Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fear of technology?

If you're a regular to this blog, you already know what I'm going to say about the district's policy, or lack of, regarding remote participation for board meetings. If you're a newbie, please forgive my upcoming rant . . .

Neshaminy likes to consider itself as a district that is embracing technology, and why not? Heck, we have a fairly robust website, a VoIP telephone system, and we boast our participation in the Classrooms for the Future program. Considering all this, how come our school board cannot make effective use of something that was invented over 125 years ago - the telephone?

My job occasionally calls for me to travel, sometimes overseas, making it impossible for me to attend board meetings while I'm away. I was surprised to learn that we do not have a policy which permits a board member to participate in a meeting via use of remote technology, so I asked for a policy to be created. I thought this would be a no-brainer, but instead I am encountering quite some resistance from some of my fellow board members.

The objections range from "you should be in the room" to concerns that a board member will abuse the policy by (quite literally) "phoning it in" when they could have really been at the meeting in person. I do understand that a board member should be physically present at the vast majority of meetings since that gives people an opportunity to see and meet their elected representative face-to-face. But in a world where business travel is a necessity for many, isn't it better to allow a board member to participate in a meeting remotely rather than not at all? Seems simple to me, but apparently not everyone agrees.

I'm also rather baffled why the proposed policy to allow remote participation was amended during the last Board Policies meeting when neither I nor the committee chair were present, and the only other official member of the committee said they did not recommend the changes. I'm still waiting for an explanation to that one.

One board member voiced their opinion to me the other night - "They're only objecting to the idea because it's you. They'd have passed this policy already if it were from someone else." Since I'm not really into conspiracy theories, I'll pass on the paranoia angle. Instead I believe the issue stems from a failure to truly embrace technology. Companies and associations around the world allow board members to participate remotely in meetings utilizing technology - it's how business gets done. And the last time I looked, little ol' Neshaminy was a business. But none of that matters if someone cannot understand the benefits that technology provides to business. It's a shame we can't quite bring ourselves around to using 19th century technology.

Traffic on the information highway is running fast, and either you get in the fast lane or you stay off to the side of the road.

Alexander Graham Bell must be rolling over in his grave.

If you want to read the Courier Times article regarding this issue, click here.


Wing Man said...

Don't be so sure they aren't trying to keep you out. There is no other logical reason to oppose this measure. Good luck.

sk.langhorne said...

It makes no sense for them to deny you this policy change. This blog is an example of your desire to stay in touch with the public, as is your willingness to call into a meeting that you cannot attend.

JS said...

I can understand the worry that it will be misused by some, but if it is a limited use possibility (maximum per year etc.) then it can't be abused.

Can we go with the conspiracy theories even if you won't? We knew cetain people on the board couldn't go that long with out causing problems again.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if they could see you it would make a difference. You could use your laptop, a webcam and Skype to communicate during the meetings. You could hold up a the daily newspaper of the city (or country) that you are in and then they would know you were not trying to "abuse the policy.":)

KClarinet said...

This should be a non-issue. If the technology is available, why shouldn't it be used? It will be obvious to everyone if board members take improper advantage of it and start calling in more than they are there.

IrishFarm said...

Didn't one of the board members say they still used dial up? Can you even buy a dial up modem any more? From one Irishman to another, give it up Mr. O'Connor. The ones who are ignorant to technology will vote against this as will the ones trying to keep you away from meetings. Sounds like you only have two, maybe three, supportive votes.