Trustees work out policy for electronic meetings

Local Catholic board trustees are getting ready to hit the telecommunications highway, sending a tentative policy for electronic meetings out for consultation.
The Fewer School Boards Act permits trustees to hold regular board meetings via teleconferencing or video conferencing due to the size of the new district school boards.
“This is new territory for all boards,” said Paul Jackson, director of education for the Northwest Catholic District School Board.
“We do have a new regulation which allows electronic meetings and it’s pretty open,” he said. “It allows the board to draft [its] own policy.”
Jackson said Bell Canada was more than willing to provide teleconferencing services at fairly reasonable rates, not to mention accessibility. As long as a trustee or guest speaker gives two days’ notice, a teleconference can be set on any single-party line.
Video conferencing isn’t quite as portable, Jackson said, noting the only site for that locally is Confederation College.
“And it’s quite costly at this time,” he added, saying the price ran about $700 an hour.
One stipulation from the Ministry of Education and Training is that trustees meet face-to-face at least three times a year. Jackson suggested those three meetings be scheduled in May, June, and September when travelling conditions were at an optimum.
“We should also consider when we do our budget deliberations [as face-to-face],” noted trustee Gerry Rousseau, who represents the west end of the district.
“Anywhere we can, we should try to incorporate face-to-face meetings,” he stressed.
“I think we should meet face-to-face as much as possible,” agreed Dryden trustee Wade Petranik.
But Petranik also noted that having the teleconference option makes it much easier for ratepayers to air their concerns or attend meetings without travelling for hours to the boardroom.
“It keeps everybody in communication,” he said.
“I think the attitude of the board is we will try to meet face-to-face if we can,” Jackson said. “But for the public, the electronic means will be available to them [always].
“It’s the cost of doing business in a large geographical area,” he added.