By Terry Dean
Outgoing District 200 board member Terry Finnegan strongly urged the next board and administration to pursue the technical and financial feasibility of broadcasting its board meetings to the public.
The topic has been broached in the past but videotaping D200 meetings has never come to pass. Finnegan, the board's former president, made the request at one of his last D200 meetings. He says it's time. The new board was seated on May 2, following the expiring terms of Finnegan, Valerie Fisher, Amy McCormack, and Dietra Millard.
The D200 Board of Education oversees Oak Park and River Forest High School, one of a handful of single-school districts in the state. The high school has never broadcast its regular board or committee meetings, either on its website or on Oak Park's public access channel. Other school districts, such as New Trier High School, broadcasts its board meetings on its site and on local public access TV.
The village of Oak Park broadcasts its board meetings on Comcast Channel 6 locally, dubbed "VOP-TV." Elementary school districts 90 (River Forest) and 97 (Oak Park) do not broadcast at all. Channel 16 is designed for educational programming and would be best suited for school board meetings.
Students in OPRF's TV broadcasting program could possibly run the cameras, Finnegan said.
"We can't have them staying here as late as we do sometimes," he said.
Finnegan and other board members suggested having some kind of automatic shutoff on the cameras so that the students can go home. He asked the OPRF administration explore how much it would cost to broadcast D200 meetings.
Regular board meetings take place the fourth Thursday of each month. Their monthly committee meetings take place every third Tuesday. Special board meetings also take place sporadically.
Videotaping meetings for the year could cost in the tens of thousands, based on a very raw estimate from administration, Finnegan says. The funding issue, though, requires further study, he added.
"I hope the new board will take that up and continue to speak to anyone else to see how we can do this," Finnegan said. "It's something that I'd like to see the new board pick up on, and it's something that's probably long overdue. I think it should be our responsibility and in our budget."