Strait regional school board superintendent Ford Rice (left) is seen here with newly elected chair Jamie Samson, and vice-chair Richelle MacLaughlin.

PORT HAWKESBURY: Strait regional school board (SRSB) has rejected changes to its policies that would have affected how board members can use technology to participate in meetings remotely.

Following a discussion at the SRSB’s regular monthly meeting on January 3, proposed amendments to section 3.10 of the board’s by-law failed to gain the two-thirds majority vote required for the changes to take effect.

“I think a lot of work went into the by-laws, and as you saw a lot of discussion. It’s an important area for the board to focus on in how we attend meetings,” said SRSB chair Jamie Samson.

Samson said the SRSB reviews all of its by-laws periodically to make improvements when needed. The proposed changes were an attempt to modernize policies for board members who may be unable to attend a meeting in person. Currently, board members may participate in some meetings via land line telephone only. The changes addressed the use of various types of electronic communication, such as board-provided cell phones and video conferencing, to participate in board discussions.

“It’s more options for our members to attend meetings,” said Samson.

One issue raised during Wednesday’s discussion was confidentiality. Some board members voiced their concern with the security of using cell phones and other electronic devices during in-camera sessions and meetings involving private information relating to employees or students. Board members also disagreed on whether the by-law should specify that it is the responsibility of the individual using the electronic device to ensure privacy. Some felt that the responsibility should be shared by all board members.

Some members also felt that the proposed new policy lacked clarity in certain areas, including the appropriate procedure for obtaining permission to attend a meeting remotely.

Although Samson said board members worked hard to make what they felt were improvements to the policy, he respects the board’s decision.

“I think the important part is that all the board members had an opportunity to discuss it and speak on it. At the end of the day, the board made its decision, and that’s the one that I support,” he said.

The amended policy received seven out of the eight votes required for the changes to be made. In accordance with board policy, that section of the by-law cannot be reviewed again within one year.

“We may revisit it again in a year’s time,” Samson added.