Has the rookie CBE Chair gone rogue or overstepped her bounds?

For the second time in a week, we are asking the same question. Did trustees meet and approve this? So far, we find no evidence, no motion, and unanswered questions to the Chair on Twitter.

This time, newly minted rookie Chair Bowen Eyre has penned a letter advocating the Education Minister, not meet with residents opposed to a Francophone school being built on a park in their neighborhood. Many have lamented “why would a community be opposed to a school in their neighborhood” trotting out charges of NIMBY (not in my backyard).

Two big issues are at stake that tend to get lost in the “I’m right if you are wrong” argument. Firstly, why is it not OK for a publicly elected Education Minister to meet with concerned citizens? Should it not be his sworn duty and obligation to discuss issues and concerns with communities? Could a better decission be made if you listen?  It’s up to our government to get things right. In an article is Metro, area Councillor Ward Sutherland lamented the Francophone board has had no Community Engagement strategy and added “Then the city has to deal with the fallout of the traffic issues and all the complications because they just chose not to listen to what the best solution was.” Perhaps the city and the publicly elected area Councillor should be involved in the process? We think so.

The second is why is a publicly elected school board of Trustees advocating that the minister not speak to its electorate in the building of a school that is not even theirs? Or did they? Did trustees meet on the letter or the positions taken in the letter? Did they vote to send it? Were they even informed before the letter was sent?

If the new Chair acted on her own, this is a very troubling development. We hope the Chair will focus on the many issues within the Calgary Board of Education and spend her time controlling what she can control.

The phone call

There has been much discussion in the media and on social media about the phone call. For those not aware, 6 of 7 Calgary Public School Trustees made a 21 minute phone call to Metro Reporter Jeremy Nolais (full story, audio and transcript here). Much has been made of the call from Trustee Hehr asking a reporter who his sources are, the disdain towards other trustees “using the media” for their own agenda. Other media focused on Trustee King’s assertion that the public would have no impact or say on the CBE’s capital plan, which is what the call was all about. All issue’s are in ARTICS purview and all are valid concerns, but much has been said that we agree with.

There are a few other concerns ARTICS would like to bring forward here. Clearly with a 21 minute phone call, there is MUCH to discuss. By the letter and spirit of the law, when the majority of the board is together it constitutes an official meeting. As such, 6 of 7 Trustees in a room together is an official meeting. The chair of the board, Sheila Taylor had reportedly left the room prior to the phone call. So if it is an official meeting and the chair left the room, who is the leader? The Vice Chair would be the likely assumption. If you listen, or read the transcript, there was not one instance where the vice chair took any type of leadership role. In fact, quite the opposite, she was vocal in the background calling the reporter “the eight trustee”. I will admit that I can’t even hazard a guess as to what that means? It was stated several times by the Vice Chair of the Calgary Board of Education Trustees.

Some trustees obviously asked to make this call. Trustee Hurdman made the call. Was there a vote? Did the majority of the trustees agree the call was the right course of action? We can’t be sure. If the majority of the trustees in the room had agreed the call was to be made, should it not have been made by Vice Chair Bowen Eyre? Should she not have chaired it, controlled it as one voice at a time. If you listen to the call, you will hear quite clearly it is reporter Jeremy Nolais trying to being order the situation. And who was it who took control to end the call? Trustee Amber Stewart. Not the Vice Chair who was the ranking member in the room.

The point of the call? To discuss with the reporter issue’s with the story he reported on a motion to release the CBE capital plan early (story here). The point in a nutshell was that the trustees claim reporter said 4 trustees in particular voted down a motion, when in fact the 4 trustees had voted the motion out of order. So to the public, does it matter whether they voted the motion down, or voted the motion was out of order? The result is the same, the Capital Plan, which ranks new school priorities and has been the topic of much parent angst, will be released one day prior to it being approved by trustees, not one two weeks as the motion had asked.

