School District 61 Board Meeting September 17, 2012 : Up Past Our Bedtime

Meeting recorded by SD61; click on date for audio file: Sept 17 2012

It’s been an intense start-up to the school year with Policy and Bylaw research (and Regulations, though Regulation development is done by senior administration, not Trustees) , and the WiFi Committee  K-5 schools WiFi issue, with the Precautionary Principle used in some countries and areas and seemingly ignored in others.

Research assistant using awesome office filing system

This Record Off the Record for the September 17, 2912 Board meeting is late. The October Board meeting will be held on Monday, October 15, so as always, official minutes will be posted on the SD61 website.

The usual In Camera meeting started at 5:30, and ended at 7 pm. Special thanks to guests from Duncan who drove down to come to the meeting, and to members of the public who attended.

A. Commencement of Meeting  Before the September 17 agenda was approved, Trustee Loring-Kuhanga moved to have item H. Public Disclosure of In Camera Items moved up to near the beginning of the agenda, between A.5 and A.6, as this item is always last before adjournment, and members of the public who attend the meeting may not be able to stay to the end. (The School Act, Section 72.3  specifies how In Camera items will be disclosed to the public. School Boards don’t operate under the Community Charter, as do City Councils, which must move into an in camera meeting through a motion made within the public meeting, specified in Section 92.)

At the combined Education Policy / Operations Planning and Policy meeting on September 10, meeting my comprehensive motion to change the Agenda order and structure was defeated 8-1. Too much too soon. Moving the In Camera disclosure up seems to be a good first step though, and the change should be made permanent.

A.1 Approval of agenda, with the change

A.2 Approval of minutes of June 201

A.3 Business Arising From Minutes: There will be an update on the International Education Program in SD61 at the October 9 OPPS meeting.

A.4 Student Achievement: Students and staff presented on Clan Week at Cedar Hill Middle School, an initiative to foster belonging in school. Trustee Loring Kuhanga referred to Aboriginal clan structure and to her clan.

H. Report Out From In Camera: Various leases by SD61 to a variety of groups

A.5 Community Presentations : none.

A.6: Trustee Reports: Trustee Loring-Kuhanga explained why she had brought an eagle feather with her. Trustee Nohr, Ferris and Horsman gave reports.

B. Chair’s Report: Chair Orcherton reported on Ministry of Education funding protection (Districts experiencing declining enrolment are currently guaranteed 98.5% of the previous year’s funding)  and progress regarding the Oak Bay High School replacement.

C. Board Committee Reports:
C.1 Combined Ed Policy / OPPS :
a)minutes from September 10
b) Recommended motions from / debated at September 10 meeting:

That the Board of Education of School Distinct No. 61 (Greater Victoria) adopt the revised Policy 2120. 030, District Principal of Learning Initiatives. (The associated Regulation, the responsibility  of senior administration, carries automatically if the Policy carries.)

  • Motion to refer back to Ed Policy for further discussion: Nohr: Defeated 5-4.
    Main motion: Carried 5-4.

Orcherton: That the Board [etc] directs (sic) senior management to review all Board practices , policies and bylaws wit respect to the Board’s interact with the Public with the view to clarify, educate and if necessary, recommend any improvements to these practices and policies. Carried 5-4.  For: Orcherton, Horsman, McEvoy, Leonard, Ferris  Against: Alpha, Nohr, Loring-Kuhanga, McNally

  • Speakers against the motion noted  that continual outsourcing of policy and bylaw review and revision is an abrogation of Trustee’s responsibilities. Both the BC School Trustees’ Association, and the District’s own Bylaw 9210, part 2 specify that Trustees are to be involved in all stages of policy development. It has been said at the Board table that “involvement” is now through a decision of the previous Board to outsource to senior administration.  Creation of a Policy Review and Development Committee has been proposed, and dismissed. (One Trustee remarked on policy development through social media. Who, me? But since the public has no powerful  opportunity to be part of the policy process, that might be one way to make policy development more transparent. )

Two recommended motions regarding gaining access to funding from the c) Carbon Neutral Capital Program Energy Study ($7,317) and d) playground equipment funding (for George Jay K-5 and one more school) carried unanimously.

D. District Leadership Team (Senior Administration) Reports :
D.1 Associate Secretary-Treasure’s Report:  Recommended motions:

a) Audited Financial Statements:

That the internally restricted surplus appropriation as shown on Statement 1 of the Financial Statements, being held for school level funds (Note A), unspent project budgets Note B) , purchase order commitments (Note C) and the previously approved budget surplus (Note D) be approved. Carried 8-1, Loring-Kuhanga against.

