October public vs. private meeting time

On October 11 & 12, the CBE Board of Trustees, held a “special meeting” on October 11 & 12 which was not advertised. Special meetings were also held July 4 and November 16, without public notice. This concerns us because the spirit of the School Act is clear. Trustees should conduct their business in public. You can look to other government bodies to understand how they manage private meetings. By contrast, the City of Ottawa has clear guidelines to promote open meetings, similar in spirit to the City of Calgary policy on Transparency and Accountability. These guidelines include the requirement to advertise meetings, publish agendas and reports seven (7) days in advance and to state the reason to move in camera and the specific subject matter to be discussed. In Ottawa, closed meetings (in-camera sessions) may only be held to discuss:

  1. The security of the property of the municipality or local board
  2. Personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees
  3. A proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board
  4. Labour relations or employee negotiations
  5. Litigation or potential litigation, including matters before administrative tribunals, affecting the municipality or local board
  6. Advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose

Meetings may only be closed to the public if:

  1. The meeting is held for the purpose of educating or training the members
  2. At the meeting, no member discusses any matter in a way that materially advances the business or decision-making of the board or committee.
We’d like to see the CBE bring in a policy dictating what is appropriate for private discussion. We feel that they do too much of their business behind closed doors. Case in point: On October 25, Trustees discussed “feedback on the new Education Act” at a private meeting. This is a topic of huge public interest.  We should be able to see what trustees are saying about it and how they are representing our interests.

In October, the CBE trustees met far more in private than in public. In total, they met for 25 hours, 19 minutes.

Public time for October: 6 hours, 43 minutes (or 27% of the total board meeting time)

Private time: 18 hours, 36 minutes (or 73% of the total board meeting time)

Breakdown by meeting:

October 4: Public meeting time was from 5:00pm to 6:50pm for 1 hour, 50 minutes of public meeting time. Private time from 7:05pm to 8:19pm for 1 hour, 14 minutes in private. In private, the trustees appear to have drafted a letter.

October 11 and 12: A private meeting from 9:03am to 5:02pm on October 11, with a break from 11:00am to 11:53am, continued from 9:08am until 4:15pm on October 12. That’s a total of 14 hours, 13 minutes in private. There were no motions to indicate the subject of the meeting, however L. Dawson and R. Quinn of Aspen Group International were in attendance, so it is safe to assume the meeting included coaching on the governance role of the board of trustees.

It’s not clear why this discussion should be held in private. If the board is changing the Ends (goals) of the public school system in Calgary, we believe parents and community members would like to have input into those discussions.

October 18: Public meeting time was from 5:01pm to 10:26pm, with two recesses for a total of 32 minutes. This included both the organizational meeting and a regular board meeting. Private meeting time was from 10:36pm to 10:49pm. Topics discussed in private include: awarding a $2.1 million contract to Oracle, requesting new modular units for certain schools, a private letter to the president of ASBA.

October 25 private meeting: Time: 3:02pm to 5:58pm. Total private meeting time: 2 hours, 56 minutes. Topics discussed include: allowing ASBA to represent the CBE during tri-partite discussions, community newsletter inserts, the Education Centre Financial Status Report, feedback on the proposed Education Act (Bill 18).

Once again, we’ll remind you that this list includes only meetings that are posted online and does not include “planning committee” 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.

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