Next, 2 trustees brought up past news stories as a reason to not speak with this reporter, one of which was not reported by him. The other, brought up by Trustee Hehr was first reported by the Calgary Herald in November, 2013 as an apparent “Gag order” (story here). The other story in September 2013 was reported by CBC and the Calgary Sun over a trustee wisdom sharing conference in Palm Springs (Story Here). So 2 publicly elected trustees are holding on to stories that ran 4-6 months prior.

Trustees Ferguson and King addressed the actual reasons for voting the motion out of order, Ferguson adding “The document is not ready to go. It’s in draft form.” King saying “Any feedback that we would get isn’t going to influence the actual decision of the capital plan.” If the document was “massaged” to be taken from draft form, and the public feedback would not have an impact, then why not release it early for public to understand it?

Last I would also like to address public comments on social media around the idea of the Education Minister disbanding the board or certain trustees resigning. ARTICS does NOT support this. We wish to encourage your locally elected representatives to be Accountable, Transparent and Responsive. That’s it. We do not wish the board to be disbanded, we wish of them to to their work in public and with the public to make the best possible decisions for our public school board. My public school board, your public school board and their public school board. We hope we can all draw a line in the sand here. We hope lessons were learned? We sincerely hope the public apology is sincere and we can move forward doing the Public school boards work in public.

June public vs. private meeting time

In June, the CBE trustees met in properly constituted meetings of the board for 11 hours and 7 minutes. Once again, the board is showing its apparent disregard for the School Act and public accountability by meeting far longer in private than public. To be fair, it should be noted that Trustees Bazinet and Taylor voted against going in-camera for the Board meeting on June 26.

Public time for June: 4 hours (or 36% of the total board meeting time)

Private time: 7 hours, 7 minutes (or 64% of the total board meeting time)

Breakdown by meeting:

June 12: This was a regularly scheduled public meeting that began at 3:00pm and lasted until 5:40pm. The board moved in camera at 6:02pm and adjourned at 8:32pm. The public meeting lasted 2 hours and 40 minutes, while the private portion lasted 2 hours and 30 minutes. Based on the motions made after the private session, it appears that trustees discussed leasing a building to a charter school and revised the contract of employment of the chief superintendent.

June 19: This public meeting lasted from 3:00pm until 4:20pm. The board then moved in camera from 4:37pm until 6:34pm. The board spent 1 hour and 20 minutes in public and an additional 1 hour and 57 minutes in private. During the private session, they discussed the disposition of a property and an accompanying communications plan, as well as the use of the proceeds. They also accepted the mediator’s recommended terms in regards to the dispute with the Staff Association and authorized a new employment agreement for the staff association.

June 26: The regularly scheduled private meeting began at 11:00am and continued until 1:40pm for a total of 2 hours and 40 minutes. Based on the motions made, trustees discussed their annual work plan, discussed the work of the audit committee and approved the name of the new NW high school. They also responded to a survey on the Local Authorities Election Act, received correspondence, an update from the chief superintendent and a construction project status update. The board also approved an energy retrofit program for lighting in 46 schools at a cost of $4.3 million to be paid with a loan, if authorized by the minister. It isn’t readily apparent why any of these topics could not be discussed in public.

Once again, we’ll remind you that this list includes only meetings that are posted online and does not include working group meetings, attended by all trustees. It has been suggested that trustees meet for approximately two hours each week at informal work sessions, or 8 hours per month. If those were accounted for, it would mean the trustees met for approximately 80% of the time in private.

 

May public vs. private meeting time

In May, the CBE trustees met for in properly constituted meetings of the board for 19 hours and 51 minutes.

Public time for May: 11 hours, 14 minutes (or 57% of the total board meeting time)

Private time: 8 hours, 37 minutes (or 43% of the total board meeting time)

Breakdown by meeting:

May 1: This was a regularly scheduled public meeting that began at 3:00pm and lasted until 7:21pm, with a 21 minute break. The board moved in camera at 7:34pm and adjourned at 8:28pm. The public meeting lasted 4 hours and the private portion lasted 54 minutes. Based on the motions made after the private session, it appears that trustees discussed an “employment matter” with follow up scheduled for the May 22 private meeting.

