When I ran for a seat on the West Islip Board of Education earlier in 2012 I contended that there are many in our community who would like to attend West Islip Board of Education meetings but because of work and family obligations they find themselves unable to do so.
I suggested that the Board of Ed should take advantage of current technology such as webcasting and video to make the proceedings of BOE meetings available to those who could not be there in person. I argued that community members who could not attend the meetings have opinions that are no less valid than someone who is able to attend every single meeting and function of the BOE. Just because someone could not attend even a single BOE meeting does not preclude them from having their voice heard, nor should it deny them the ability to see the proceedings unfold as if they were there. I could not see any good reason why the BOE would not make its meetings available via video for those who could not attend given today’s technology. To me, it seemed like a reasonable thing for the BOE to do...it seemed like the right thing for them to do as well.
Months have gone by without any action from the BOE on this front. So last month I recorded and uploaded September 13th's regular BOE meeting to YouTube via http://www.citizensboardwi.org/board-of-education-meeting-videos.html to provide for the community what the BOE was unwilling to. The community is able to see the BOE vote unanimously to give the Superintendent and several other Administration officials raises. The community is able to see the BOE actually justify these increases as "savings". The community is able to see BOE members dodge questions regarding real estate updates on the status of the now closed elementary schools. The community is able to see citizens of our community ask valid questions and voice valid concerns to the BOE and to see the BOE's response.
It must have struck a nerve because at the October 1, 2012, planning meeting the minutes of that meeting state "Discussion ensued regarding video-taping and the posting of board meetings."
Since then I have recorded and posted the recent October 11th regular BOE meeting as well. Watching this meeting the community can witness a citizen express dismay over the fact that her 7th grade daughter has to use textbooks that are over 20 years old (complete with maps of the U.S.S.R.!) and then hear an Administration official try to explain it away within the context of having just granted 3% raises and $14,000 per year stipends to Administration officials that the BOE claims were actually “savings”.
The community can watch as another citizen, and District employee, questions the wisdom of granting raises to Administration officials that exceed what some employees even make in an entire year while they are at the same time being asked to "do more with less".
My September upload must have struck a nerve with the BOE because in October's meeting you can see and hear the BOE Vice President announce that, all of sudden, the BOE is going to start videoing and posting BOE meetings when they can figure out how to do it. I ask...What took so long? It also makes me wonder if the BOE would be doing this if I never posted the videos?
In the end their motivations for doing so really do not matter as long as they actually start doing it, and as long as the videos are unedited. Just to be sure I will continue to video and post the meetings at http://www.citizensboardwi.org/board-of-education-meeting-videos.html as long as I am able. What I would ask of my fellow community members is that they: 1) Share the videos with others, 2) That others video any public meeting of the BOE and send it to me for posting for others to see; and 3) Keep holding the BOE accountable.
The videos I post may not be professionally filmed or edited, but at least they will be there for your information and as a permanent record of what transpires in people’s own words.
In case I cannot record a meeting for any reason I encourage other community members to record public meetings of the BOE and send them to me via email at Citizensboardwi@optonline.net for posting at http://www.citizensboardwi.org/board-of-education-meeting-videos.html so the community can stay informed.