May 4/15: Ed Policy: The Record Off The Record: Genderbread

Letters from BC School Boards

  • to the Minister of Education, and others on a variety of topics are  here on a BCSTA page. I’ve reformatted many School Board letters that BC School Boards copy to other Boards and others, in order to post here for ease of access. But School Board Letters #9 was  the last major letters post here because of time constraints re file  conversion.   Please check now and then – these letters often come out daily. Board Chairs write these letters at the direction of the majority of Trustees on their Board. Wording is fined tuned in Board discussion; sometimes these letters are “ghostwritten” by District staff.

Letters from the SD61 Board Chair

  • to the Minister of Education and others are on the SD61 Board Advocacy page. (My motion to set up the Advocacy page carried some time ago, so you can find letters sent by the Chair on various topics related to public education and SD61 in particular, and replies we receive, on that page.) The Chair writes these letters following direction of the Board through motions carried by the majority of 9 votes, or consensus on occasion. The Chair cannot originate letters independently on behalf of the Board. On occasion these letters are completely or partially “ghostwritten” by District staff.

The Record Off The Record is my personal record of  and commentary on Board and Standing Committee meetings in School District 61 Greater  Victoria (Esquimalt, Oak Bay, Victoria, View Royal, part of Saanich and the Highlands, and the Traditional Territories of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations). Official approved minutes of Board and  Standing Committee meetings and official voting records are posted on the SD61 website under the “Board of Education” menu one month after the meeting. Agendas are posted for the public the Friday before the meeting.

Legally required reports from In Camera meetings are posted beside the relevant meeting. (Click “view all” on the Bylaws, Policies and Regs menu). “Section 72” refers to Section 72 (3) of the BC School Act which states “ A board must prepare a record containing a general statement as to the nature of the matters discussed and the general nature of the decisions reached at a meeting from which persons other than trustees or officers of the board, or both, were excluded, and the record must be open for inspection at all reasonable times by any person, who may make copies and extracts on payment of a fee set by the board.” [Kind of an antique process now that these are posted online.] Key word: “general”. Any report beyond the very basic one required must be done by an in camera motion and majority vote. The SD61 Bylaw 9360.1 states: “In-camera items that may be discussed confidentially include legal, property, personnel and privacy matters as defined by provincial legislation. [Note, not “are limited to”.] Full board meetings must be held in public unless the board decides that it is in the public’s interest to hold a private session (closed or in-camera meeting). However, it is important not to abuse this power. Potential controversy or embarrassment to the board is not usually sufficient reasons for an in-camera meeting.” [“Usually” leaves lots of room to move. “Never” might be better wording.]

Civic governments are bound by the Community Charter (except for the City of Vancouver) and move into in camera meetings by public motion of the Council, and the public has to leave for the duration of the secret meeting and them come back. School Boards are governed by the BC School Act which states that  Chairs can set in camera meetings before public meetings.

Trustees and student representatives are referred to by last name only for brevity; “The Board of Education of SD No. 61 (Greater Victoria)” is referred to as “the Board”. No audio or video recordings are made of Standing Committee meetings, only of Board meetings. [No record of how the audio recording decision was made, or any debate on proposed uses of and storage of the record appears to exist. However, the video recording was debated at length in 2014 OPPS meetings.] Motions may be shortened but retain essential wording. Seconders not noted.

School District 61 Greater Victoria is the 6th largest employer in the Capital Regional District with a 2015-16 budget of $206,361,204  Out of that,  nine Trustees are paid approximately $1,400 a month, each. Each Trustee has access to an individual $2000 annual professional development fund, which at this point, rolls over if not used.

Interestingly, given that SD61 now has an Attendance Manager to “encourage and support” return to work for employees, even though SD61 employees generally are below the provincial average in sick days use, and generally under the number of negotiated available days in Collective Agreements, and have union-contracted return to work provisions through their own providers,  Trustees can miss almost 3 months of meetings – just not show up – ie. 6 Standing Committees, and 2 Board meetings, with no reason given, no cut in pay, and no approval required from the Board:

School Act, BC: Trustee disqualification from holding office
52 (2) If a trustee is continuously absent from board meetings for a period of 3 consecutive months, unless the absence is because of illness or with the leave of the board, the office of the member is deemed to be vacant and the person who held the office is disqualified from holding office as a trustee until the next general school election.


About Diane McNally