When the October 4, 2011 public board meeting began, Trustee Sheila Taylor made a motion to add an action item to the agenda. She proposed that the Board of Trustees discuss the cash infusion that may come as a result of Premier Redford’s election promise. With very little debate, the motion failed (a tie of three votes in favour (Taylor, Bazinet and Bowen-Eyre) and three votes opposed (Lane, Ferguson and King)).
Trustee Taylor presented her motion as an opportunity for the Board of Trustees to have a conversation with administration, asking questions and setting priorities. More importantly, she added that there is a very short window of opportunity for the Board to advocate to the premier regarding how boards would prefer to receive the additional funding. For example, whether the new funding should be based on student population or on restoring the specific grants that were cut, and whether or not the funds should be completely unrestricted.
Only Trustees Pam King and Joy Bowen-Eyre entered debate. Trustee King agreed that this was a “vital conversation that we need to have”, but stated that she was not prepared to hold a public discussion around it. She also said that, “It is my understanding that there is an online survey where we can have that public engagement where the public is participating in those discussions.” Trustee Bowen-Eyre said that “this is one of the most important conversations that we could have this year in terms of how we could advocate for our board”. Without giving any further reason, three trustees caused the Board to refuse to take this opportunity to communicate with the provincial government and with the public about the funding needs of the Calgary Board of Education. The seven minutes spent on the motion can be viewed on the ARTICS video recording of the meeting.
Once again, CBE administrators have taken the initiative in planning for our public education system. The administration has set their own priorities (which have yet to be publicly released), and have also requested public input via a two-question survey. However, the Board of Trustees has provided no guidance or leadership in this effort. Trustees have chosen to marginalize themselves through their choice to not participate in this public discussion. If trustees refuse to engage in a public conversation around how they wish to receive this additional funding and how to spend it, how can they present themselves as responsible stewards of our trust? Students in Calgary need the Board of Trustees to take the lead in the public education system in order to ensure that all students have the opportunity to excel.