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.

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