May 15: This public meeting lasted from 3:00pm until 6:49pm. The board then moved in camera from 7:10pm until 10:15pm. At that time, the board reconvened the public meeting until 10:19pm. The board spent 3 hours and 53 minutes in public and an additional 3 hours and 5 minutes in private. During the private session, they discussed the appointment of a governor to EducationMatters and two people to the audit committee, as well as “audit committee, other issues” which were reported in the news around this time. The other issues were not resolved, but referred to the May 22 private meeting.

May 22: The regularly scheduled private meeting began at 11:03am and continued until 3:49pm with a number of recesses totalling 61 minutes. Based on the motions made, it is impossible to discern what trustees discussed during the 3 hours and 45 minutes they met in private. However, we note that “legal counsel representing various interests” attended.

May 29: This public meeting lasted from 3:00pm until 6:21pm. The board then moved in camera from 6:57pm until 7:50pm. At that point, the meeting adjourned to the call of the chair. The board spent 3 hours and 21 minutes in public and an additional 53 minutes in private. There were no motions made after the in camera session, so it’s not possible to tell what they discussed. There is also no record of the conclusion of the meeting.

Once again, we’ll remind you that this list includes only meetings that are posted online and does not include working group meetings, attended by all trustees. It has been suggested that trustees meet for approximately two hours each week at information work sessions, or 8 hours per month. If those were accounted for, it would mean the trustees met for approximately 16 hours in private, or almost 60% of the time was spent behind closed doors.

 

April private vs. public meeting time

In April, the CBE trustees again met longer in private than in public. In total, they met for 10 hours and 41 minutes.

Public time for April: 5 hours, 10 minutes (or 48% of the total board meeting time)

Private time: 5 hours, 31 minutes (or 52% of the total board meeting time)

Breakdown by meeting:

April 3: This is the first time the new board procedures came into effect, meaning that meeting times were moved earlier in the day. The public meeting began at 3:03pm until 5:50pm, with a 16 minute break. The board did not move in camera. The public meeting lasted 2 hours and 31 minutes.

April 10: This was the regularly scheduled in camera session for April. It began at 11:00am, with two trustees opposed to moving in camera. The meeting concluded at 4:31pm. From the resulting motions, it appears that the board discussed revising the public meeting agenda template (two trustees opposed), selected the Distinguished Alumni for EducationMatters, discussed delegation of authority to the chief superintendent, received a media scan update, reviewed audit observations from 2010-2011, viewed specific student fees, received a construction status report and the chief superintendent’s update. The private meeting lasted 5 hours and 31 minutes.

April 17: The public meeting began at 3:00pm and continued until 5:54 with a 15 minute break. Again, the board did not move in camera. The public meeting lasted 2 hours and 39 minutes.

Once again, we’ll remind you that this list includes only meetings that are posted online and does not include working group meetings, attended by all trustees. It has been suggested that trustees meet for approximately two hours each week at information work sessions, or 8 hours per month. If those were accounted for, it would mean the trustees met for approximately 18 hours and 41 minutes in private, or about 75% of the time was spent behind closed doors. The School Act (Section 70 “Open Meetings”) requires trustees to meet in public (“(1)  The meetings of a board shall be held in public”) and the board is allowed to meet in private only when they feel it is in the public interest (“(3) when a majority of the trustees present at a meeting of the board are of the opinion that it is in the public interest to hold the meeting or a part of the meeting in private for the purpose of considering any matter, the board may by resolution exclude any person from the meeting”). It’s difficult to understand how the public’s best interest is served by discussing a media scan or student fees in private.

 

March public vs. private meeting time

In March, for the first time this year, the CBE trustees spent more of their official meeting time in public than in private. In total, they met for 13 hours and 1 minutes.

