Chinook Board of Education approves video recordings of board meetings

By Matthew Liebenberg

Video recordings of the public portion of Chinook School Division Board of Education meetings will be available to the public in the near future.

Trustees approved a motion at the regular meeting of the Chinook Board of Education on June 26 to record all open meetings once appropriate technology is in place and to make these recordings available to members of the public upon request.

“It’s something that we’ve talked about as a board in the past few months,” Board Chair Kimberly Pridmore said during an interview about the decision. “We just feel it supports our goals of being accountable to the communities that we serve by giving a way to be a bit more visible and accessible.”

The regular meetings of the Chinook Board of Education take place on the second Monday of each month. It consists of a closed session as well as an open or public session that usually starts at 3 p.m.

This format will not change as a result of the implementation of video recordings for the public portion of board meetings. The recordings will provide an additional option for anyone interested in discussions during meetings, but who is unable to attend in person.

“We know that not everyone is able to travel to Swift Current due to work schedules or just driving distance to be part of our meetings,” she said. “We feel that this is a way to increase transparency in our board business and engage a bit more with our community members.”

Pridmore is not aware of any specific requests in the past to the Chinook Board of Education for additional measures to make these meetings more accessible.

“I wouldn’t say that we’ve had any specific requests, although occasionally we would hear comments that it’s great that your meetings are open to the public, but they’re in mid afternoon on a Monday,” she said. “So sometimes that in itself makes it difficult. … We just know that as a board we want to engage our communities. We brainstormed ways to do that and that’s really how this conversation came around.”

Trustees considered two options during the June 26 regular meeting. The initial motion proposed the livestreaming of the public portion of these meetings and that recorded versions are posted shortly afterwards on the school division’s website. However, this proposal was defeated with most trustees opposing it and two in support.

The second motion proposed that recordings of these meetings are made available to members of the public upon request. The majority of trustees voted in favour of it and one opposing vote was recorded.

Pridmore felt the hesitancy among most board members about livestreaming was due to concerns over the impact it might have on discussions.

“If trustees are hesitant to speak to something, then it doesn’t really foster that open conversation,” she said. “We just want to make sure that we’re not compromising the conversation that needs to happen. … Some trustees are a little bit more comfortable knowing that they’re speaking in real time and it’s just not something that others have done a lot of, and I think they are just a little bit more hesitant about it.”

The video recordings will be implemented as soon as possible in the 2023-24 school year, depending on when the required technology is purchased and installed. Details will then be made available on how recordings can be requested.