and an active speaker monitor.
After the vote, Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski said that it will take some time to purchase the equipment, adding it will likely not arrive in time to be used during the March 10 school board meeting.
“They’re not just sitting on shelves, they’re not readily available,” Kuzniewski said. “I will commit to making sure that we, at a minimum, [broadcast the meeting on] Zoom.”