Public time for March: 9 hours, 24 minutes (or 72% of the total board meeting time)

Private time: 3 hours, 37 minutes (or 28% of the total board meeting time)

Breakdown by meeting:

March 6: This public meeting began at 5:00pm and ended at 9:32pm, with a 22 min recess. The public portion of the meeting lasted 4 hours and 10 minutes. The board moved in camera at 9:42pm for 12 minutes to “approve the formal summative statement of the performance evaluation of the Chief Superintendent” for 2011. The meeting adjourned at 9:54pm.

March 13: This was a special meeting of the board of trustees. Because proper notice was not given, trustees were required to sign a Waiver of Notice in accordance with the School Act. The meeting began at 2:02pm and immediately moved in camera, which was opposed by Trustee Bazinet. The resulting public motions refer to the Three-Year School Capital Plan. The meeting adjourned at 4:37pm, for a duration of 2 hours and 35 minutes. The meeting was reconvened the following day, March 14, at 12:15pm and again moved in camera. The resulting motions refer to a review of the proposed Education Act. The meeting adjourned at 12:43pm, lasting an additional 28 minutes.

March 20: This public meeting began at 5:00pm and lasted until 10:31pm with a 17 minute break. The public portion of the meeting lasted 5 hours, 14 minutes. The board moved in camera at 10:38pm and adjourned at 11:00pm. The resulting motion indicates that they discussed a selection process for external members of the audit committee. The board spent 22 minutes in camera.

Once again, we’ll remind you that this list includes only meetings that are posted online and does not include informal meetings attended by all trustees or meetings of “working groups” of trustees. It has been suggested that trustees meet for approximately two hours each week at informal work sessions, or 8 hours per month. If those were accounted for, it would mean the trustees spent slightly more time meeting privately than they did meeting publicly.

February public vs. private meeting time

In February, the CBE trustees again met far more in private than in public. In total, they met for 20 hours and 37 minutes.

Public time for February: 1 hours, 49 minutes (or 8.8% of the total board meeting time)

Private time: 18 hours, 48 minutes (or 91.2% of the total board meeting time)

This trend, where trustees spend far more time meeting  in private than in public, is becoming shocking. August: 100% private, September: 52% private, October: 73% private, November: 77% private, December: 65% private, January: 75% private, February 91% private.

Breakdown by meeting:

February 6 and 7: These two days were private sessions, attended by Linda Dawson and Randy Quinn of the Aspen group. Again, two trustees voted against holding this meeting behind closed doors. Trustees met from 9:07am to 3:57pm (with a 35 minute lunch break) on February 7, and again from 9:02am to 4:13pm (breaking 30 minutes for lunch) on February 7. They spent 12 hours and 56 minutes meeting in private. The resulting motions referred work on board procedures and public engagement sessions to separate working groups of trustees and administrators.

February 7: Public meeting time was from 5:00pm to 5:40pm (40 minutes), with no private session.

February 21: In a departure from convention, the trustees convened the public meeting early, at 4:00pm, and moved immediately in camera, until 4:54pm (54 minutes). There is no indication what was discussed. That was followed by the remainder of the public meeting from 5:01pm to 6:10pm for 1 hour and 9 minutes. Another private session followed the meeting, from 6:27pm to 7:24pm (57 minutes). During the private session, the board received an alternative program proposal (likely, the Arabic language program) and a budget update.

February 28: This was a regularly scheduled private session, beginning at 3:02pm, lasting to 7:03pm (4 hours, 1 minute). Topics addressed during this meeting include: a bargaining mandate (for which Trustee Bazinet declared pecuniary interest), a school lease and relocation of an administrative office, the three-year collective agreement with CUPE, the three-year school capital plan, construction project status report, a recommendation concerning exempt staff, an update from the Chief Superintendent, a natural gas forward contract, correspondence and a human resources update. After excusing the administration, trustees also discussed the CEO evaluation process.

