March 9/20: Public Censure of Trustee, Part I

I asked the Chair for 30 seconds to speak after the reading of the censure resolution. I was denied. Here’s my 30 seconds, with my full letter to the Board following:

Thank you for the opportunity to say a few words this evening. [I didn’t get the opportunity to speak; denied by the Chair.]

I freely admit to releasing the confidential report to the Board, made by lawyer Roslyn Goldner.

Private independent analysis which I paid for concluded that the investigation’s process and methodology were significantly  flawed, and the conclusions unwarranted.

Although release of the report contravenes the Trustee Code of Ethics, I stand by my conviction  that release of the report was a public service. Ethical decisions are made in context.

I do not accept seventeen anonymous individuals’  characterization of my service at the Board table or in any venue related to my work as an elected  trustee, a political office,  to have been any form of “bullying” or “harassment”. I believe there are more than 17 people who appreciate my service to public education and invested stakeholders.

My letter to the Board, February 6:

February 6, 2020

Attention: The Board of Education
School District 61, Greater Victoria
Trustees Duncan, Ferris, Hentze, Leonard, Painter, Paynter, Watters, Whiteaker

Re: Invitation to Discuss Goldner Report and Media, In Camera February 6

Seventeen [anonymous] members of the SD61 Principals and Vice Principals Association seem to be  operating under the mistaken idea that part of their role is to control Board behaviour via anonymous complaints about “disrespect” and more, including extremely trivial complaints targeting individual trustees. [Will follow in Part 2.]

The alleged issues could have been handled very differently by the Chair and Superintendent. Why these anonymous allegations were not handled by some form of problem solving but were instead  rushed to “investigation” by both the Superintendent and the Board Chair is unclear. There was no action from the Chair to protect the Board or to inform the Board even though [one supposes] the Chair was aware of this complaint before the other Trustees were called into an unusual in camera meeting with no knowledge at all of what was to take place.  Trustees were told this was a WorkSafe matter involving a Trustee or Trustees , and were told that this undisclosed WorkSafe matter had to be investigated by an investigator selected by the Superintendent. No alternative was presented, and no Worksafe filing was made. The Board did not hire its own lawyer and was pushed into using management’s lawyer.

Roslyn Goldner’s cost alone to the District was more than an EA’s yearly salary, and this “investigation” was significantly more costly that that when staff time and the cost of the District’s (not the Board’s ) legal counsel  are included.

External legal analysis of the Goldner Report has identified serious flaws in Goldner’s process, procedure and conclusions.

As well, the allegations made by PVPA seem to be in good part about senior staff being “bullied” by parents and/or trustees.

Clearly, the [17 anonymous members] SD61 Principals and Vice Principals Association  do not understand that a Board is elected to act as a check and balance on staff (as the Superintendent owes a duty of loyalty to both the Board and to the Minister of Education).  There seems to be some mistaken thought that the  Board is another  “team” pulled together by the Superintendent, like the Superintendent-organized teams staff are used to working within. The role of the Board is to bring perspectives and questions from the community as community-elected officials, and to bring individual perspectives and, yes, public questions. Boards of Education are elected by citizens to examine District initiatives and practice proposed by staff in the light of student achievement and well-being, and to ensure transparency and accountability to the public who elected us, not to act as a cheerleading section for staff.

The [17 anonymous members and their association HR Director – retired last June] SD61 Principals and Vice Principals  Association appear to believe the Board dynamic is the same as theirs with the Superintendent, a deference relationship to the instructional and operations  leader. An elected Board does not function in fundamental deference to staff – or the Board Chair.

Standing Committee and Board meetings are public political meetings. Anyone who has spent any time at a City or Municipal council knows that discussions and debate  can get heated. Staff are  expected to function professionally  in an often tense political environment. “Reasonable hostility” [Communications Professor Emeritus Karen Tracy] is an expected feature of public life.

The Board is made up of elected individuals, some of whom well may be using a Board position as a stepping stone to other elected office. Members of the SD61 PVPA have complained that some Trustees’ style is “grandstanding”. It’s  widely recognized that school trustee is an entry level political position that  provides an opportunity to begin activity in public life as an elected official. It is not the role of [17 anonymous] SD61 PVPA members to critique Trustees’ debate style.

The BCSTA Trustee learning Guide Module 7 sets an expectation for Trustees to ask questions to the degree necessary for trustee and public understanding. For the SD61 PVPA complainants to  resent and fear questions from  the Board is further evidence of  seventeen PVPA members’ misunderstanding of the role of trustee.

Members of the SD61 Principals and Vice Principals Association’s complaint  that “Trustees debate Roberts Rules in public meetings” make clear their serious lack of understanding of the processes of public debate by elected officials in a democratic setting. Vigorous debate and disagreement on subjects of importance are to be expected from elected officials. Debate on how to apply Robert’s Rules or on interpretation is to be expected, and takes place in all elected assemblies. Policy enshrines the right of any trustee to challenge the chair. This is standard process under Robert’s Rules. This laughable objection is what happens when people who do not understand the processes of the Board attempt criticism of those processes they don’t understand.

I can only conclude that this exercise was meant to silence Trustees, and set up this new Board to maintain  a position of deference to management for the remainder of the term.

Because as an elected official I have serious concerns and objections to the entire process related to production of this report, and to the entire content, both backed up by legal analysis, I revealed this report to a journalist as I believe the public has a right to know how elected officials are coerced into impotence by behind the scenes machinations .

Diane McNally
Trustee, SD61 Greater Victoria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Diane McNally