Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bluewater update #8 -- Wow

(Bluewater District School Board director Mary Anne Alton watches yesterday afternoon’s public meeting session seated between education consultant Geoff Williams, left, and Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP Larry Miller. -- JAMES MASTERS / Sun Media)
The Sun Times' coverage of the first of two scheduled public meetings for the Bluewater District School Board left me at a loss for words. The allegations that publicly elected and accountable officials were being muzzled is, to this reporter, shocking. Consider this:
Director of ed Mary Anne Alton works for the board of trustees. If they don't know that, it's about to get much clearer thanks to Bill 177. That they would allow her to restrict who they speak to and, apparently, act as gatekeeper and babysitter is hard to swallow.
That being said, consider Alton's point:
Alton was in the audience last night and said afterwards that trustees are encouraged to follow the communication guidelines approved by the board.
“These (guidelines) ask people to deal with issues close to the source or the issue. Trustees are always free to have conversations with staff that are consistent with the agreed upon processes,” she said.
There is a line between trustees having access to listen to their constituents and providing those same people with direction. The board of trustees should only be able to, through vote, provide direction to one person-- its director of education. The DirEd is then the one who carries out that direction. Vice-versa, the director is responsible for ensuring trustees get the information they require from staff to make the decisions they're tasked with making. There shouldn't be any limits on the information trustees receive however, be it formal or informal.
A trustee's role should be policy, governance and representing his/her constituents at the board table-- not calling on individual staff and asking / directing them to address the bus schedule on route 12.
As to the line on staff being asked not to speak out publicly, I can understand the request (doesn't mean I agree). However what's lacking is an assurance the fix-its will meet with employee groups (in private or otherwise) and address their concerns publicly through their eventual report and recommendations.
In addition, I wonder who had the expectation this was going to be an opportunity for a public lynching. I'd always understood (based on coverage and assumption alone) it would be a mediated meeting.


Anonymous said...

I'm shocked by this!

Is it the goal of the Minister of Education to purposely dumb-down the role of trustees?

Is it not the trustees who hire board directors?

At what point in this process does the public good and community partnership and liaison take priority over towing the government line?

I too felt that the whole fix-it exercise would have been tactfully and fairly moderated.

Given Bill 177 how about the Minister come clean with locally elected representatives and set them free from becoming good soldiers of the government support and rubberstamp set?

What exactly are the Terms of Reference for Mr. Williams and co.?

Anonymous said...

MP Miller is quoted "..unless the board and whoever else is conducting this investigation doesn't consult with a certain number of parents and teachers from each school in private then all of this will be for has got to go beyond this or nothing will change."

In one of the posts from the other day didn't the parent community suggest that they were having trouble? Maybe councils weren't met with?

Interesting that Miller calls this an "investigation" and doesn't know who's "conducting" things.