No More Remote Board Meetings

School board meeting tonight, 4 hours: 6:15 leaving the house, 10:15 arriving home. Now that the governor’s emergency declaration has expired, we aren’t allowed to do remote board meetings anymore unless we’re either a) contagious or b) traveling for work.

I think this is super-problematic, actually. Here are my objections:

– it never made any sense to me that we couldn’t attend remotely if we were on vacation rather than traveling for work — I do not understand the logic here. Why does the community care whether I was on a beach or in an office earlier in the day, if I’m Zooming in remotely from my hotel room to an evening board meeting? If you have board members dedicated enough to attend board meetings while on vacation, be happy.

– the in-person requirement generally made sense, pre-Zoom, but now that we have the tech to do remote effectively, what is the justification for requiring board members to be in person? (I can see requiring perhaps the board president and school superintendent to be in person, so that community members giving public comment have the option to do so in person, PERHAPS. But in fact, we received two public comments today, both by Zoom, and I don’t think having the people there in person would have made any difference to how seriously the board paid attention to their comments.)

– I don’t see how this in-person requirement (which I assume is common nationwide, not just in Illinois) isn’t ripe for an ADA lawsuit. Already, when we have a 4-6 hr board meeting, I’m often in some pain from just sitting in a chair for that long; if I think a board meeting is likely to run long, I’ve taken to taking ibuprofen before the meeting, just in case. And I’m reasonably able-bodied for a 50-year-old. Most board members, I suspect, are my age or older, and are more and more likely to have health issues that make it difficult to sit at a board table for several hours on end. Or they may have disabilities that preclude it. Does that mean they don’t get the option of running for office and serving the community? It’s deeply problematic and ableist, people.

I admit, it was kind of nice putting on my school board professional drag and going in to see people in person. The energy is great. There are pluses to in-person. There are pluses to remote. It would be better if we were all extended the option to do either, and trusted to use our good judgement.

If you trust me to volunteer my time to go to 4-6 hour meetings every two weeks, and if you trust me with overseeing a potentially $100-million-dollar budget, maybe trust me to be able to decide whether I need to be in-person for tonight’s board meeting or not.

EDITING TO NOTE: Per Meghan’s comment on Facebook, it looks like the emergency declaration was actually extended ’til April; I’m guessing my people just misunderstood or missed that. Which is not a big deal, I’m more mad about the overall principle. Also per Meghan on Facebook, it looks like people are already working on this issue at the state level in IL, yay. That makes me feel better.

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