Once again, we’ll remind you that this list includes only meetings that are posted online and does not include working group meetings, attended by all trustees. It has been suggested that trustees meet for approximately two hours each week at informal work sessions, or 8 hours per month. If those were accounted for, it would mean the trustees met for approximately 28 hours and 37 minutes in total, of which only 1 hour and 49 minutes were in public and the remaining 94% of the time spent behind closed doors. We’re concerned that the School Act (Section 70 “Open Meetings”), which requires trustees to meet in public (“(1)  The meetings of a board shall be held in public”), is not being honoured in either the letter nor the spirit of the law. Trustees are allowed to meet in private only when they feel it is in the public interest (“(3) when a majority of the trustees present at a meeting of the board are of the opinion that it is in the public interest to hold the meeting or a part of the meeting in private for the purpose of considering any matter, the board may by resolution exclude any person from the meeting”), however trustees of the Calgary Board of Education have never described why they feel it is in the public’s interest that the public be excluded from the majority of meeting of the publicly elected board.

January public vs. private meeting time

The meeting minutes for January 24th were not approved until March 20, and then not posted publicly for a number of days, which explains the lateness of this summary. In January, the CBE trustees again met far more in private than in public. In total, they met for 24 hours and 41 minutes.

Public time for January: 6 hours, 18 minutes (or 25.5% of the total board meeting time)

Private time: 18 hours, 23 minutes (or 74.5% of the total board meeting time)

This hardly reverses the trend that we have previously highlighted, where trustees are spending more time in private than public during the current school year. August: 100% private, September: 52% private, October: 73% private, November: 77% private, December: 65% private, January: 75% private.

Breakdown by meeting:

January 9 and 10: These two days were private sessions, attended by Linda Dawson and Randy Quinn of the Aspen group. It’s notable that two trustees voted against holding this meeting behind closed doors. Trustees met from 9:07am to 3:33pm on January 9, and again from 9:08am to 4:44pm on January 10. They spent 14 hours and 2 minutes meeting in private. The resulting motion was: “THAT the Board of Trustees refers the revised draft governance polices for Board consideration at the January 17, 2012 Board Meeting,” so it’s clear that the time was spent developing the new governance policies.

January 17: Public meeting time was from 5:02pm to 7:40pm (2 hours, 38 minutes), after which the private session lasted from 7:47pm to 9:01pm (1 hour, 14 minutes). The trustees made no public motions after moving out of the private session, so it’s impossible to determine what they discussed.

January 24: Public meeting time was from 4:58pm to 9:01pm (with two recesses of 12 minutes and 13 minutes) for 3 hours and 38 minutes. Private time was from 9:16pm to 9:24pm, which is 8 minutes. Again, no motions were passed at the conclusion, but Trustee Bazinet declared a pecuniary interest during the private session. Further, the meeting was not concluded, but “adjourned to the call of the chair.” There are no minutes publicly available for the conclusion of the meeting.

January 31: This was a regularly scheduled in-camera (private) session. Before moving in-camera, 2 minutes were held in public to approve the changes to the meeting schedule and locations (3:00pm to 3:02pm). The private session lasted from 3:09pm to 6:08pm (2 hours, 59 minutes). Again, the meeting didn’t conclude, but adjourned to the call of the chair. There are no minutes for the conclusion.

Once again, we’ll remind you that this list includes only meetings that are posted online and does not include working group meetings, attended by all trustees. Our goal by publishing this information is to shine the light on the volume of work being done by trustees behind closed doors.

December public vs. private meeting time

The final December 2011 meeting minutes were approved at the February 7, 2012 public board meeting, which explains the lateness of this review. In December, the CBE trustees again met far more in private than in public. In total, they met for 23 hours and 16 minutes.

