In the best interest of the public?

As you may have already read in the Calgary Herald or in the Calgary Sun’s article or scathing opinion column, the Calgary Board of Education trustees are planning to approve a new set of policies through which they will govern the CBE. The development of these policies over the past few months was probably the most important work that the trustees will do throughout their term in office. Thus, it would seem natural that they would do this work in public in keeping with Section 70 of the School Act which states that:

The meetings of a board shall be held in public and no person shall be excluded from them except for improper conduct.

Instead, they used subsection (3) of Section 70 which states:

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 be resolution exclude any person from the meeting.

This subsection is used very frequently by the CBE Board of Trustees. Unfortunately, they are not required to ever state why they are of the opinion that it is in the public interest that certain matters are best kept private. So, who decided that it was in the best interest of the public to be kept in the dark? At the start of each of these policy development “public” board meetings, the trustees voted whether or not to go in-camera. Only trustees Taylor and Bazinet voted against doing this important work in private. They were handily opposed by the other five trustees who felt that it was in the best interest of the public to create a whole new set of policies without the public ever knowing what was discussed, let alone have the opportunity to provide any input. (And no, there were no previous community consultations conducted before this process started or anytime throughout the process.)

In the new policies themselves, the Board (of Trustees) Job Description states that:

The Board will initiate and maintain constructive two-way dialogue with students, employees, parents and the citizens as a means to engage all stakeholders in the work of the Board and the organization.

That sounds great, if it ever happens. It obviously wasn’t done for this important work of the Board. I am sure that many students, employees, parents and citizens would have loved to have had input on a new set of policies, just as the public has appreciated having multiple means to provide input into the new provincial Education Act. Too bad for us. The Board of Trustees has decided that it’s not in our best interest.

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