P1 Board Meeting
P2 BCCPAC / VCPAC / DPAC
It’s time for a new format for this blog. With the change, here’s some history.
When I was first elected in 2011, I came to the School District 61 Board fro a background of consistent application of Robert’s Rules in small meetings and in large meetings of 400 or more people. Everyone understood the procedure of the debate, order was kept, and everyone knew how motions were disposed of. If you didn’t know Robert’s you’d be left behind as there was no patience for remaining ignorant of required process.
As a representative of the teacher’s union local I attended SD61 Board meetings for for several years, thinking that this Board must be so much more sophisticated with Robert’s Rules than I, since I had little grasp of what was going on. The meetings moved very fast. Other attendees could not understand how the meetings were conducted, either.
However, once elected and immersed in the process of the Board, it became clear that Board and Committee meetings did not follow Robert’s, required by SD61 Board Bylaw 9368 and hadn’t for some time, which is why no one really understood what was happening. “Out of Order”, used frequently and incorrectly by Chairs of the Board and Committees, really meant that the Chair didn’t like the motion and wanted it to go away. Although enshrined Robert’s, challenging a ruling of the Chair was not allowed. (Bev Horsman, no longer on the board, was horrified by the idea of a challenge to the Chair saying, “That would undermine the Chair’s authority!” Imagine that. ) I brought a motion to the table to revise the relevant Bylaw [ at 8. A here] to include a provision for Challenge of the Chair’s ruling, as it exists in Robert’s rules of Order. Much opposition but eventually carried.
Motions were recorded in minutes as simply carried or defeated. Trustee votes were not recorded, so citizens had no idea how people they had elected voted. I made a motion to have names attached to votes and published in the minutes so electors would know how people they elected voted on issues. My motion to record votes [February 2012] failed at Ed Policy in 2012 with intense pushback 5-4 [Orcherton: “Individual trustees can decide how transparent they want to be to the public.”] But at the following Board meeting the motion carried unanimously, with five trustees who had argued vehemently against the motion suddenly changing their minds after media attention. Perhaps it became apparent that transparency for elected officials isn’t an option.
You can imagine given the lack of rules of engagement and arbitrary actions by Chairs that were supported 5-4, the kind of experiences that in camera meetings were. Because I can’t tell you.
A lot more that needed to change, and meetings have changed for the better, but not without unrelenting focus and effort on applying Robert’s Rules. RRO 11th Edition was bought and given to all Trustees. I’m not sure that even now, all Trustees have read it. It’s not fun but required reading for the job. Just one example, below. Never mind that Board Bylaw 9368 requires that meetings use Robert’s Rules.
Jan 7/13: Motion from the floor: McNally:That any motion to refer be made and conducted according to Robert’s Rules of Order, with a mover, seconder, debate, and votes recorded. / Defeated. Against: Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, McEvoy, Orcherton For: Alpha, Loring-Kuhanga, McNally, Nohr. So, anything can be referred by a Chair without a motion to do that or a recorded vote, to some other meeting. Some “referred” motions never resurfaced. [As of 2014, Robert’s is in force.]
Some Trustees may still believe Robert’s is “bureaucratic bullshit”, but nevertheless the majority now accepts that the Board functions well according to Robert’s Rules. Now, if you know even the rudiments, you can follow debate and disposal of motions. Minutes make sense and are complete. There is no longer a need to record in detail what happened in the meetings. The essentials are captured in the minutes of the two standing committees and the Board meeting. posted on the SD61 website. Improving process and updating Policy and Regulations (which the majority bloc – Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, McEvoy, Orcherton – of the Board for the 2011 3 year term said would take too much time, and besides, “Trustees don’t get involved in Policy”) are well underway and continue, with two trustees the committee.Because yes they do get involved with Policy.
Regular Board Meeting
Present: Ferris, Leonard, McNally, Loring-Kuhanga, Nohr, Watters, Whiteaker
Not Present: Orcherton, Paynter
The agenda was approved with a couple of additions. Minutes of June 26, August 21 approved. No business arising, no student achievement presentation. KPMG, the District Auditors, presented their analysis of the District’s financial statements and found them to be in order.
