The Record Off The Record is an unofficial “you had to be there” account of Board and Standing Committee (Education Policy and Operations Policy and Planning ) meetings in School District 61 Greater Victoria (a five municipality school district). Official, approved minutes are posted on the SD61 website, usually one month after a meeting. For the sake of brevity Trustees will be referred to by last name, and in motions “the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) “ will be referred to as “the Board [etc]”.
New Year’s Resolution for 2013: Don’t get this far behind on meeting posts again.
When I started this job after the November 2011 civic election I thought maybe the reason I wasn’t fully following what was occurring in meetings was due to my being “new” and that I “didn’t understand” (despite decades of chairing and participating in meetings using Robert’s Rules). Those of us who were newly elected in November 2011 were told this not infrequently. But after a year in this position, I’ve concluded that the reason process is hard to follow in SD61 meetings is because much of the time this Board is arbitrary with Robert’s Rules of Order, does not consistently follow its own Policies and Bylaws, supports incorrect rulings, stifles debate, arbitrarily refuses to hear motions from the floor, and more
There was no secret In Camera meeting before the public meeting.
McSweeney’s List Precept #10 applies for this meeting: “Confound your enemy [grain of salt with terminology ; spoofing Sun Tzu, after all] with precepts that sound profound but actually make little or no sense. Be to him as the stallion is to the necktie. “ Here we go.
1. Approval of the Agenda: Approved. (McEvoy absent; sent regrets.)
2. Approval of the Minutes: Ed Policy November 5, 2012/OPPS November 13 : Approved
3. Business Arising From the Minutes: Loring-Kuhanga and Nohr had follow-up questions about the International Program and wifi in K-5 schools.
4. Operations Policy and Planning Committee (Not “Operations, Policy and Planning” – this standing committee is about operations planning and related policy. See “Eats Shoots and Leaves”.): Chair Leonard
A. New Business / Notice of Motions [Unlike every other body that uses Robert’s Rules of Order, in SD61 meetings motions from the floor are not allowed. Except when they are.]
1. McNally: Challenge the Ruling of the Chair
That the Board [etc] amend Bylaw 9368 “Procedure of Board Meetings”, Article 107.00 to read: “Any Trustee may challenge the ruling of the Chair, according to Robert’s Rules of Order.The Trustee making the challenge (with a seconder) will be asked by the Chair to state the challenge; debate will occur according to Robert’s Rules of Order; a vote to sustain the Chair will follow debate.
[At present Article 107.00 states: Any trustee may challenge the ruling of the Chairman, which challenge shall be put to an immediate vote, without debate. ]
Rationale: Bylaw 9368, Article 107. 00 does not allow a Trustee who challenges a ruling of the chair to state the challenge. This leaves other Trustees and the public with no information about the challenge (what the disagreement regarding the ruling of the Chair is based on) and allows for frivolous challenges, as no explanation of the challenge is required or even allowed. The immediate call for a vote to sustain the chair – or not – is based on no information, which creates an apparent devolution of the vote from a substantive debate to a seeming popularity contest or a vote based on assumption by Trustees as they have no idea what the challenge is, or its merits.
The public and media have no idea what is going on under the current process. Robert’s Rules 11th Edition addresses this issue: the small group (under 12; this Board has 9 Trustees) rules section (starting on p. 487 of the 11th Edition) refers to Appeals (aka “Challenges”), and says they are debatable under the regular rules (see page 256, Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 11th Edition). Individuals attending meetings of publicly elected bodies expect a challenger to be allowed to speak and and be to able to explain a challenge with reference to Robert’s Rules and the body’s bylaws and policies, and the chair to defend his or her decision using the same referents.
George Demeter (d 1983), law professor at Boston University and Suffolk University, and globally considered an authority on parliamentary process, states in Demeter’s Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure that appeals (challenges to the Chair’s ruling) are debatable, because the reason for the appeal [challenge] is of importance to the assembly. If the reasons given for the appeal are convincing, the Chair may change the ruling.
The current process as set out in Bylaw 9368 is less than transparent and serves to block understanding of Board process. Supporting this motion would make a small change to the Bylaw and a major change to transparency and the democratic process of the Board.
- Orcherton against. At one point Orcherton said a ruling by the chair was a “teaching moment”.
- Horsman against: BC School Trustees’ Association “uses a parliamentarian” and that the SD Board’s Secretary-Treasurer, referred to by Horsman as a ‘parliamentarian”, a CA appointed a few months ago, “keeps up “ on Robert’s Rules .[Becoming familiar with the body of Robert’s Rules requires intensive and time-consuming study. That is why the BCSTA uses the services of a registered parliamentarian, not the BCSTA Director of Finance. A BCSTA official related that the chair is never challenged at BCSTA meetings, and that this is part of BCSTA governance. BCSTA Bylaws say noting about denying a challenge to the Chair. Perhaps it’s “just not done”.]
- Horsman against: challenging a ruling of the chair is “not constructive”; the secretary treasurer is the designated authority on rulings made by the Chair. [Designated by whom? ]
- Alpha for: It is not about the Chair, but is about the challenger, who has to clearly explain the challenge. The “parliamentarian” can make a more accurate judgment if he or she knows what the challenge is based on.
