BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ -- Residents may soon be able to watch the Board of Education meetings from the comfort of their homes. The policy on recording meetings has already been revised, the equipment ordered and legal advice acquired. Now it’s a matter of finding the right date on which to start.
During the Jan. 23 meeting of the school board, Business Administrator Donna Felezzola told the board she consulted with the GLTV Production head Joe Voorhees on what was needed and how the system should be set up. She reported the camera would be in a fixed location to the side of the school board’s table, where it could show all members of the board. The camera could be rotated to show any people coming up to speak to the board, then rotated back to show the board. There is even a student-volunteer lined up to run the camera. And, “We have ordered the equipment. The equipment is here,” she said.
As for how the meetings should be recorded, she said the board’s attorney said “be consistent and be transparent. At the beginning of each meeting, there should be an announcement that the meeting is being recorded, the recording will start at the beginning of the public session and continue until the meeting is adjourned and that the recording will be hosted on the GL TV website.
She said the attorney also cautioned her to remember, “we are creating evidence for anything that happens, so be careful about your behavior and be careful of what you say. The mic will pick up everything, so if there is a side conversation,” it will be broadcast. He also reminded her that the videos “can be clipped” by others and posted on social media, ”so, we really have to be on our best behavior,” said Felezzola.
The board revised Policy 0168 on recording meetings at the Dec. 5 meeting. Read the policy here.
Board President Doug Reinstein reminded board members the town council has been recording meetings now for several years and it is, “now fairly commonplace.”
There were questions about whether the taping could be paused if a person did not want to be recorded and Felezzola said the attorney told her that “coming up to that microphone is a volunteer action by someone and by saying to people at the beginning of the meeting that you are taping it, you are telling everyone they will be taped.”
The same thing is true for students, if they come up to speak, they know they are being recorded.
Students who are making presentations at the board meeting already have to have signed waivers, as do the two student representatives on the board.
Reinstein said he hoped streaming the meetings would be an “opportunity for people to watch it at home.”
Board Member Dante Gioia, who represents the Mountainside Board of Education, said the Mountainside board has been streaming its meetings for a few years and doing so increased residents’ awareness of what was happening in the district.
Board Member Mike D’Aquila said recording the meetings “might encourage people to come.”
Reinstein said he was “hearing broad support for this” and asked what was needed to begin recordings.
Felezzola said “We could be ready for the next meeting” which will be held on Feb. 13, at 7:30 p.m. Whether that happens is yet to be determined.