BUCKFIELD — The Regional School Unit 10 board of directors voted Monday not to hold their meetings live on its Facebook page because there is no employee to monitor public comments.

The initial vote was 5-5, requiring a weighted vote based on the population of each director’s town. The weighted vote was 453-343.

Since the coronavirus pandemic in March, board meetings have been streamed live on Facebook. For the past few meetings, it has met live via Zoom and posted the meetings the following day on Facebook.

Superintendent Deb Alden said at recent meetings that the district does not have an employee assigned to monitor comments on its Facebook page and “that’s not where we want to put our money. That wasn’t something that we thought was a good use of our educational money.”

District Technology Director Brian Carrier said he and other administrators reviewed several online applications and decided to use the Zoom application exclusively for Monday’s meeting. The public was allowed to attend in person at Buckfield Junior-Senior High School or to watch via Zoom without a commenting section.

Carrier said he and administrators discussed with the district’s legal advisers their recommendation not to create a policy regarding public comments on the board’s Facebook page because “that would be jumping into the first amendment issues, so we didn’t want to do that.”

Board members Abbey Rice of Rumford, Janet Brennick of Mexico, Charlie Maddaus of Sumner and Michelle Casey of Buckfield said they were concerned about meetings not being shared live on Facebook and not allowing public comments.

Rice said when meetings were live on Facebook there were “hundreds of views” versus the 30 or more people viewing Monday night’s meeting on Zoom.

“I think that it’s important that during this time in particular that people feel connected to the district; (that) people feel engaged, people feel like they have an easy way to see what’s going on,” Rice said. She also said she felt the district was “shutting off an avenue for (people) to speak their mind and to communicate with each other.”

Director Chad Culleton of Hartford, one of the five directors voting against reinstating live Facebook meetings and comments, said the Zoom meetings included a specific time for the public’s comments.

“It’s important that people comment at that time,” he said. “We don’t want people to comment during a whole board meeting. I don’t see why going to Zoom is a bad thing.”

In other business, Alden sent a letter to the community Tuesday advising how the district will handle snow days or storm days this winter.

“If we have conditions that are determined to be too treacherous for our buses and staff members, we will go to a fully remote learning day,” the letter states. Teachers and other staff will prepare “storm packs” for students that will include food and instructions.

“If we have a blizzard or snowstorm that shuts down most everything, including threatening our utilities, we will call No School,” the letter said. Families were advised to listen and read carefully to determine if the storm alert is for a remote learning day or a No School day.


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