MAPLE PARK – Kaneland School District 302 Board of Education member Aaron Lawler wants to engage the community more by broadcasting board meetings.
Lawler, the newest board member, addressed the board and administration during an Oct. 11 meeting.
“One of the things we could focus on as a board, not necessarily as a district, is reaching out to community members fostering more dialogue,” he said. “One of the impetuses for this came out of an Illinois Association of School Boards report. One of the things they bring up is that boards are good at original face-to-face communication, but they are lacking in actual dialogues and in listening circles, and you need video media to do that. I think we can kick this can around and see where we could go with it.”
Lawler said he did some research by connecting with other school districts to see what they are doing and states that about half of them do some kind of recording or live broadcasting of their meetings.
“There is a lot of variation out there,” he said. “Some professional and some that’s not as cost prohibitive. Schaumburg was able to cut their costs in half with student engagement, and Oswego does it through their AV club so they have their students run the whole thing.”
Lawler cited some affordable possibilities that included utilizing either Facebook Live or Twitter Periscope.
“There are a few services out there where you just need a smart device and someone willing to stand in the audience and film it,” he said. “People could respond, and we could address them with feedback later.”
Board President Teresa Witt voiced her concerns about it not being done professionally and if many people would actually watch the broadcasts.
“I’m not sure with Facebook Live that you can hear the person or see the whole thing, and we’d still have to pay someone to do it,” she said. “It needs to be controlled in my opinion, and I don’t know how many would watch the whole thing. We can try it, I guess. I think we need to get more information and see if we can use existing equipment or not. And if there will be additional resources needed.”
Board member Ryan Kerry sounded skeptical that the broadcasts would draw many community members in.
“I don’t know if anybody is going to watch,” he said. “I don’t have strong opinions about it, but I just don't know how effective it will be. I’ve never watched a city council meeting. That doesn’t mean I don’t think we need to be more involved, but I wouldn’t log in to watch it.”
Board member Peter Lopatin said such an endeavor may be a perfect task for the student journalism program at the high school.
“I’m certainly open to continued exploration of options and would be supportive of piloting or experimenting something along those lines,” he said. “Anything that makes us more visible and accessible in the community, in terms of the work we do, would be a good thing to do.”
The district already has some equipment on hand that could be used; it’s going to investigate further on that end. The board will also discuss a platform for sharing the broadcasts and discuss live versus recorded broadcasts and more at a future meeting.
“We should be conservative spending funds and look for alternative ways of accomplishing this,” Lawler said. “Student engagement is always a good thing to start with, and I think starting small is always a good thing. Let’s record the first one and put it on the website or YouTube and see if people watch it and go from there.”