ARTICS urges CBE Trustees to meet in public

The following is the text of the stakeholder’s report that the ARTICS Chair gave at the first CBE board meeting in the new education centre on September 6, 2011.

My name is Larry Leach and I represent the Association for Responsive Trusteeship in Calgary Schools.

Welcome back everyone to another new and exciting school year. ARTICS is pleased to continue the good work we started in April of last year to work with you, as a Board and Trustees, to ensure that your work is transparent, that you are accountable to Calgarians and that you engage citizens to build the best public education system possible.

To that end, we have compiled some interesting data on your private vs. public meeting time for last year.

From data posted online, you met for almost 27 hours in public last year. But your private meeting time was 22 hours and 17 minutes. There were four months, September, January, February and March when your private time exceeded public, in some months quite significantly. We’ve provided a full breakdown for you.

It is important to note that private meeting time went down in April, May and June. We certainly hope this trend continues in 2011-2012 school year as many important decisions face us in another challenging budget year.

What is important to consider is that the totals do not include your informal meetings like weekly trustee work sessions, “committee of the whole” meetings and “planning” sessions – which we estimate average another two to three hours per week of private time.

You are doing MUCH of your work in private, which is contrary to the spirit of the School Act, which says that School Boards must hold their meetings in public.

It’s also clear that many of the things you discuss in private, hold great public interest. This includes:

  • Ranking criteria for capital projects,
  • 10-year student accommodation and facilities strategies,
  • Education Matters,
  • Report on paperless board meetings and,
  • From last year, the report on Aboriginal Education.

Why are these being discussed in private?

ARTICS challenges trustees to be more transparent in 2011 and :

  • Stop holding these informal or “committee of the whole” meetings
  • Open all working Committee meetings to the public
  • Develop a policy to determine what topics are appropriate to be discussed in-camera and limit them to land, lease, legal and personnel
  • Include the reason why in any motion to go in-Camera.

It is fitting that we are making this presentation to you at the first board meeting in your new Education Centre. We have searched meeting minutes since 2006 and we can’t find any indication that this, the CBE’s biggest financial decision in its history was EVER discussed at a public meeting.

The deal was recently described as “the worst lease deal in Calgary’s History.”

You have to wonder if our students would be saddled with this bad deal for the next 19 years – if you had been transparent about the deal from the beginning.

Good governance comes with being transparent.

Thank you

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