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Ohio County Board of Ed Set to Discuss Teleconferencing Policy

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Sweetness46 at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

  Ohio County Board of Education members want to change a policy that would limit the ability of board members to teleconference into meetings. Currently, the policy allows members to call in from wherever they are. The five-member board is set to discuss whether or not meeting participation is overly restricted by distance and technology, at the next board meeting.

There are usually about 40 meetings a year in Ohio County and some board members are accusing others of abusing the option to participate by phone. Board president Shane Mallett is among those with concerns.

“We have two members using this policy. Prior years it was just one, or one, sporadically. And over the past two years Miss Carter and Miss Koegler have been using that quite a lot and I do believe it’s a good point for discussion,” Mallett said.

The Wheeling Intelligencer  and News Register reported that Carder, a retired teacher and member since 2010, has phoned in for 11 percent of the board meetings. Koegler, a mother of two who travels extensively for work, has phoned in for about 13 percent of meetings since she was elected in 2012.

Koegler argues teleconferencing is part of the modern workplace landscape and does not believe any policy has been abused; Mallett, however, believes the board should take a note from US Congress which restricts participation over distance.

This issue has become something of a controversy in the Northern Panhandle. Koegler told West Virginia Public Broadcasting that it’s an embarrassment for the board in light of other more important issues the school district faces.  She also said the communication breakdown is a reflection of a larger lack of communication between board members.

“Even this whole controversy,” Koegler said, “I have found out about over the press. I have not had a one-on-one interaction proactively with any other school board member who ostensibly has all these concerns.”

Currently, the West Virginia’s Open Governmental Proceedings Act allows for telecommuting saying, “[m]eetings may be held by telephone conference or other electronic means.” There’s some question as to whether or not any local policy to restrict such communication and participation would be legal.

The matter is expected to be discussed at the next board meeting in Wheeling, scheduled for 6 p.m. April 13. Any proposal to change or restrict the local teleconferencing  policy would likely come up for a vote during the following meeting.


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