Public time for December: 8 hours, 15 minutes (or 35.5% of the total board meeting time)

Private time: 15 hours, 1 minute (or 64.5% of the total board meeting time)

This hardly reverses the trend that we have previously highlighted, where trustees are spending more time in private than public during the current school year. August: 100% private, September: 52% private, October: 73% private, November: 77% private, December: 65% private.

Breakdown by meeting:

December 6: Public meeting time was from 5:00pm to 8:39pm (with a 15 minute recess) for 3 hours, 24 minutes of public meeting time. Private time was from 8:45pm to 8:49pm for just 4 minutes in private. In private, the trustees agreed for the Board Chair to sign a private letter on behalf of the Board of Trustees.

December 12 and 13: A private meeting from 9:02am to 5:10pm on December 12 (with a 28 minute recess at lunch), continued on December 13 from 9:05am to 4:30pm (with a 30 minute recess at lunch). That’s a total of 14 hours, 35 minutes in private. It’s interesting to note that Trustees Bazinet and Taylor voted against holding the meeting in private. Although there were no motions to indicate what work was done during these two days, the consultants from Aspen Group International, R. Quinn and L. Dawson were present both days.

December 20: Public meeting time was from 5:03pm to 10:46pm (with three recesses of 21 minutes, 19 minutes and 12 minutes) for 4 hour and 51 minutes. Private time from 10:51pm to 11:13pm, which is 22 minutes. In private, the trustees received another update from the chief superintendent, as well as private correspondence. The Board also approved the policy monitoring process and annual summative evaluation to be used for the chief superintendent.

Once again, we’ll remind you that this list includes only meetings that are posted online and does not include working group meetings, attended by all trustees. Our goal by publishing this information is to shine the light on the volume of work being done by trustees behind closed doors.

November public vs. private meeting time

In November, the CBE trustees again met far more in private than in public. In total, they met for 12 hours and 54 minutes.

Public time for November: 2 hours, 54 minutes (or 22.5% of the total board meeting time)

Private time: 10 hours (or 77.5% of the total board meeting time)

We’re beginning to see a very worrying trend. August: 100% private, September: 52% private, October: 73% private, November: 77% private.

Breakdown by meeting:

November 1: Public meeting time was from 5:00pm to 6:30pm for 1 hour, 30 minutes of public meeting time. Private time from 6:48pm to 7:24pm for 36 minutes in private. In private, the trustees accepted the minutes of the planning committee meetings, reappointed members of the audit committee and approved a Risk Assessment report.

November 14 and 15: A private meeting from 9:18am to approx. 11:18am on November 14, continued on November 15 from 9:26am to 11:00am. That’s a total of 3 hours, 34 minutes in private. The Board spent this time drafting a letter of response to ARTICS that was to be read into the public letter at the public meeting on November 15.

November 15: Public meeting time was from 5:00pm to 6:24pm for 1 hour and 24 minutes. Private time from 6:37pm to 7:15pm, which is 38 minutes. In private, the trustees reviewed the draft minutes of the audit committee and reviewed correspondence.

November 29 private meeting: Time: 3:00pm to 8:12pm. Total private meeting time: 5 hours, 12 minutes. Topics discussed include: draft financial statements and audit report, request of a report by management on how they will comply with the auditor’s recommendations (due Mar 31, 2012), the ASBA Representative Report, the fact the CBE doesn’t want ASBA to advocate by sending a letter to MLAs, approval of a human resources master services agreement, purchase of Oracle software, and the declaration of Montgomery school as “permanently surplus”. There were two very interesting decisions: the CBE doesn’t not want ASBA to rejoin CSBA or support them financially; and the sale of the old Education Centre at 515 Mcleod Trail. The Board of Trustees agreed to the terms in the letter of intent provided by the buyer, which doesn’t give any indication of negotiations.

Once again, we’ll remind you that this list includes only meetings that are posted online and does not include working group meetings, attended by all trustees. Our goal by publishing this information is to shine the light on the volume of work being done by trustees behind closed doors.