Published in the August 4, 2016 edition
By DAN TOMASELLO
NORTH READING — A lingering debate about installing camera equipment in the performing arts center and gymnasium at the secondary schools is far from being resolved, School Committee member Jerry Venezia said last week
Venezia and Superintendent of Schools Jon Bernard met last month with NORCAM Executive Director Rob Carbone and NORCAM Board of Directors members Dave Doucette and Michael Scannell to discuss the school department’s desire to install camera equipment in the Daniel H. Shay Performing Arts Center and the gymnasium at the middle/high school.
Venezia noted the gymnasium is currently wired and ready for camera equipment to be installed but that is not the case with the performing arts center.
School officials have wanted to install camera equipment in both the performing arts center and gymnasium in order to broadcast school events such as plays and sporting events for quite some time but NORCAM has yet to sign off on the two proposals.
Venezia, the school board’s liaison to NORCAM, made the pitch once again to its last month.
“We made a proposal to them about installing the infrastructure and cameras in the performing arts center as well as a camera in the gymnasium,” said Venezia. “Ultimately, they indicated to us it’s not on their list of priorities and they don’t have the budget to finance something like that. (NORCAM) expected us to find alternative sources of funding that they would be able to supplement if we are able to find those sources.”
According to Venezia, NORCAM’s representatives were “dead set against putting a camera in the gym because they don’t think it serves any purpose.”
“But they are in support of the performing arts center project,” added Venezia. “But they don’t have the funding right now.”
Venezia proposed having school officials submit a written proposal to NORCAM outlining both requests. He said he hopes NORCAM will consider undertaking both projects in the future.
Bernard echoed Venezia’s point of view.
“My hope would be that we would be able to do something in the spirit of cooperation,” said Bernard.
Venezia noted NORCAM met with project manager PMA and architect Dore and Whittier to discuss installing camera equipment at the secondary schools at the beginning of the project.
“There were discussions with NORCAM about how we were going to approach this,” said Venezia. “It just never got done as we were trying to stay on schedule. I don’t think it was NORCAM’s fault. We have to take responsibility for our architect and project manager.”
School Committee member Mel Webster said while he was serving as the school board’s liaison to NORCAM three years ago, he met with Carbone and other NORCAM officials to discuss the cable station’s involvement with the project.
“They presented what they wanted and we thought that was getting done,” said Webster. “But it just didn’t get done.”
Venezia noted NORCAM is legally required to broadcast Board of Selectmen and School Committee meetings as well as the spring and fall sessions of Town Meeting. He said installing the necessary infrastructure in the performing arts center would make broadcasting Town Meeting easier for NORCAM.
Webster proposed having a company visit the gym to give the school department a cost estimate for installing camera equipment.
“We could broadcast basketball games and volleyball games,” said Webster. “I have seen (the equipment) in other gyms. We have the infrastructure in there. If they don’t want anything to do with it, can we get another company just to look at it? Maybe it’s not feasible.”
Venezia said he agreed with Webster “100 percent,” but said a camera would need to be installed “on a wall that pans across the entire court.” He raised the possibility of purchasing hand held cameras in order to broadcast games. However, he said the games would not be broadcast live.
“If students wanted to broadcast games, they could get trained to use the equipment,” said Venezia. “We have a lot of students interested in this type of work and I think having the opportunity to broadcast games would be a lot of fun for students. I think people would have an interest in seeing basketball games, volleyball games, the pep rally and the awards ceremony.”
Webster agreed. “We have students willing do it,” said Webster.
In a phone interview with the Transcript, Carbone offered his take on the matter.
“Contrary to what is being said, we have been trying to facilitate this process since the planning stages of the school building project years ago,” said Carbone.