At the CBE public board meeting on September 20, 2011, Trustee Sheila Taylor put forward a motion that, if successful, would have instructed administration to end the sale of junk food. The motion was defeated 5-2. Administrators then announced that junk food would no longer be sold in Calgary schools, starting in 2012. This confusing result throws into question the role of the Board of Trustees in governing the public education system.
“The trustees in this case didn’t seem to understand what they were debating. Much of the debate was spent arguing against a ban, which admin already had on the go,” said Larry Leach, chair of the Association for Responsive Trusteeship in Calgary Schools (ARTICS). “The issue was clearly stated, should the board have a nutrition policy? And trustees voted not to.”
The governance model selected by the Board of Trustees, Coherent Governance, instructs not to interfere with day to day management, but to direct the administration through policies. When policies are in place, results are measured and reported to trustees. Trustees are then able to determine whether policies have been effective, or require modification.
By refusing to put in place a policy on nutrition, despite the initiative being allowed to proceed, trustees will have no basis to hold administrators accountable for its implementation. The Board of Trustees, in turn, avoids any accountability to the public.
“This isn’t about food, it’s about our voice in the system,” said Leach. “A board policy means that trustees have to talk about it each year at a public meeting, which allows for public discussion and engagement. Allowing administration to decide alone what’s being sold at schools shuts parents out of the discussion altogether.”
The Board of Trustees has demonstrated, not an aversion to selling junk food in schools, but an aversion to providing leadership and oversight to our public education system.