- Loring-Kuhanga for: Current practice is inconsistent. A challenge isn’t always referred to the secretary-treasurer, and there appears to be different “rules” for different people.
- Orcherton on “point of clarification” [which doesn’t exist in Robert’s Rules, but is an awesome way of circumventing a speaker’s list in SD61 meetings, and which is in reality a “point of opinion”]: There is consistency. If the chair is confident in the ruling there is no need to ask the “parliamentarian”. [Could it be possible for confident people to be wrong? Apparently not. Good to know.]
- Nohr for: Not easy for the public to follow debate and the clarity provided by the motion would be helpful for everyone.
- Orcherton against: Bylaw 9360 is about the order of our business and supersedes Robert’s Rules. The Bylaw doesn’t preclude debate [it does], but just says the challenge goes directly to a vote, and that it is the Chair’s responsibility to run the meeting [with license to run it incorrectly, it appears].
- Leonard against: “Dismayed” by the “popularity contest” remark which “challenge the integrity of the Chair” and is “demeaning”.
- Horsman, also on a “point of clarification”, noted, apparently with some alarm and surprise, that if this motion were passed, it would supersede / change the Bylaw . [That seemed apparent from the outset, as this was clearly stated in the motion.]
Defeated. Against: Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, Orcherton. For: Alpha, Loring-Kuhanga, McNally, Nohr. Absent: McEvoy
If a motion is defeated in a Standing Committee the mover can give up there, or bring it forward to the Board as a “non-recommended” motion in order for motion and debate to be on the Board audio record and in Board minutes.
2. Nohr: Stewardship Report (referred to this meeting from the Board meeting November 19, 2012 )
That the Board [etc] develop and implement a stewardship report for all Board meetings to include the action taken on motions carried, person responsible and progress report (which may include timeline and /or date of progress report).
- Loring-Kuhanga (former Saanich SD63 Trustee) for: Saanich SD63 had such a report, called a Progress Report; worked well.
- Orcherton against: It’s the responsibility of each individual to track what’s happening with motions. It happens already.
- Horsman tentatively for: BCSTA does such a report, but calls it a Progress Report; would like that title better.
Horsman moved to table the motion along with Motion 3 below (meaning the motions could go away indefinitely if no one moves to “lift from the table” at the next meeting), as there is a motion on the agenda to review Bylaw 9368 “Procedure of Board Meetings”.
Motion to table carried. For: Alpha, Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, Nohr, Orcherton. Against: Loring-Kuhanga, McNally. Absent: McEvoy.
3. Nohr: Adding Stewardship Report to Bylaw 9360 General Meetings of the Board
Moved: to refer Motion #3 to the Committee below, assuming formation of the committee. Carried unanimously.
4. Horsman: Form an Ad Hoc Committee
That the Board [etc] form an Ad Hoc Committee to review Bylaw 9360 to make recommendations for enhancements for public engagement including a structure for a possible Question and Answer period. The Ad Hoc Committee will include one representative from the Allied Specialists Association, CUPE 382, CUPE 947, Exempt, GVTA, VCPAC, Victoria Principals and Vice Principals Association [no local website] , and the Superintendent of Schools. The committee will report to the Operations Policy and Planning Committee and will be at no cost to the Board.
“No cost to the Board” means “no release time for union employees”. Notably, given inclusion of all the “partner groups” and more, Horsman did not include trustees on this committee.
In February 2012, Loring-Kuhanga brought a motion to establish a working committee which wound up at OPPS May 14, 2012. The wording was “That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) establish a small working committee (consisting of 2 trustees, 1 executive member, 1 teacher, 1 parent and 1 CUPE member from 382 and 947) to review all policies and regulations and to report revisions to OPPS on a monthly basis.” It was defeated (Against: Alpha, Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, Orcherton For: Loring-Kuhanga, McNally, Nohr Absent: McEvoy).
McNally: motion to amend Horsman’s motion :
That the Board [etc] form an Ad Hoc Committee to review Bylaw 9360 to make recommendations for increasing opportunities for public input at Board meetings, including at least one, and possibly two, Question and Answer periods for the public. The Ad Hoc Committee will include all interested Trustees, with written input from any partner group or individual that wishes to submit a statement. The Committee will report to the Operations Policy and Planning Committee with a recommendation no later than February 2013. The Committee will meet at no cost to the Board.
The amendment includes Trustees as members.
After discussion I voted against my own amendment (it was defeated unanimously), as comment from the VCCPAC president regarding the undesirability of exclusion of partner groups except for written submissions was a good point, and caused me to rethink. VCCPAC didn’t have any problem with the total exclusion of trustees, however.
- On the amendment: Horsman against: This is an Ad Hoc Committee of equals in the original motion. Calling for the recommendation no later than February is too soon, given the Christmas holidays and the committee probably won’t meet in January [Why not?]. There should not be a deadline.
