Saturday, March 21, 2009

What's the deal in Bluewater District?

There appear to be some serious governance issues happening at the Bluewater District School Board. For those not familiar with the geography, this is the public school board headquartered out of Chesley that covers Bruce and Grey counties.
Last April, then trustee Meaford-Blue Mountain trustee Jean Sullivan left the board, upset and pushed to the edge over a lack of accountability and apparently an understanding amongst trustees they could no longer request recorded votes on key issues. The ability to request a recorded vote, where every member's opinion is noted in the minutes, is one way to make trustees accountable for their decisions. To agree to abstain from recorded votes is rare, and suggests a willingness to suppress any dissident opinion.
She was replaced by an appointed trustee -- something permitted under the Ontario Education Act -- Rick Galbraith, a retired principal. Galbraith was elected as chair of the board in December 2008 by his peers and he submitted his resignation in a very public manner March 20.
He told local media he was overwhelmed by the number of things he didn't know were and weren't happening at the school board.
Two errors here:
  1. The Bluewater trustees should have done a better job of selecting Sullivan's replacement. For Galbraith to say he was being overwhelmed in his job as chair is unacceptable for someone who stepped forward to take the responsibilities of a trustee.
  2. For whatever is happening out of the public eye to leave Galbraith feeling as though his only option was to resign as chair and trustee is just sad.
The remaining trustees have some explaining to do and hopefully parents and supporters of this board can regain some confidence in the staff and politicians who are running their schools.