Long-time Evanston Township High School board member Jane Colleton was the only one of the five candidates running for three seats on the board who raised an objection this week to the idea of broadcasting the board’s meetings live.

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Unlike Evanston/Skokie School District 65 and Evanston’s city government, which both now broadcast meetings live on local cable access channels and also stream them live over the Internet, ETHS only records its meetings for later replay on cable.

“Televising live our meetings would be a great tool for parents, students, everyone in the community to see what’s happening in real time,” said candidate Cherie Hansen at the Tuesday night forum at the school.

“We should televise live, we should re-televise taped, and we should Internet stream, said incumbent Mark Metz. “That technology exists and would cost us next to nothing to implement.”

“There’s nothing to hide,” said candidate Scott Rochelle, “The meeting is the meeting, the minutes aren’t going to change. Let’s televise it live and give everyone an opportunity to see what’s going on.”

“I have a friend who was watching a District 65 live board meeting and he got so agitated about something that was being discussed that he jumped in his car, drove down and spoke in the public comment at the end,” said candidate Jonathan Baum. “And I think we should give everybody that opportunity in District 202 as well.”

But Colleton raised a concern about teachers’ privacy.

“A couple years ago a student came before the board, complaining about a teacher, and she actually named the teacher, which was awful,” Colleton said, adding that the district had edited the tape to remove the teacher’s name before the meeting was broadcast.

“That was a problem, so it would have to have a delay,” Colleton added.

Steve Bartlebaugh, head of Evanston Community Television, which manages the meeting broadcasts for District 65 and the city, but not District 202, said the CCTV live broadcasts are carried without any tape delay.

In an interview with Evanston Now, Bartlebaugh said that community media centers across the country generally resist taking on the role of censoring what goes on air.

He said the equipment may exist to enable such a delay system for live broadcasts, “but I assume it probably would be costly, and it’s not something we’ve shopped for.”

And he added that it would also require having someone present at the meetings to make decisions about what to edit out.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. Everything that is said and

    Everything that is said and done in a school board meeting should be broadcast freely and uncensored. Everything. Today they may want to censor the mention of a particular teacher by name. What might they justify censoring in the future? Allegations of misconduct by a board member? Misuse of public funds? If such allegations were made without immediate substantiation, censorship could easily be justified if the precedent had already been set. Public servants must keep in mind that they are totally answerable to us.

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