- Orcherton against: Agrees with Horsman. The motion should not state a specific thing that the committee needs to do. The Committee needs to decide whether there will be a question period or not. Trustees will be involved at Operations Planning and Policy when the Committee reports. If Trustees are on this committee it could become a Trustees’ meeting. [The implication seems to be that Trustees are an overwhelming force that will crush discussion by much nicer partner groups.] The February deadline is too soon. If we’re going to change the way we do business we don’t want to rush it. A deadline is not in the interest of full democratic discussion. [Deadlines for reporting out from committees are common practise, and are suggested in the Board’s own Ad Hoc Committee Bylaw. However, given the lateness of the SD61 WiFi Ad Hoc Committee report – over a year late – it seems a deadline doesn’t mean much in any case.]
- Public observer: This is Board functioning and the Board needs to sort out how they are going to conduct their own business, not leave that to other groups.
- Horsman: Traditionally partner groups always participate when any change in policy is made. [Policies are being reviewed and initially changed and deleted by senior management with no partner groups involved – not even trustees – until discussion at a Standing Committee.]
- Orcherton: It’s democracy and we want everybody to be part of policy review. [Except elected trustees, apparently.]
- VCCPAC: VCPAC provided a letter to the Board in 2006 suggesting a question period. The amendment requiring a written submission is less engaging than meeting face to face.
- McNally: point taken re the engagement and written submission situation.
Amendment defeated unanimously. Back to Horsman’s main motion.
- Orcherton: McEvoy for (Orcherton read a note from McEvoy, who was absent)
- Horsman: The committee will also consider public taping of the meetings and should permission be granted for that. It will look at any gaps in communication.
- Orcherton: “To clarify Loring-Kuhanga’s comment” [Basically, “It’s not the content of the motion but who moves it”]: Loring-Kuhanga brought the motion in February and then asked for it to be deferred [at this point Orcherton was interrupted with a chorus of “No!” The February event was the impetus for the “challenge the chair” motion. The Chair ruled that no other Trustee could bring Loring-Kuhanga’s motion forward (Loring-Kuhagna was out of town for a funeral).This is untrue and finally that was admitted to at a much later meeting. Meanwhile, Loring-Kuhanga’s motion began its long journey through falling off agendas and otherwise being moved around through various meetings.]
- GVTA: Why are there no Trustees on the committee? Can Trustees attend?
- Horsman: No. Would rather see that later.
- Public comment: It appears that the Board will seek input from partner groups who already sit at the table and have input. There is no public involvement invited for a Committee that will examine public involvement. It’s disappointing to see the “public engagement” aspect addressed only with reference to Bylaw 9360. There are many issues of public engagement that could be examined, the SD61 website being one.
Carried. For: Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, McNally, Nohr, Orcherton Against: Alpha, Loring-Kuhanga Absent: McEvoy
[I regret my vote on this motion. At the time it seemed better to go ahead with some examination of Bylaw 9360 than have none.]
The Chair gave direction to the Superintendent to ensure that motions 3 and 5 from Nohr be referred to the Ad Hoc Committee. Motion #2, Stewardship Report, has been referred to this Ad Hoc Committee.
5. Loring-Kuhanga: Question and Answer Period
That the Board [etc] public board meeting include a standing item for one Question and Answer period to allow for questions from the public.
“It was agreed” that Loring-Kuhanga’s motion be referred to the Ad Hoc Committee. [What happened there? The Chair referred it. Robert’s Rules state (Commit or Refer, pp 170-171, Robert’s Rules of Order, 11th Edition) that a motion to refer must be stated as a motion. must be seconded, is debatable, and requires a majority vote. No such vote is recorded here since no such procedure took place.]
5. Education Policy Development Committee: Chair Alpha
A. Revision (attached to agenda, pp 8-32) to Policy and Regulation 5140.1 Child Abuse : brought forward by senior administration (District Principal, Learning Initiatives
As per current process for Policy review (contrary to the Board’s own Policy 2105 “District leadership Team”), review of this Policy (and the associated Regulation) was outsourced by “direction” to senior administration – in this case, the District Principal of Learning Initiatives).
Several problems were noted with the presented revision of the Regulation associated with the Policy: no involvement of Aboriginal Delegated Authority; definition of “child” is ambiguous (both “under 19” and “less than twelve”) and as there are multiple references to “child” and “children” throughout the document, this is problematic; gaps in service are apparent for youth 14-19; requires “school district employees” to report abuse to a principal, which is contrary to the Child, Family and Community Service Act (the individual witnessing or with knowledge of abuse is to report it to the “Director or a delegated social worker “); and indirectly, there is no current way to inform new teachers of this new policy as the Board no longer provides an orientation session for new teachers
Policy Revision carried. For (Policy revision only): Alpha, Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, Nohr, Orcherton Against: Loring-Kuhanga, McNally (on process: trustees are not involved in Policy review as they should be, and there was no consultation with Aboriginal Delegated Authority) Absent: McEvoy
The Regulation was sent back to senior administration for further work.
6. General Announcements: None.
7.Adjournment: 9 pm
Next Post: Regular Board Meeting, December 10, 2012