The Record, Off the Record #3: Operations, Policy and Planning Meeting May 14, 2012

The May 14 2012 Operations, Planning and Policy Standing Committee (Bylaw 9130.2, Regulation 9130) meeting was preceded by an in camera meeting. Nothing was reported out to the public who attended. Side trip regarding in camera meetings: here’s an interesting site I found in my online travels trying to find out out more about in camera / executive session meetings: Association for Responsible  Trustees in Calgary Schools.

The In Camera Meeting Bylaw (9360.1) states “Any matter brought to the public from an in-camera meeting will be done upon an approved motion of the Board.” Following that meeting a Committee of the Whole meeting took place.

That’s the report from those two meetings.

The regular OPPS meeting is chaired by Trustee Elaine Leonard, and  was attended by senior District staff as usual, and all trustees except for Trustee McEvoy who was absent. The meeting was audio-recorded. By whom and and for what purpose was not stated.  Two members of the public attended. At the Standing Committees, there is opportunity for questions from the public and dialogue with trustees. There is no provision for public questions at regular Board meetings.  Cowichan SD79 Board meeting agendas have a time for questions. I’ve seen it in action and it works very well.  Victoria City Council has an opportunity for public questions at “J” on every agenda.

Victoria City council also moves into “in camera” sessions or “Committee of the Whole” sessions as needed, by motion in the public meeting, as required by the Community Charter.

Councillor Ben Isitt has an interesting blog entry on increasing transparency at City Hall.

The OPPS agenda for May 14 is online. The minutes will be approved at the Board meeting on May 22.

There was no “Business Arising From Minutes”. Rob Paynter, who resides in School District 61, made two presentations to the Board about parent involvement in extracurricular activities, and class size and composition.

The ensuing extracurricular activities-related discussion touched on the possibility of parents organizing clubs completely outside schools as an alternative to school-connected clubs; whether or not a “sponsor teacher” is required on site, or a “sponsor teacher” is required at all, for a school-affiliated club to carry on activities; what liability issues might arise; whether or not VCPAC is the only “approved” channel for parent presentations of policy ideas to the Board ( a startling concept in democracy); that the Greater Victoria Elementary School Sports Association’s (hard to find website – never did find it) requirements that a teacher be present.

The class size and composition presentation was received, after Mr. Paynter made a verbal presentation. The proposal suggested that the Board “ …establish a policy of requiring class size and composition reporting, to include the distribution of students by grade level as well as those identified as ESL, International students, students with IEPs including gifted designations and the FTE (full time equivalent) allocation of educational assistants. Reporting to the Board would occur when student population changes result in class sizes exceeding legislated caps and at the beginning of each semester.” The verbal presentation touched on Bill 22 and the removal of requirements for such reporting.

Mr. Paynter also directed the Board in his written presentation to the Auditor General’s Guide for Boards . A pertinent quote from the Report: “Board members should not passively wait for management to supply information to them. Rather, they should work proactively to obtain the information they need to fulfil their responsibilities.”

Under “Finance and Legal Affairs”, there were 4 motions and an update.

Motion 1, Needs Budget, “recommended motion” from the budget committee (including Trustees Alpha, Horsman and and Orcherton) , carried unanimously. I voted for this, as my motion to submit only a needs budget failed. This was better than not submitting one at all, though what effect it will have is fairly predictable. The motion will go to the next Board meeting for final approval. (The Cowichan School District 79 Board will have third and final reading of their needs budget, the only budget they are submitting, on Wednesday, May 16.) [Note:It carried, 5-4.]

Motion 2, three readings of the Capital Bylaw in order to access provincial funds for maintenance and repairs was discussed as notice of motion for the next Board meeting, from Debra Laser, the Associate Secretary-Treasurer.

Motion 3, from Associate Superintendent Pat Duncan, part of the ongoing senior administration “policy housekeeping” effort, to delete a reference to Executive Council, which hasn’t existed for decades, in Bylaw 9221 Board Administration Relationships, carried unanimously.

Motion 4, from Pat Duncan, to delete Policy 2123.042 Supervisor of Accounting (last review of policy in 1982), and 2123.043 Supervisor of Personnel/Payroll (1980), carried unanimously as the positions no longer exist.

Superintendent / Secretary-Treasurer Gaiptman gave a verbal update on funding. Holdback money  from the province (about $280,000) was received earlier than expected this year. The bulk of money “saved” from the teachers’ strike went into the rather cynically named provincial Learning I Improvement Fund . SD61 Greater Victoria SD saved approximately $125,000 at the District level.

Under New Business, disappointingly, 3 of Trustee Loring-Kuhanga’s 4 motions failed, with one (#4) tabled for consideration  to the next Board meeting.

# 1 recommended establishment of a working committee to review policies and regulations that are seen to be contentious in discussion, , and to report back to OPPS. Currently contentious policy changes go back to senior administration, who recommended the changes. I voted in support.(It was difficult to get the vote count as votes are not recorded in the two standing committees.)

# 2 recommended provision of two opportunities on every Board meeting agenda for public questions. Wouldn’t you like to be able to ask questions of the people you pay, as a citizen? The Board is the  final place for motions to pass or fail, and not everyone can come out to two meetings a month – child care may be problematic, as well as other commitments. So although questions are a feature of the two Standing Committees, Ed Policy and OPPS, the Board meetings are much more rigidly managed.  Trustee Loring-Kuhanga’s motion failed as a tie vote , in this case 4/4, is an automatic fail (the chair voted and Trustee McEvoy was absent). For: McNally, Alpha, Nohr, Kuhanga. Against: Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, Orcherton.

# 3 recommended that the Board Chair and Vice-Chair change annually, and was ruled out of order by Chairperson Leonard, after objections to the motion by Trustees Leonard, Orcherton and Horsman, using reference to the School Act and objecting to “directing votes”.  Many organizations require term limits for an office, apart from an annual vote, and this is accepted by the membership as a desirable structure for ensuring distribution of responsibility. Section 67 of the School Act says that a majority trustees a can elect a new chair or vice chair at any time, but says nothing about establishing a policy regarding a compulsory rotation that could be provided for in policy. The motion failed 4/4, with the same vote as Motion 2.

# 4 recommended that the Board write a letter to the Minister of Education requesting restoration of special needs funding as per the BC Supreme Court ruling on Bills 27 and 28. Trustee Nohr clarified on request, and stated the amount was approximately $275 million{Correction, May 21: Trustee Alpha moved that this motion be tabled to the next Board meeting. That motion was carried.}

The meeting was adjourned. Next meeting is a regular meeting of the Board, Tuesday May 22, 7:30 pm. An in camera meeting will begin at 6:16 pm. 

The Record, Off the Record, is my voice, not the voice of the Board. Official minutes will be posted on the SD61 website after approval at the Board meeting.