PEORIA -- The Peoria District 150 School Board debated whether to resume live broadcasts of board meetings, then decided not to consider the issue for a vote until November. The board met as a committee of the whole on July 19.
Laura Petelle took the strongest stand in favor of live broadcasts. "We're making it very inconvenient," she said, referring to videos of the meetings on the WMBD-TV website, recorded by the District 150 watch group and posted a day or two later.
"People like to watch it live. I like to watch the (Peoria) City Council live, not a week late."Board meetings are broadcast a week late, with the public comments omitted, on the public access cable TV channel.
I record the public comments and place the audio recording on this blog the evening of the meeting. The discussion of the broadcasts is 30 minutes into the audio posted here:
Board members acknowledged that the reason they stopped the broadcasts was not, as was initially reported, to save money, but because they objected to negative comments from the public during the public comment portion of the meeting. "It (the money) was never my reason," Jim Stowell said."Nor mine," board president Debbie Wolfmeyer said. She later admitted that she used to speak to the board from the podium before she was elected to the board. She felt no one listened, she said, but added "that's not true."
My take: what an odd comment, given her opposition to the live broadcasts! In fact the entire discussion was strange, since the board has never publicly voted on the broadcast issue, then at the meeting, where no board votes were to be taken, agreed to revisit the issue in November. This from a board that talks about transparency!
Martha Ross said she was in favor of stopping the live broadcasts "until we could answer people and tell our own story." But there was an unexpected consequence: "Now people don't know it's on" (television, a week late).
Stowell said, "the minutes reflect the comments. They're not censored." My take: that's a stretch!Stowell became the most vocal critic of the live broadcasts, saying "the public comments dominate" the meetings. My take: I agree -- because the commentators have something interesting to say, whereas most of the board meetings are dull and uninformative.
Stowell continued, "the board has the responsibility to shape the message that we want to convey. The same four people 90 percent of the time (speak). They weren't elected. They don't even have children in the district."
Afterward I told Stowell that people who comment are taxpayers, and everyone should be concerned about District 150 because of property values and because it is educating, or failing to educate, future employees of the city and region. If affects everyone, including people who live in nearby communities.Stowell said he's tired of hearing the same message from the same people during the public comments, "they don't like Edison" (schools). He implied they are publicity seekers who don't represent the larger public, and who "won't be happy until you let them run the district."
Wolfmeyer agreed. "I don't need to hear the same tired message from the same people," she said.
My take: how astounding that Stowell and Wolfmeyer resent citizens petitioning their government -- and the school board is a government that taxes its citizens. They need public support, and should be grateful that anyone still cares enough about District 150 to attend the meetings!Stowell did present one constructive idea -- that District 150 make better use of the public access channel by presenting school programs on it. His example wasn't the most uplifting, however: the duct tape fashion show.
He also acknowledged that broadcasting the meetings a week late means the announcements are not timely, and positive comments are kept from the public (censored?).Board member Rachel Parker suggested the comments be moved to the end of the meeting. But that means people cannot comment on pending issues, and so will contact board members beforehand, she said.
Linda Butler suggested revisiting the issue in November, and no one objected.
The board also discussed how to respond to comments, and were told that factual errors could be corrected, and an agenda item added to allow board members to respond.
The other item on the agenda, whether to require that new hires live in the district, was also debated with the following points made:
- District 150 holds a special charter from the state, so may not have to follow all the state rules.
- But state law bans requiring residency for teachers and support staff.
- Requiring residency might diminish the talent pool, as people have many reasons to live elsewhere. The new building and grounds director lives in the country because he has horses, Petelle said.
- Requiring residency of principals and administrators will have little impact as few are hired each year.
Petelle noted that "it would be an issue if administrators moved into the district and sent their children to private schools. That feels like a slap in the face."She also noted that "we pay teachers like it's a trailing (spouse) career, a woman's career. We will miss out on excellent teachers."
Stowell proposed developing incentives for district staff to live in the district, and Rachel Parker, who proposed the residency idea, is to research that.
My take, only partly in jest: give the new hires the houses District 150 bought on the abortive school in Glen Oak Park plan -- which have been off the tax rolls for several years. Or sell them to raise the money for the live broadcasts.
-- Elaine Hopkins
7/20/10. Here's an emailed comment: Laura Petelle wrote:
Your blog wouldn't let me comment -- I believe I said I listen to city council on the radio -- if I said I watch it I misspoke, I'm a radio gal. Not only do we not have cable anymore but I have a 14-month-old and we severely limit our television/computer-TV-watching so he doesn't stare at the glowing box until he's a little older.
I got into it when I was driving some distance on Tuesday nights and would catch the council on the radio, and was surprised to really enjoy it. Unfortunately I don't get to listen as often as I used to, but when I'm driving or the baby goes to bed at a reasonable hour and the housework is caught up, I still get to indulge.