Chilliwack trustees vote against recording meetings for web

Two of seven in favour of filming meetings to be viewed on district website, motion fails

School board trustees have pressed pause on the idea of posting video recordings of board meetings online.

On Tuesday, trustee Heather Maahs presented a motion “that the board instruct staff to implement the recording of board meetings at minimal cost, and post the recording on the school district’s website by the Friday immediately following the board meeting.”

But the motion was met with questions about costs, and whether there really is an appetite for such a service.

Trustee Dan Coulter pointed out that paying the least amount possible could lead to a poor quality, and that he couldn’t support the idea without first seeing the full cost.

“This is a budget item,” he said. “We are spending money and we need to know what it costs.”

Director of Instruction Kirk Savage had presented three separate options for recordings to the board in April. The most expensive option would have cost about $26,000 for set up. But Savage was absent from Tuesday’s meeting and there was no mention of the past information presented.

“I don’t want to approve something I don’t have a handle on,” said Trustee Walt Krahn, and Trustee Paul McManus said that perhaps in the future, when the board is not under so much financial pressure, the idea would be a good one.

Board chair Silvia Dyck said the issue has not come up in consultation with the community, and doesn’t “directly serve students.”

And while Trustee Martha Wiens seemed favourable to the idea, saying that parents “don’t know what we’re doing and they need this,” she ended up abstaining from the eventual vote.

Only Trustee Barry Neufeld supported Maahs motion, and he did so while attending the meeting via a video call. The fact he was speaking to the board with the help of technology bolstered his argument.

“I would say you have the technology already,” he told his cohorts. “It’s coming through loud and clear.”

By the end of the discussion, Maahs threw her hands up and asked to postpone the idea until the board could look at more options.

“That’s fine,” Maahs said. “I’ve said my piece and this board will do what this board will do.”

She had hoped to pass the task off to district staff.

She wanted to “ask the staff to use ingenuity to make this work for us.”

With Maahs and Neufeld in favour, Wiens abstaining and the remainder voting against the motion, it failed. And while they had discussed finding more information on the costs, they did not vote to direct staff to report back.

Some school districts do post recordings of their meetings in addition to the minutes, including the Fraser Cascade, which provides an audio-only recording after the meeting has ended. Abbotsford’s and Mission’s school districts do not provide recordings.