New Richmond School Board denies request to broadcast meetingsNew Richmond resident Pam O’Reilly thinks she has the answer to opening communication between the New Richmond Board of Education and the public – broadcasting school board meetings.
By: By Jackie Grumish, New Richmond News
New Richmond resident Pam O’Reilly thinks she has the answer to opening communication between the New Richmond Board of Education and the public – broadcasting school board meetings.
O’Reilly said she’s done quite a bit of research on the topic and has found that the majority of school districts – including several local districts – broadcast their meetings on cable TV and on the web.
“Here there’s good coverage of the meetings in the newspaper and in the district newsletter, but being able to watch the meetings would keep people informed,” she said. “It would better communication and would be a nice way to keep people in contact with what’s happening.”
O’Reilly said after presenting her idea to the New Richmond Board of Education, she took it upon herself to find out if there was interest in the community. On April 3, Election Day, O’Reilly camped out outside City Hall with a petition, asking New Richmond residents to sign if they supported the broadcast. She collected more than 300 signatures, she said.
“I was just up in Star Prairie this weekend and collected even more,” she said.
O’Reilly said the broadcasts would help the school board meet its goal of opening the lines of communication between the district and the public.
“This is just one little piece of the bigger pie,” she said. “A lot of people mentioned that they can’t get to the meetings because they need to take care of their families in the evenings or they’re too tired after working all day. A lot of the older people can’t get around or have limited mobility.”
For the school board, however, broadcasting the meetings would just be an added expense in the budget.
At the board’s work session on April 9, District Administrator Morrie Veilleux recommended that the board not move forward with broadcasting the meetings.
According to Veilleux, there are only 1,800 cable subscribers in New Richmond. School district residents who live outside the city don’t have access to the local cable channel, so going that route wouldn’t be fair to the entire district population, he said.
In addition to not being able to reach everyone, Veilleux said the cost of broadcasting the meetings would also be substantial.
Veilleux said he originally thought the board could use one of the high school’s cameras to record the meetings, but working out the logistics would be a nightmare.
“We’d probably need to buy another camera to get the job done,” he said. “I got a bid just today of $8,500.”
In addition to the camera, the district would also need to pay someone to operate the camera during the board meetings – adding to the cost.
“It was suggested that we find volunteers to do it, but we can’t rely on volunteers to do it. What if they didn’t show up?” he asked.
Veilleux said he didn’t think broadcasting the meetings was necessary when less than half of the district’s population lives within cable TV’s network.
“How much more money do we want to invest when, until very recently, the only people who come to our meetings are our two media people?” he asked. “There doesn’t seem to be an issue with people wanting to be here.”
In fact, Veilleux said, O’Reilly herself had never been to a meeting until recently.
Veilleux said between the media coverage of the meetings, the posting of the minutes on the district’s website and the article in the district newsletter, there isn’t much more the district needs to do to communicate board meeting action to the public.
“You already have $45,000-$50,000 invested in the newsletter,” he said. “My recommendation is to not spend any more money on communication. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.”
The board members agreed, voting unanimously to not move forward with the television broadcasts at this time.
For the complete board story, see this week's New Richmond News.