Should school boards be regularly reviewed?

Nova Scotia has recently been having some problems with its school boards. The province has fired three school boards over the past five years, with the most recent being the South Shore regional school board which was dismantled last week after a comprehensive review by Deloitte. This has prompted Nova Scotia’s Education Minister, Ramona Jennex, to think about what could be done to prevent such occurrences in the future. She has proposed hiring consultants to regularly review school boards every couple of years with the goal of supporting school boards in working effectively and to be proactive in identifying problems earlier.

One of the six major deficiencies found in the South Shore regional school board was the inappropriate use of in camera (i.e. private) meetings. Another was mistrust among board members which led to poor communications. These are issues that are also of concern to ARTICS as we have seen the same in the Calgary Board of Education board of trustees. As reported by ARTICS, the CBE trustees spent 44% of their board meeting time in camera last year. Even the 56% of time spent in public is not all devoted to working business items as there are many award ceremonies and school presentations done during this time.

Deloitte stated that the South Shore board was not meeting its obligations for public accountability because they spent 31% of their time in camera. In October of this year, CBE trustees spent 73% of their board meeting time in camera.

Nestled among the lengthy reports of the June 28, 2011 board meeting, on page 9-53, was a two-page report on the Board of Trustee’s working relationship, which they are required to monitor themselves annually according to their policies. The trustees found themselves in non compliance with all nine measures. According to this report they voted that they:

  • do not follow their code of ethics
  • do not have trust amongst trustees
  • do not respect each other
  • do not communicate honestly with each other
  • do not collaborate to solve problems
  • do not respect confidentiality
  • do not follow the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act

Perhaps it is time that the province of Alberta considered reviewing our school boards as well.

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