That the June 30, 2012 unrestricted operating surplus of $1,336, 261 be carried forward to be applied towards the 2013/2014 projected deficit. (The deficit is forecast to be in the $7 million range) Carried 5-4.  For:Orcherton, Horsman, McEvoy, Leonard, Ferris  Against: Alpha, Nohr, Loring-Kuhanga, McNally

  • In past years, then-Secretary-Treasurer George Ambeault began the Budget report with a letter signed by him that stated the amount of the projected budget deficit, an amount that rose steadily every year. Up to a month ago, these letters were available on the SD61 website under the “Budget” sub-menu. They’ve been removed.

  • Speakers against the motion cited the decade of cuts to public education and the resulting loss of staff – speech-language pathologists, counsellors, Facilities employees, recent cuts to an employee group’s benefits, and more – and the fact that SD61 has budgeted by running a structural deficit every year, $9 million in the 2010-11 year. As the Board continually runs in excess of what the Ministry provides, it was argued that the “surplus” would be better applied to this year’s needs.

That the audited financial statements of the Board [etc] for the year ended June 30, 2012, be approved. And that the Board Chair, the Superintendent, and the Secretary-Treasurer be authorized to execute these statements, where applicable, on behalf of the Board. Carried unanimously.

b) Statement of Financial Information:

That the Board [etc] approves (sic) the schedules as required by the Financial Information Act for the period July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012. (This document states expenses that have already happened.) Carried unanimously. (If only we would consistently use the subjunctive tense in motions. “Grammar obsessives” is a small club but I’m in it. )

E. Reports from Trustee Representatives

Trustee Nohr reported that she had spoken with Bruce Carter of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce. Trustee McNally reported that her Swan Lake liaison assignment had not been operational for several years, according to the Swan Lake Director, and that there was no need to continue the SD61 liaison position.

F. New Business / Notice of Motions:

F. 1 Class Data Report: Nohr: That the Board [etc] develop a class size and composition report to include distribution of students by grade level as well as those defined as ESL, ELL, International students, students with IEPs including gifted students and the allocation of educational assistants for the October 2012 public board meeting.

  • This motion was ruled “Out of Order” by the Chair . Trustee Alpha challenged the Chair’s ruling (“appeal the decision of the Chair“. The challenge went to an immediate vote according to Bylaw 9368, Article 107.00.
  • The normal practise – according to Robert’s Rules of Order – is that the Chair will say to the challenger, “State your challenge”. That  provides an opportunity for everyone – Trustees, and the public – to hear the reason for the challenge so people can consider the substance of the challenge, and  debate  the propriety of the challenge. After debate on the challenge, a vote is taken.
  • But not in SD61. Just vote to sustain the chair or not. And right away. So in SD61, a change to the Chair is basically a popularity contest, since no one but the challenger knows what the challenge was about.
  • The Chair was sustained 5-4.For: Orchereton, Horsman, McEvoy, Leonard, Ferris.  Against: Alpha, Loring-Kuhanga, McNally, Nohr.
  • A Trustee remarked that this motion could not come back until the end of this current 3 year electoral term as that was a “session”. Wrong.
  • The allocation of education assistants may be provided in an In Camera meeting. Secret.

F.2 Question and Answer Period: Loring-Kuhanga: That the Board [etc] public board meeting agenda include a standing item for 2 Question and Answer periods to allow for public questions: at the beginning of every meeting ad a the end of every meeting. Also to amend Bylaw 9360 regarding Agenda format that includes two Question and Answer periods.

  • The Chair commented that this will be the last time this motion comes to the table in this form, and that this idea has been discussed at previous meetings. And at all of them, the majority conclusion was that allowing the public – you – to ask questions at a Board meeting is just a bad idea.  However, “One of Robert’s fundamental rules is that the same or substantially the same question can not be brought up a second time during the same session.” So, we may see this motion again.
  • Perhaps someone will bring it back with only one question period. That might help the trustee who objected to this motion with the argument that if there  were pubic question periods, ”We could be here past 10 pm”. (The meeting was audio recorded.  I’ve asked the Chair twice for the audio file so I can link it here but haven’t even got a denial, let alone the audio file.)
  • Some Trustees thought it necessary to research how other Districts do this, which was countered by a suggestion to adopt this opportunity to increase accountability to the public, and develop the “how to” after approval of the motion. How hard can it be to  add two question periods, and then decide on time parameters?
  • Motion defeated, 5-4.  Against: Orcherton, Horsman, McEvoy, Leonard, Ferris. For: Alpha, Loring-Kuhanga, McNally, Nohr.

H. Public Disclosure of In Camera Items was moved up on the agenda.

I. Adjournment. Notable consistency on this item. Watch for it. You have to be there.

Next posts:

  • Education Policy Development Committee October 1
  • What Do Trustees Do?
  • Roots of Empathy

About Diane McNally