In the Community Presentations section, five people spoke to the proposed SD 61 Dress Code motion. During the first presentation by Tasha Diamant, there were abusive comments being made to her that the Board could not hear, but there was apparent body language from a member of the public. When Tasha had finished her presentation and was returning to her seat, the man who had been making remarks became more aggressive with his remarks, although people at the Board table still could hear only the odd word, not all of what was said. I heard only “weird”, which was bad enough. Two more women presented. Tasha moved away from the commenting man to another seat, stood up and called out what had happened and the man denied it; the next presenter, Max, said what he had heard, supported what Tasha had said, and called for action. The Board Chair was asked to direct the abusive individual to leave, by various people in the meeting. Nothing like this had ever happened in this meeting room before. The chair asked and then directed the man to leave. He argued, two male senior administration rose, and followed the individual and his friend out of the room. The final presenter, Renay, made her presentation in support of the motion. They are all on SD61 video on the website. The incident is in Part 1, at 26 minutes 10 seconds.
The incident needs close attention in a debrief, development of clear protocol for such breaches in conduct / threatening behaviour, and possibly a reconfiguration of the room to ensure that all in the room can hear everyone.
This is the motion that carried at Ed Policy on September 11th, and which the Board intended to debate at this meeting: The Board of SD61 (Greater Victoria) accepts the following recommendation: The School Code of Conduct will not include any other statements regarding expectations of dress, except for the following: Our school is committed to creating a learning community that values diversity and is free of all forms of discrimination. In line with the BC Human Rights Code which prohibits discrimination on the basis of an individual’s: race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and age, promotes a climate of understanding and mutual respect where all are equal in dignity and rights. Actions through verbal or nonverbal communication (including clothing) must demonstrate support for the BC Human Rights Code.
The meeting continued. The Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils President spoke against the motion, and Trustee Deborah Nohr, who had previously spoken against the motion, moved to refer it back to the One Learning Community Committee (which made the recommendation to adopt it). The motion to refer carried, which stopped any debate, and stopped anyone hearing any reasons why a Trustee would be be for or against it. Ferris, Leonard, Loring-Kuhanga, Nohr for referral; McNally, Watters, Whiteaker against referral, meaning let’s do this now; it’s been through two Committees.
And mystifyingly, the next day in an interview with TC reporter Jeff Bell,
Audrey Smith, president of the Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils , said there hasn’t yet been an official parent representative involved in discussions about the dress code.
The mystifying part is, Smith was at the table and contributed when the code proposal was being discussed in meetings of the One Learning Community Committee and could have brought up the “official” problem then. But how much more “official” does it have to get than the President of the Organization that (although it seldom if ever gets quirum at meetings) purports to represent parents of students in SD61?
Reportedly Smith has since claimed she was misquoted by the TC reporter, but Trustees weren’t told this. I called the TC and management is investigating.
[VCPAC – most parent groups simply go by DPAC, “District Parent Advisory Council” – was unable to get quorum [a PAC rep from each of 15 schools] for even one VCPAC meeting in the 2016-17 school year, and most of the time in years past. This is an organization that presents itself though the President’s statements as “the” voice of parents in SD61. How was business conducted, if any was? So get out to your school PAC meeting and ask a lot of questions. Only one person gets to take the school PAC vote in issues to DPAC, though. Not one person, one vote.
The rest of the meeting dealt with establishing a French Advisory ad hoc committee to meet at least annually [carried], that the Superintendent provide a report and recommendation on elementary counselling supports [carried], debate on trustee remuneration framed in the coming impact of 2019 Federal tax changes [carried], a motion to upgrade the upper Esquimalt High School Field [carried] and nine budget related motions [all carried]. [For years, the SD61 structural deficit climbed every year, but the current administrative team directed by current Board decisions have reduced it from over $8 million a couple of years ago to $3,700,000. With direction from the current Board, paying down the structural deficit is beginning to look very possible.]
The public question period had three questions, one asking about the legal basis for the district to collect funds from parents for playgrounds and one asking for policy on teachers teaching their own children (there isn’t one). One was handed in from the floor written as required, something like”explain dress codes“, left behind by the individual who was ejected. [ Ok. Here.]
Trustee Watters gave a Notice of Motion for the next Board meeting:
That the Board direct the Superintendent to instruct principals to suspend enforcement of school dress codes pending completion of the One Learning Community Committee’s consultations and recommendations on dress codes.
Adjourned 10:25 pm.