Cable Chairman Takes School Administrators to Task over Channel 170

July 11, 2014
by Barbara O’Brien

Windham Cable TV Chairman Margaret Case says she is a very patient person, but, that being said, she has reached her limit with the lackadaisical manner in which school administrators have been dealing with Windham High School’s cable access Channel 170.  Case has been the chairman of the Windham Cable Board for the past 25 years.

Not mincing her words, Case took school administrators to task during the Windham School Board’s first meeting of the new school year, held July 1.  “Obstacles have been put in front of us from day one,” Case said, despite cable committee members having spent $75,000 on equipment for the TV studio at the five-year-old high school.  Twenty-five thousand dollars was spent on lighting for the high school studio, alone, Case noted.  And what has resulted from the investment?  Nothing, Case said.  As of the beginning of July, there were only two slides appearing on Channel 170.  The first tells viewers to have a nice summer.  The second congratulates the Class of 2014.

Since 2009, when Windham High School opened its doors to students, Case has been attempting to gain cooperation from three different superintendents, as well as three principals.  “Cable committee members are all very frustrated, at this point,” she told current Superintendent Winfried Feneberg, who took on the job a year ago.  “We shouldn’t have to wait months for answers to our questions,” Case told him.  “I think we’ve given the new superintendent enough time to acclimate.”  Case said members of the cable committee have volunteered to assist with scheduling for Channel 170, but have gotten no response from school administrators.  “We know what we’re doing,” Case said.  “We’re not just a bunch of little volunteers!”

Noting that the cable board is the only consistent player in the unfolding drama, Case pointed out that there seems to be no end to the changing players on the school side.  “I’ve gotten nothing but empty promises from the school administration.”  “You’ve finally pushed me so far that you’ve gotten my back up.  All I’ve gotten so far is lip service,” Case stated.  Comparing herself to “a dog with a bone,” however, Case said she’s not about to give up trying to turn Channel 170 into something people want to watch.  According to Chase, videos of the school district Christmas concerts ran on Channel 170 for about six months and, currently, the spring concerts are still rerunning.  There isn’t even a schedule posted on the site, so that people know what is showing and when, she commented.  Turning to the school board, Case said, “I don’t want to stand up here, sounding off.  It’s time the school board begins to encourage some positive action.”

Looking chastened, Feneberg responded that, “Clearly, this has not been tended to.”  “I agree this is a great resource and we should use it,” Feneberg said of Channel 170.  “There’s great potential to engage students in the programming,” he said.  School board member Rob Breton, who was elected this past March, wanted to know who’s supposed to be in charge of the programming.  Feneberg said it is school staff that is in charge of the high school’s TV studio, but, until just this past week, there was nobody who was hired specifically for this function.  Based on the passage of the 2014-2015 school district budget, there is now a half-time TV coordinator in place.  The new budget went into effect on July 1.  “This is a gap that needed to be filled,” Feneberg continued.  “I am hopeful that this will change the landscape of Channel 170.”

School board member Ken Eyring, elected this past March, said he wasn’t aware of the problem with Channel 170.  “This is a huge resource,” Eyring said.  “The kids could be learning hands on.”  This is an opportunity that could lead to a future career, he added.  “This should be part of the curriculum.”  Noting his own background in this field, Eyring said, “I can assure you that I will give you 100% attention; guaranteed.”

On a motion made by Chairman Jerome Rekart, school board members unanimously approved appointing Eyring as the school board liaison to the TV cable board.  “This isn’t just lip service,” Rekart assured Case.  Eyring will serve as a direct conduit between the cable committee, high school staff and the school board.